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OPM's New Snow Policy: Get Out or Hunker Down



The Office of Personnel Management is set to once again revise the government's policy on snow emergencies and other bad-weather situations, the Washington Post reports.

Under the new policy, OPM will make decisions earlier in the day on the operating status of federal agencies. And if the weather turns ugly during the work day, employees who don't leave by a designated time will be urged to shelter in place in their offices and not try to head home. That change in policy comes in response to the situation that unfolded on Jan. 26 in Washington, when a storm that hit in the middle of the work day left thousands stranded in their cars for hours on the commute home.

After that storm, OPM Director John Berry said that many federal employees did not heed the call to leave early at 3:00 p.m., because heavy snow had not begun falling yet.

It's not clear exactly how employees will shelter in place if the need arises, or how long agencies will have to be prepared to house them if they can't get to their homes.

Late last year, OPM changed its guidelines with regard to the operating status of agencies during severe weather. The status previously known as "open with unscheduled leave" was changed to "the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework," and the designation "closed" was renamed "closed to the public."

(Photo: National Weather Service)

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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