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It’s officially spring and the weather is slowly edging away from what’s been an unusually harsh winter season. We’ve had one major storm after another and lots of little ones in between. We’ve all made good use of our shovels, ice scrapers, coats, hats and gloves.
At Dulles Airport, one of the major measuring centers, the National Weather Service measured 52.8 inches of snow for this winter, 30 inches more than the seasonal average. This is likely a winter we’ll be telling stories about for many years to come.
Wherever I go, people always ask me about our Dismissal and Closure status. Our social media channels start getting busy with questions and comments days before a storm is ready to hit!
What many people don’t realize is that we prepare all year round for these kinds of events. Whether it’s an unexpectedly heavy winter weather season, an earthquake in August, or a Superstorm in October, we do all we can to make sure we are prepared for anything. Decisions may be hard and not always popular, but because we prepare, we barely miss a beat.
We consult throughout the year with our partners in this effort – the Council of Governments, the National Weather Service and transportation departments throughout the National Capital Area.
OPM’s guidance covers any natural disaster or event that disrupts commuting in the DC area. This includes not only snow and ice, but earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes or other special events that may occur during the year. Whenever these emergencies occur, OPM is committed to promoting the continuity of operations and ensuring the safety of its workforce.
One of the strongest tools we have is telework. During emergencies, teleworking is often the best option for continuity of operations. That’s why so much of our Dismissal and Closure guide helps agencies and employees understand their options and flexibilities.
We want to make sure that as much as possible, the weather doesn’t keep the Federal workforce from providing excellent service to the American people.
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 helps us do that. The Act requires agencies to incorporate telework into their continuity of operation plans. OPM used the Act as an opportunity to highlight telework in our emergency announcements. We have been working with agencies to increase the use of telework, both regularly and during emergencies.
That effort is paying off. Federal employees are teleworking at an all-time high across the country. In the DC area, according to the Employee Viewpoint Survey, 70 percent of employees are telework eligible. Telework is the best option to keep the Federal Government working during the emergencies that prevent normal government operations.
Moreover, new technologies allow Federal employees to work from home, and I know most of you find ways to make up your work at no cost to the Federal government. As such, there is no good way for us to calculate with any accuracy the cost of closing Federal government building.
Each year, OPM reviews its guidance and discusses lessons learned with its interagency working group and labor unions. These discussions ensure that OPM’s announcements reflect the current needs of the Federal workforce. Over the past several years, we’ve worked unscheduled leave and telework into nearly all of our status options so that you have the flexibility to make the right decision for you and your family.
We follow up our consultations and engagement with the interagency and union stakeholders with videos, guidance, and other materials to help inform Federal employees. Througout the year, we also encourage Federal workers to have preparedness conversations with their supervisors and agency leaders. And when in doubt, FEMA’s www.ready.gov is the one stop shop for general preparedness tips and information.
Now that we’ve (hopefully) seen our last snow of the season, let’s keep the conversation going. Talk to your employees, to your supervisor, and to your families about the plans that work for you. Let’s all think about this winter and learn from it. I know that together we’ll be ready for the next emergency that comes our way. After all, hurricane season is right around the corner.
The official start of Winter is only a couple of weeks away. While we are all hoping for an uneventful winter weather season, this is the perfect time to remind Federal employees in the DC area how we decide when to change the status of the Federal Government.
There are two primary considerations we make in deciding the status of Federal Government operations for the DC area. The first is the safety of the Federal workforce and the surrounding community. Our employees are our most important asset. The second 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.
Preparedness is a year round activity. It is important that agencies and 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 just winter weather emergencies and can be necessary at any time.
During a webcast earlier today, Dean Hunter, OPM's Director of Facilities, Security and Contracting, walked us through the decision-making process and Brenda Roberts, OPM’s leave administration manager, gave an overview of the policy that informs those decisions. The National Weather Service also gave us an idea of what winter has in store for us this year.
We want to ensure 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 watch our video below and read the updated Dismissal and Closure Guide on the OPM website. And if you didn't get a chance to tune in to the full webcast, it will be available soon on our YouTube channel.
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