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:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


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