Feds who are being broiled in offices where air conditioners are broken or reserved for VIPs have one safety valve on these hot, muggy days. They may be excused from work if sticky, indoor discomfort levels match the magic numbers on Uncle Sam's roasting chart.
Federal managers have authority to send their troops home during hot spells if the indoor (not outdoor) temperature and humidity readings meet or exceed government-designated misery standards.
Every year about this time, panting civil servants call to ask bout the heat-release policy. It is rather vague. Officials have considerable leeway to excuse workers for weather-related reasons. Wintertime decisions are based on areawide weather and traffic conditions. Summer calls are tougher. Heat-related problems vary from building to building, and even within buildings. People on the sunny side of the street get hotter than more shaded colleagues.
Realizing all of the above, and realizing that air conditions break down only when it is hot, our government has established a heat-release index. The idea is to give guidance to onsite officials, so they won't have to call President Reagan or Alexander Haig to ask whether they can let the crew in the basement of the print shop go home early. That is just as well, since they have other problems. VIPs have trouble getting excited about such things. Reagan works at home, and Haig's air conditioner wouldn't dare break down.
The heat-humidity guidelines cover INDOOR readings. It doesn't matter what you hear on the telephone or what the official reading is at National Airport. What counts is how miserable it is where you are! The chart above tells the story. You may want to clip it and put it beside the office air conditioner. To be eligible for early release, the indoor temperature must be at least 95 with a humidity reading of at least 55 before the boss can even think about letting you go home. As the indoor temperture goes higher, the amount of humidity you are required to suffer drops accordingly. So an indoor reading of 100 degrees requires the humidity level to be "only" 38, about the equivalent of a nice day in a Brazilian ran forest.
Keep the chart. This promises to be a long, hot, sticky summer, and the magic numbers herein could become very important.