Federal Dismissal and Closure Procedures

The Federal Emergency Dismissal Protocol calls for the General Services Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Personnel Management to consult and decide on the operating status of the government and federal buildings during an emergency. These agencies have on-going access to critical information provided by Department of Homeland Security (DHS), law enforcement and other related agencies that inform respective decision making. Your agency is a part of the network that would immediately receive confirmed reports on any situations and be able to update you on the relevant dismissal and closure procedures.

In a natural or man-made event (such as a terror incident), FEMA, GSA and OPM will convene their principals for a review of the situation and make decisions for each of their respective areas of responsibility.

Immediate notification of changes to the operating status of the government will be relayed to key federal and local authorities. Following this notification, the news media, the Federal Executive Board and other outlets will be alerted to the change in operational status. The operating status of the government is always available on the OPM website.

Federal agencies which operate in buildings managed by the GSA are required to establish an Occupant Emergency Plan (OEP). The OEP is a short-term emergency response program that establishes procedures for safeguarding lives and property. Within every agency’s OEP should be a component which addresses the concerns of special needs employees.

Each federal building has unique factors which may affect the security measures that should be taken to protect employees. Some of these factors include the location of the building, proximity to other prominent landmarks or buildings, and inherent building designs which may affect the ability to prevent, or mitigate the damage of, an attack. For this reason, the government has not issued one government-wide protocol that all agencies must follow. It is the responsibility of each agency to communicate to employees the safety procedures that are in place, based on both a safety and a threat analysis.

In instances where there is a known or suspected release of biological, chemical, or radiological agents outside an agency, authorities may strongly recommend that employees shelter-in-place. That means that rather than leave their place of work, employees will stay in their office building and wait for instructions. It is unlikely that such an event would require employees to shelter-in-place for longer than a few hours.

Employees are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the procedures that have been put into place at their agency, as well as the means of notification that an agency will use to inform and instruct employees.

It is the responsibility of each agency to determine the risks faced by its employees, develop a comprehensive strategy and assess the benefits provided by any protective equipment. These decisions will be based largely on the time it takes for an agency to evacuate the building, and other information gained through a threat assessment. Employees should check with their agency’s security/safety personnel to learn the status of any protective equipment provided by their agency.

The Emergency Preparedness for Federal Employees in the National Capital Region, while focusing on the Washington, D.C. area, contains information applicable to employees in other places as well. It covers considerations such as emergency supplies to be kept in the office; how to get emergency weather alerts; and general worksite emergency plans and procedures including agency instructions to employees. The guide is at www.fema.gov/resource-document-library.

Dismissal and Closure Procedures in Washington DC

Agencies in the Washington, D.C., area follow the “Washington, D.C., Area Dismissal or Closure Procedures” in emergency situations including severe weather that prevent significant numbers of employees from reporting for work on time or which require agencies to close all or part of their activities. These are available at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/reference-materials/handbooks/dcdismissal.pdf. Federal Executive Boards coordinate similar dismissal or closure procedures in other major metropolitan areas. Information on them is at www.feb.gov.

Employees designated as “emergency,” “emergency essential” or similar terms are expected to report for work on time and stay until dismissed in all circumstances, unless they are specifically excused. In some cases, such employees might telework.

“Option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework” means that employees may take annual leave or leave without pay without prior supervisory approval, or telework on a non-telework day, but must notify their supervisor they are doing so.

Note: When an agency is designated as closed for all or part of a day, employees who were on pre-approved annual leave for the time affected by the closing are not granted excused absence. They are charged for the annual leave unless they telework instead.

  • Agencies are open. Employees are expected to report to their worksite or begin telework on time.
  • Agencies are open, with an option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.
  • Agencies are open with delayed arrival of a designated number of hours later than the employee’s normal arrival time, with an option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework.
  • Agencies are open with a delayed arrival and employees should report to their worksites no later than a designated time, with an option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework. Employees receive excused absence until that time; they may arrive earlier and should not try to time their commutes to arrive precisely at that time. Those arriving later will be charged annual leave unless they are granted excused absence due to a personal hardship.
  • Agencies are open with a staggered early departure. Employees leave the workplace a designated number of hours earlier than their normal departure time, with excused absence for the time remaining in their work days. Employees may request unscheduled leave to depart prior to their early departure time; they will be charged leave for the remainder of the day and will not be granted excused absence.
  • Agencies are open with a staggered early departure and all employees must leave by a designated time, at which time offices are closed. Employees leave the workplace a designated number of hours earlier than their normal departure time, with excused absence. Employees may request unscheduled leave to depart prior to their early departure time; they will be charged leave for the remainder of the day and will not be granted excused absence.
  • Immediate departure—federal offices are closed. Employees should depart immediately; they will be granted excused absence for any remaining time in their working days. Employees who depart before such an announcement will be charged annual leave or leave without pay from the time they left until the end of their scheduled work days.
  • Federal offices are closed—emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s policies (commonly, they are expected to work if able). Other employees are granted excused absence for the number of hours they were scheduled to work.
  • Shelter in place. This typically will be ordered if severe conditions or other emergencies arise during the working day. Offices are closed and employees are to follow their agency’s procedures for such situations.

The dismissal procedures guide describes policies for special situations such as when employees are on leave without pay, are traveling, or have a scheduled day off under an alternative work schedule.

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