The Office of Personnel Management issued its Washington-area dismissal and closure procedures for the 2015-16 winter season Wednesday. The big news is nothing has really changed since last year.
“This year OPM is not recommending changes to the procedures or the operating status announcements,” Acting Director Beth Cobert said in a memo to members of the Chief Human Capital Officers Council, that accompanied the release of the Washington, DC, Area Dismissal and Closure Procedures.
“These procedures reflect the principle that the federal government’s vital business must continue without compromising the safety of our employees and the general public,” she wrote. “Although the procedures are typically issued in winter, the announcements are applicable for any emergency or significant event that causes a disruption inside the ‘Washington Capital Beltway.'”
In spite of not making any changes to the procedures, Cobert did want to remind agencies and employees of some important points.
First, agencies should continue to promote telework as a way for their employees to work remotely during an emergency and ensure continuity of operations.
“Given recent agency actions to improve cybersecurity practices, we strongly encourage agencies to take steps to ensure that telework-ready employees are prepared to effectively telework and access agency IT systems and networks, as may be necessary, should an emergency or weather condition so warrant,” she wrote.
In addition, agencies need to clearly communicate expectations to employees when a change in operating status occurs. This includes forwarding all OPM operating status announcements along with clear instructions of the employees’ duties.
“These agency procedures will allow employees to know what is expected of them when OPM changes the operating status,” Cobert wrote. “Employees must understand which human resources flexibilities are available to them during specific agency operating procedures, such as unscheduled telework, unscheduled leave, leave without pay, alternative work schedule day off, etc. In an emergency situation, timing is crucial.”
Agencies should also follow OPM’s procedures for governmentwide emergencies and local events in the Washington-region rather than adopting their own strategies.
“In the event of an area-wide work disruption, agencies should avoid taking independent action because changes in the commuting hours of federal employees can result in dramatic disruption of the highway and mass transit systems,” Cobert wrote. “Following OPM’s operating status announcements and policies will allow for coordination with municipal and regional officials, and will reduce disruption of the highway and transit systems. This will both reduce traffic congestion and ensure that affected employees are treated as consistently as possible.”
Federal employees can check the current operating status in the Washington, D.C. area here.