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Federal Eye
Posted at 03:40 PM ET, 11/03/2011

Federal employees stuck at work during storms will have to ‘rough it’

Rein


Traffic on Baron Cameron Avenue in Reston was jammed for hours as heavy snow fell on the Washington area last January. (Jahi Chikwendiu - WASHINGTON POST)

Personnel Chief John Berry said Thursday that if federal employees have to weather a snowstorm in their offices, “People will have to rough it a little bit” and the government won’t provide cots.

“There are vending machines, there are Starbucks on every corner, there are emergency ration bags,” Berry said in comments on the government’s new snow policy, which calls for federal employees to shelter in place if they don’t leave the office by a deadline set by the Office of Personnel Management.

“If they’re anything like me, they have 10 Snickers bars in that bag,” Berry said. “You might want to refresh your goody bag if you’re there for the night.”

The Office of Personnel Management’s first overhaul of its snow policy in 14 years aims to avoid the chaos last Jan. 26, when a fast-moving storm fell in the Washington area at rush hour just as thousands of federal workers were leaving the office.

Berry had called a two-hour early dismissal at 10:50 a.m., but most people didn’t leave until the storm struck.

OPM is expected to approve the plan next week after consulting with regional officials. The Post got details in advance.

The agency plans to announce much earlier whether the government will be open or closed during a snowstorm, or open with unscheduled leave or telework.

“There will be times when we will err on the side of safety and we will be embarrassed,” Berry said. But the idea is not to have people come to work if getting them home will be dangerous and create gridlock.

But if workers already are at the office when a storm approaches, instead of going home early they will be strongly urged to stay put, according to the plan.

“My hope is it doesn’t have to be overnight if we’re sheltering in place,” Berry said. “But we understand that federal offices are pretty nice.

By  |  03:40 PM ET, 11/03/2011

 
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