The Office of Personnel Management on Monday told agencies and individual federal employees to prepare for the hurricane season, an annual message made timely by Tropical Storm Debby soaking the Gulf Coast.

Boats slam against a pier after breaking free from their moorings as a storm surge and high winds from Tropical Storm Debby batter Bradenton Beach, Florida, June 25, 2012. (BRIAN BLANCO/REUTERS)

“It is important for agencies to be familiar with the wide range of human resources policies and flexibilities that are currently available to assist federal employees affected by hurricanes and other natural disasters,” according to OPM’s guidance.

OPM noted that there are numerous special pay and leave policies available to employees prevented from working, or required to work, in an area affected by emergency situations. Basic benefits such as health insurance coverage for employees and family members remain unchanged, while agencies may conduct special charitable solicitations in support of victims in emergency situations, it said.

One benefit of telework is its usefulness in keeping government operating in emergency situations, OPM added, and under certain conditions agencies may require employees to work remotely even if agency offices are closed.

Special hiring authorities to deal with emergency situations allow agencies to shortcut the often lengthy standard federal hiring process, to create temporary positions, and to rehire federal retirees without the usual reduction in pay to offset the value of their annuities.

OPM also said that employees should familiarize themselves with emergency preparedness in general, and hurricane preparedness in particular.

The central personnel agency issued similar guidance in 2010 and 2011.