One of these days it is going to snow here. When it does, and if you are a federal worker, you had better plan on coming to work on time, unless we really get a blizzard.
The first snow of the winter usually causes panic in metropolitan Washington. There are 350,000 federal workers scattered over hundreds of square miles, and weather conditions and amounts of snowfall vary dramatically.
The morning after an overnight snow, everybody wants to know if Uncle Sam will be open for business. If the snow starts during the day, there's a guaranteed busy signal at the weather report as thousands of workers try to determine if they are going to be sent home early.
Because most Metro bus drivers work split shifts, it is difficult if not impossible to advance rush hour bus schedules.
During the big snowstorm of February 1982 many federal agencies sent employes home early. Dumping them on the street before buses and trains were ready to take them created one of the biggest traffic gridlocks in the city's history.
Since then the Office of Personnel Management has revised its snow policy. In effect, it says that it will be a cold day in hell before the U.S. government shuts down here because of snow.
OPM has dusted off its 1985 snow plan and it looks like this:
* In most cases employes will be expected to report for work on time if it snows. If the snow begins during the day, odds are employes will be kept on the job until normal quitting time.
* The news media will be contacted by OPM officials -- using special pre-arranged code words to prevent a hoax -- to announce the government plan for the day. When snow falls overnight, radio and TV announcements will be made by 6 a.m.
* In some cases, the government may announce a "delayed arrival" policy. That means that your supervisor may, at his or her discretion, allow you to come in up to two hours late without charge to annual leave, depending on conditions.
* In some cases the government may announce a "liberal leave" policy. That means that employes who believe they cannot make it into work safely can take the day off -- using annual leave -- without first getting approval from their supervisor.