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Our Director Director's Blog

Winter officially begins next week. As you may already know, OPM is responsible for deciding when to change the Federal government’s operating status in the Washington, D.C. area, and for getting the word out about any changes.

While we are all hoping for an uneventful winter weather season, I want to make sure all Federal employees know what to do when severe weather hits.

I take many factors into consideration when deciding the status of Federal government operations inside the Beltway.  The most important is the safety of the Federal workforce and the surrounding community.  Our employees are our most important asset.  The second concern is  continuity of operations.  The government never really closes.  Emergency response personnel and teleworkers keep our operations going even when employees can’t physically get to work.

During a live-streamed event earlier today, Dean Hunter, OPM's Director of Facilities, Security and Contracting, explained the decision-making process, and Brenda Roberts, OPM’s Deputy Associate Director of Pay & Leave, gave an overview of the policy that informs those decisions.

Brenda also told us about the change to this year’s policy. OPM is revising an outdated leave practice of allowing employees who are already scheduled to be on paid leave when the Federal government closes to take excused absences. With the change, if Federal offices close, employees who are on pre-approved leave remain on leave, rather than switching to an “excused absence” status.

We made this change to take into consideration today’s workplace flexibilities. With the increasing use of telework to help us assure continuity of operations, it’s now obsolete to provide excused absences for those employees already scheduled to be on leave when an emergency hits.

We had two guests with us at today’s webcast. Chris Strong, Warning Coordination Meteorologist for the National Weather Service, helped us understand how the weather service informs OPM about upcoming storms and the difficulties in predicting those weather events.

We were also joined by Caroline Laurin, deputy chief spokesperson for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).  Because so many Federal employees take public transportation to work, it’s crucial for all of us to know the status of trains and buses by consulting with WMATA. The authority relies on our decisions to let them know how many crews, trains, and buses are needed for rush hour commutes during difficult weather. Caroline stressed how important it is that employees comply with OPM’s status decisions.

We need to be prepared for weather and unexpected emergencies all year round.  It is important that agencies and their employees know their personnel designations, telework policies, and emergency preparedness plans before an event occurs.  The past few years have taught us that our dismissal and closure procedures extend beyond winter weather emergencies and can be necessary at any time.

We want to make sure that Federal workers stay safe and that we continue to serve the American people even during times of difficult weather events. And the best way to make sure that happens is for everyone to be informed.

So, please take a few minutes to read the updated Dismissal and Closure Guide on the OPM website. And if you didn't get a chance to tune into the panel discussion, it's available on our YouTube channel.


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