D.C.

Office of Personnel Management holds closure procedures briefing

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The federal government is getting ready for any snow Mother Nature dishes out this winter.

Tuesday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) held its annual briefing on closure procedures, which impact roughly 300,000 federal workers in the D.C. metro area.

Hurricane Sandy and the summer derecho were wake-up calls for federal officials. They realized they need to better communicate when their employees should stay off the road and when they should report to work.

And then there's snowmageddon, which paralyzed the D.C. area two years ago.

Chris Strong, with the National Weather Service, said, "We've never made it throughout the winter without some amount of snow, so we will have that but...We should expect a much more normal winter here."

Strong joined several panelists at the briefing.

A YouTube video helped to break down the early dismissal and closure policies.

OPM Communications Director Thomas Richards added, "Our concern is to make sure that the workforce is safe and that there's continuity in the operations in the government."

It takes about an inch of snow or any accumulation of ice for the federal government to consider a shutdown. Four a.m. is the decision deadline.

OPM is now rolling out a "Delayed Arrival" option. It stops employees from heading to work until the streets are safe. 

"In other words, stay off the road until 9. Federal government will open at 11," said OPM Deputy Director Dean Hunter.

If the federal government shuts down, a new announcement will go out. Previously it read, "Federal offices are closed to the public."

"When they heard federal offices are closed to the public, some of them thought well federal employees are still coming in. You can't go visit for a social security check or an IRS matter, etc."

The language has since been tweaked to: "Federal offices are closed - emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency's policies."

Richards continued, "The government doesn't just stop because there's snow or ice or other inclement weather events... It's really important that we encourage as many people to telework."

OPM is advising supervisors to have telework conversations with their employees now. The big message at the briefing: Don't wait for an emergency to find out what to do.

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