Meet the real designated survivors

WASHINGTON (Gray TV) -- In the new ABC show, "Designated Survivor," Kiefer Sutherland plays a cabinet secretary – chosen to sit out the State of the Union Address in the event of a disaster.

An attack on the Capitol leaves the president and the rest of the cabinet dead – thrusting Sutherland’s character into the Oval Office.

Thankfully, a situation like this has never happened. But there are protocols in place, just in case.

“I’ve often thought about the fact – what if I did have to become president? And you know, you just have to do it," said Dan Glickman, who was President Bill Clinton’s Agriculture Secretary.

Glickman was chosen as designated survivor during the 1997 State of the Union.

“They told me they wanted me to stay away from Washington, if possible...and that I’d be accompanied by ‘appropriate people,'" said Glickman.

Back then, Glickman was able to choose where he wanted to go.

"The instructions were I was to be away during the president’s speech," he explained.

Fast forward five years, and we had a new president, a new cabinet, and new rules.

President George W. Bush’s Veterans Affairs Secretary, Anthony Principi, was taken to an underground location, outside DC – chosen by the secret service.

“I remember watching the State of the Union," said Principi. "[I was] keeping a close watch. I had one or two members of my immediate staff with me.”

After 9/11, the President Bush wanted one member of his cabinet outside of Washington at all times.

“It could’ve been a couple of days, it could’ve been a week,” Principi explained.

So how does the role of designated survivor in the show compare to real life? Glickman says he’ll watch to find to out.

“I think in this TV show, this person is undergoing far more complex situations than in real life would happen," said Glickman.

Principi says it shows the importance of having this kind of setup.

“To ensure the succession is seamless and that we’re able to hit the ground running if something catastrophic happened," Principi explained.

“Designated Survivor” premieres Wednesday, September 21st at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central on ABC.

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