OPM unveils new emergency operating statuses

None Mike Theiler/Newscom
The Office of Personnel Management will have more options this winter when deciding agency operating statuses during storms or other emergencies.

OPM Director John Berry unveiled three new possible responses to severe conditions: staggered early departure with a final departure time, immediate departure and shelter in place.

The agency in November announced it would change its guidelines to better address events such as the midday snow and ice storm last January that left thousands of commuters stranded for hours.

OPM consulted with human resources specialists, chief human capital officers, representatives from national labor organizations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to develop the options. It also conducted its own review of the January storm, as well as Hurricane Irene in September and the 5.8 magnitude earthquake that took the Washington region by surprise in August.

Berry said OPM might not end up using all the new operating statuses frequently or on a governmentwide basis. Even so, the options will be available for individual agencies with specific emergency circumstances, including tornadoes, flooding and biological contaminants.

"Part of this is a public awareness to get people thinking about what they would do," Berry said. "The safest choice may not be to get in your car and run."

Early leave, with staggered departure times and final departure deadline provisions, was designed to get employees out of their buildings and the city in an effort to avoid commuter congestion. The second option, immediate departure, would require all employees to leave right away. Although it's included in OPM's options, immediate departure is meant for use by individual agencies, Berry said. The shelter-in-place option also is meant largely for use by individual agencies. If employees did not follow the final departure instructions, then they would be required to stay in the building.

Berry predicted that some might accuse OPM of overreacting with the new operating statuses. "This may create an embarrassment, but safety first is the decision here," he said.

The National Weather Service also announced its winter forecast Thursday, as winter weather might be the likeliest emergency scenario in the coming months. While it's difficult to predict specifics, Steve Zubrick, NWS' science operations officer, said the Washington area should expect slightly higher than average temperatures and conditions, but be aware that a snow storm could occur. Icing and sleeting are also possible, Zubrick said, but mixed precipitation is difficult to predict more than two weeks in advance.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.