The Washington Post

Earthquake prompts unscheduled federal leave, building closures

Tony Williams surveys damage at his Mineral, Va. home on Tuesday. (Steve Helber)

The federal government is permitting its employees in the Washington area to take unscheduled leave or to work from home if they’re eligible due to Tuesday’s earthquake..

Additionally, a dozen major federal buildings in the D.C. area are closed today due to earthquake-related damage.

“If a building is closed today it doesn’t necessarily mean there is damage, just that we haven’t yet been able to thoroughly assess it,” said Sara Merriam, a spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which owns or operates most of federal buildings in the Washington area.

Emergency employees are expected to report for work as usual, but non-emergency employees are granted an excused absence if necessary, unless:

— The employee is required to telework.

— The employee is on official travel outside the Washington area.

— The employee is on leave without pay.

— The employee is on an alternative work schedule day off.

Here’s a list of the widespread building closures as of 8 a.m. Wednesday:

— Federal Aviation Administration headquarters at 800 Independence Ave. SW. (Updated and added 7:19 a.m. ET)

— U.S. Drug Administration Building in Washington.

— Forest Service offices in the USDA Yates Building in Washington.

— The National Building Museum at 5th and F Sts. NW.

— The Agriculture Department’s South Building at 14th and Independence Ave. SW.

— The Department of Homeland Security’s Buildings 1 and 19 at Nebraska Ave. NW Complex.

— The Interior Department headquarters at 1849 C St. NW and the Interior Department South Building at 1951 Constitution Ave. NW.

In Virginia:

— The Commerce Department’s Building A 6810 in Franconia.

In Maryland:

— The Office of the Secretary of Defense at One White Flint North 11555 Rockville Pike in Rockville.

— The National Archives building at 4205 Suitland Rd. in Suitland.

Update 8:47 a.m. ET:

The Labor Department and Department of Health and Human Services headquarters in Washington are now open for normal business.

Here’s a memo sent to Interior Department employees regarding the building closures:

August 23, 2011

To: All Washington, DC MIB and SIB Employees

From: Rhea Suh

Assistant Secretary

Policy, Management and Budget

We would like to thank all Department of the Interior (DOI) employees for the safe evacuation of the many DOI facilities in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The earthquake we experienced was substantial. We were very fortunate that there were no reports of injuries of our employees. The mission of DOI is critical in maintaining the functioning of the federal government and ensuring public safety.

Because the safety of our employees comes first, and in order to allow for a thorough review of the structural integrity of the Main and South Interior Buildings, both buildings will remain closed to business tomorrow, August 24th, 2011.

As you may know the DOI has an extensive telework program. Employees who have a signed telework agreement are encouraged to utilize the many flexibilities of telework to keep the Government operating and to maximize productivity tomorrow. Employees who are not on telework agreements will be relieved from duty. Employees who are unable to telework will not be charged leave unless they have previously scheduled/approved leave. Timekeepers will receive instructions on how to code this time.

Employees may also utilize alternative worksites if it is deemed safe for occupancy and is open for business. Employees who have responsibilities for securing the workplace or duties related to the structural integrity review at the Main or South Interior Buildings are expected to report in accordance with their regular schedule except as modified by their supervisor.

We expect to reopen both buildings on August 25th following a thorough review. Please review your local television stations, news media and our DOI website for continuing updates on the reopening of the MIB/SIB in the Washington D.C. metro area.

Please note that all DOI employees who work in satellite offices in the DC metro region should report to duty unless otherwise instructed.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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