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Federal Eye
Posted at 10:00 AM ET, 11/11/2011

What do you think of OPM’s snow policy? Here are your answers.


Road crews work to clear snow from a portion of Germantown Rd. in Germantown, Md. in January. (Ricky Carioti - The Washington Post)
Earlier this week we asked readers what they thought of the new federal snow policy that will require federal employees to “shelter in place” at their office unless they leave immediately when dismissed due to inclement weather.

And boy oh boy did you have answers.

Check them out below, and jump into the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments section below.

Nancy Pappas, with the Morristown Medical Center:

This has been a policy in acute healthcare institutions for many years. Leaving to avoid a snow storm constitutes patient abandonment. Nurses and other essential personnel are expected to come to work or arrange for someone at the facility to assume their shift.

What I don’t understand is that given this mandate for essential workers during a snow storm, why are government employees paid by the hour and mile for commuting to and from work on a regular daily basis? How can we afford such an expenditure when the economic status of the country is so unstable?

Phil Beck, Labor Department employee from Alexandria:

I applaud OPM’s attempt to rationalize snow dismissal policies. However, this will not work without cooperation from Metro and past history does not give me confidence that Metro can adjust quickly. (Remember what happened at Rosslyn several weeks ago?)

If OPM releases all Federal employees at 2 p.m. or even staggers release from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Metro would have to shift quickly to rush-hour service., If this doesn’t happen there will be Rosslyn-like chaos on Metro platforms throughout the system.

Keith Shovlin, a Library of Congress employee:

I think I should withhold judgment until they actually put it in action for once. As a Federal employee with a child in agency-provided day care, will I be able to retrieve my daughter and return to shelter in place? Will we have to actually go to our assigned Shelter in Place locations or can we stay at our desk? Will someone from OPM be monitoring the situation and slowly lift the SIP directive for select agencies to control the amount of traffic on the road and Metro? Will Metro be included in the conversation so those stuck at the office will be able to get home eventually? There are just too many questions about this to render an opinion right now.

Lisa Langrell, who works at the Kennedy Center:

If OPM’s “call” resembles anything like last year whereby many workers were caught in the storm and had to leave their vehicles after many hours being stranded..then I think very little of OPM’s ability to make a call that would get workers off the streets before a storm hits.

In my opinion, the reason poor judgements were made was because of the previous year’s week long time off for a mega snow storm that paralyzed the Washington, D.C. area and the media went nuts stating how much time off federal workers in the D.C. area had off. I don't think too highly of pandering and buckling under political pressures as the apex for judgement of worker safety.

Jon Lellenberg, a former Defense Department employee:

I worked at the Pentagon for 30 years and on the day of the Air Florida crash into 14t St. Bridge, despite the forecast and the blizzard actually underway early that morning, it ordered everyone in the U.S. government into work, and then a few hours later told everyone to go home.

At the time I lived a fairly short distance away in the West End of Alexandria, and it took four hours to get onto a bus and to get close to where I lived, thanks to a rather heroic bus driver. I swore that night to never let OPM do my thinking for me again on snow policy, and I never did. But I didn’t think the mandarins could think up something dumber than they did that day. I see I was wrong.

Karen Showalter, a Housing and Urban Development employee:

Last year, several of my friends and acquaintances were stuck on the 295/210 ramp until almost midnight. That’s in the snowstorm, no extra gasoline, no food, no drink, no bathroom and no extra clothing. Friends and family were under tremendous stress awaiting their arrival. For this reason, I feel it is our duty as civil servants to abide the guidance we are given and to leave when asked.

Sharon Beets, an Environmental Protection Agency employee:

I think that is a little too strong. However, I like the idea that there is understanding in the dangers of staying to long at the workplace. Some commuters have a longer distance to travel, the policy should elect to honor those that must leave early in order to have safe travel home and not a time set.

Greg Reed, an Office of Personnel Management employee:

As a OPM worker my concern is that if I miss the window to leave I would be without my meds that I need on a daily bases and to store the meds at work would not work due to how they need to be stored and I do not have a solution to the storage of the meds and hope to keep them safe from tampering.

Rebecca Beeman, of Calvert County, Md.:

I can’t see how sending everyone home at the same time will prevent massive traffic problems from happening again. Right now, not everyone arrives or departs at the same time; rush hour is several hours long, which anyone who drives in the region knows makes rush hour a tiny bit more bearable.

At the time the government issues the order to go home, that’s what most workers will do, and almost all at the same time. There might not be snow at that point, but add to that rush of federal workers, all the other workplaces that follow the government’s lead, and release their workers at the same time, and it will be the same kind of situation again — what is normally four hours or more of traffic will all be on the road at the same time.

Years ago, I was stationed at a very large Midwestern military base where large amounts of snow were a common occurrence. When we needed to be released early, it was done in shifts. Those who lived farthest away were released first, with those living closest released last.

Dave Carter, of Rockville:

One additional solution would be to charge those employees who do not leave by the required time deadline with annual leave for the remaining hours of the day for which they were “ordered to leave” work. In other words, either you leave work as ordered, or your annual leave is charged.

Thomas H. Killiam, an Education Department employee from Gainesville, Va.:

The new policy is not an improvement and will in any case not be observed: absolutely no one not residing in a cardboard box under a bridge will consent to shelter in place. The worse the weather incident, the more anxious all will be to return home for the duration, whether to shovel snow and chop wood with family or simply to avoid being stuck in the office overnight – it will never happen.

Sharon Stout, an Education Department employee:

First thought: You’ve got to be kidding. When they bring in cots and order out for food, I’ll consider it. Second thought: How would anyone enforce this policy? ID checks on the Metro? Roadblocks and random ID checks on the roads out of DC?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Further reading:

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

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

By  |  10:00 AM ET, 11/11/2011

Categories:  Workplace Issues

 
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