Preparing for the Pope’s Visit to Philadelphia: Thoughts on Safety
Philadelphia awaits in eager anticipation as Pope Francis is scheduled to make a two day visit to Philadelphia on September 25th 2015. Homeland Security and our local agencies are working hard to ensure that safety precautions are in place to reduce every risk possible. However, with an estimated 1.5 million plus people expected to attend these appearances, it calls for intense security planning by agencies such as the Secret Service.
According to an article written in Philly.com, Philadelphia’s protective security adviser, William Ryan, started preparing for the event taking place September 26 and 27 by screening employees, searching for hazardous materials, examining building exits, and planning training seminars for law enforcement.
Safety is of course everyone’s top priority and we can all do our part to contribute in that effort. As parking, transit, and even just getting around will be extremely complicated during the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia, we have outlined a few tips below to help you prepare for the event.
Plan Ahead: Itinerary and Road Closures
The Itinerary for Pope Francis‘ visit includes several different events planned in the city throughout the two day visit.
- Saturday begins at 9:30 a.m. with his private arrival at Atlantic Aviation, followed by mass at 10:30 at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. This is a private event attended exclusively by the people of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
- At 4:45, a visit is scheduled at Independence Mall to welcome mostly immigrants and the local Hispanic community to hear the pope speak about religious freedom and immigration.
- The Festival of Families is an event open to the public that will take place outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway starting at 7:30 p.m.
- Sunday begins at 9:30 a.m. at the St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, where the pope will meet privately with the bishops attending the World Meeting of Families.
- At 11 a.m., several inmates and their families will get a chance to meet with Pope Francis at the Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility.
- The World Meeting of Families will bring the public together again outside the Philadelphia Art Museum beginning at 4 p.m. for closing mass.
Transportation issues will cause problems for those that do not plan ahead. Traffic will be restricted to safely and efficiently accommodate 1.5 million visitors.
The Ben Franklin Bridge is going to be closed during the visit, as well as some major highways in the area and many of the inner city streets.
Take note of the following road closures to avoid confusion during the visit:
- I-76 eastbound from I-476 to I-95
- I-76 westbound from I-95 to US Route 1
- I-676 will be closed in both directions from I-76 to I-95
- US Route 1 will be closed in both directions from US Route 30 to Belmont Avenue, because Pope Francis is staying at Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary.
- I-95 WILL REMAIN OPEN with selected ramps closed
BEN FRANKLIN BRIDGE
• The Ben Franklin bridge will also close to vehicular traffic on Friday, September 25th at 10 p.m. until 12 p.m. on Monday, September 28th. The only vehicles allowed will be emergency vehicles.
• The bridge will be used as a pedestrian crossing.
Mass transit is not going to run in certain areas during the visit, and private vehicles are going to be restricted to designated traffic boxes. Bicycles will be permitted to travel within the box as well, but they must stay outside of areas that are fenced off.
For more Transportation and Travel Information:
Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Crowd Safety Tips
While everyone anticipates a safe and exciting event, there can be risks when attending any event that draws in a large crowd. This is especially true during an event such as this that could draw hundreds of thousands and possibly over a million visitors to one area. As long as you understand the importance of awareness, you should be able to avoid minimize risks and understand where to get help when needed.
- Security officers stationed in public spaces are trained to help you in an emergency. When you arrive at your destination, take note of the security officers protecting the area, their posts, and their uniforms. This will help you easily recognize them even in stressful situations.
- Avoid outside ATMs in crowded areas. Close proximity to large crowds heightens your risk of theft and identity theft via skimming. Skimming is an electronic method of capturing a victim’s personal information used by identity thieves. The skimmer is a small device that scans a credit card and stores the information contained in the magnetic strip.
- Be aware of your surroundings, immediately locate exit routes in case of an unpredictable situation. Knowing exit routes other than the main route may be especially helpful.
- Respond quickly to an alarm or sign of emergency and leave immediately—don’t pause to gather unnecessary belongings.
- Keep your wallet in a front pocket. If you use a purse, hold it close to your body where you can always see it.
- Most of all remain alert your surroundings
Prohibited Items During the Pope’s Visit
- animals except service and guide dogs
- backpacks exceeding 18″ x 13″ x 7″
- drones/aircraft systems
- glass, thermal, metal containers
- laser pointers
- mace or pepper spray
- selfie sticks
- signs exceeding 5′ x 3′ x 1/4 inch and anything other than cardboard, poster board or cloth
- supports for signs/place cards
- toy guns
- weapons of any kind
- any other items deemed a potential safety hazard
Safety Tips for Children
Prepare for this moment by educating your children about their potential surroundings and handling personal safety. They are at the highest risk of becoming lost and confused in large crowds, but preparedness is the key to avoiding vulnerability.
- Since children are often unable to remember their parents’ telephone numbers, make sure your children will know how to contact you if they get lost. Write your phone number and name on an ID bracelet a card or by other means, and inform your children to get to the closes police, fire and rescue personnel
- Avoid dressing your children in clothing or a backpack that displays their names; children are more likely to trust an adult who knows their first name. Instead, pick out brightly colored clothing that is easy to recognize in a crowd. Take a picture of what your children are wearing so that you can easily show it to an on-site security service if needed.
- Give older kids a cell phone or two-way radio to use so that they can keep track of you throughout the day.
- As soon as you enter the area indicate several landmarks that your children can distinguish as meeting points, should they become lost. Have them repeat what these are before continuing.
How to Handle Other Emergencies
Getting around the city in an emergency has a lot of locals concerned with getting the help they need.
Expectant mothers that could deliver during the weekend should plan routes to hospitals outside the traffic box, unless they plan to attend public events. If this is the case, it is best to locate a hospital that is easy to access near the area.
Always plan for the unexpected and keep a copy of your medical records nearby to provide if you cannot make it to the intended medical facility.
If You See Suspicious Activity
If You See Something, Say Something is a very effective concept and campaign that can potentially save lives by preventing crime and terrorism. Anytime you witness any unusual activity or a person acting suspiciously, you are urged to report it.
Be aware of the behaviors of suspicious persons and do not hesitate to alert the police of suspicious items that seem out of place or left behind.
If you do see something suspicious:
• Take note of the location of the unattended package
• Be able to provide a description of any potential persons involved
• Avoid approaching persons who appear outwardly dangerous or threatening
• Refrain from using any cellular or radio device within 50 feet of a suspicious item
Emergency Contact Information
Philadelphia Police Department
Philadelphia Fire Department
Regional EMS Office
United States Secret Service
The Pope’s Visit is an awesome event for the Delaware Valley and we look forward to having you visit our city for this momentous occasion. Above all else the team here at Lundy Law want to make sure that you and your loved ones are safe. We are all responsible for doing our part to plan ahead and remain aware of our surroundings throughout the weekend. For more information about the Pope’s visit check out:
Other Philadelphia Resources
Chief of Staff and Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, City of Philadelphia
Desiree Peterkin Bell
City Representative and Director of Communications, City of Philadelphia
Director of Emergency Management, City of Philadelphia
Deputy Managing Director and Director of Operations for Special Events, City of Philadelphia
Chief Inspector, Philadelphia Police Department