As President Barack Obama makes his State of the Union address Tuesday, no one will be cozying up to a fireplace in the Capitol to listen to the speech.
One element of a multi-faceted security process involves closing down the Capitol fireplaces to avoid the smell of smoke, which would presumably cause alarm, during the president's speech. Workers were spotted taking away firewood Tuesday and notices were posted explaining the fire's absence. A notice from the U.S. Capitol Police Board addressed to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who chairs the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, posted in the U.S. Senate Press Photographer's Gallery read:
"In an effort to avoid the risk of triggering an audible alarm and to avoid the smell of smoke permeating throughout the Capitol during the president's State of the Union address, the U.S. Capitol Police Board recommends you approve the prohibition of the use of fireplaces during the State of the Union on Tuesday, January 20, 2015."
Ramped up security was visible throughout the Capitol on Tuesday as the Capitol Police prepared for the president's arrival.
"We have a full complement of USCP officers for the State of the Union," USCP spokeswoman Lt. Kimberly Schneider wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call. "Although we don't discuss our operational procedures, there is a tremendous amount of advance planning, training & coordination for this event. The preparation is a cooperative event. The multiple layers of security — some visible to the public, others not — ensures a safe and secure environment."
The heightened police presence included a security sweep of Statuary Hall, where scores of reporters and camera crews will be broadcasting live before and after the speech. In addition to sweeping all of the broadcast equipment, the police also cordoned off a number of streets surrounding the Capitol.
According to the Capitol Police, starting at 6 p.m., only credentialed attendees and authorized personnel were able to walk around the streets closest to the Capitol, including First Street, Constitution Ave., and Independence Ave. At 7 p.m., two hours before the president's address, the Capitol Police will close even more surrounding streets to traffic. The closures stretched for a few blocks north, south, east and west around the Capitol. The streets will open to traffic once the event concludes.
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