Weather-Ready Nation(al Government)

Maybe you missed that 4:00 a.m. announcement[1].

Yesterday the United States government’s Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced a change in its policy for federal workers in the face of a weather emergency. The change remains subject to final approval, but it amounts to this. The government will no longer necessarily wait until 4:00 a.m. each morning to announce office closings or liberal leave policies in the face of dangerous weather (think the winter storm season just now getting underway…). Instead, as weather forecast capabilities permit, they may be making this call as early as the afternoon or evening before.

And when they send employees home early in anticipation of an approaching storm, they won’t be waiting until the last possible moment. Furthermore, they’ll be advising employees staying later than a certain hour to shelter-in-place at work, rather than try to make it home.

This change in policy – the first in more than a decade – bows to two emerging realities. The first is a sobering one. The DC commute is now the worst in the country. And that’s the fair-weather, or rosy scenario. Last January, as the snow was flying, some workers were twelve hours getting home. That’s waaaaaay past the boundary separating convenient from inconvenient. It’s past the boundary between safe and dangerous. The feds have been meeting for months with the regional officials from the Council of Governments (COG) to improve traffic flows under such circumstances.

The second reality is to be celebrated. Weather forecasts are now that good.   

This both acknowledges the increased value of weather forecasts (advances in the science and technology, and more attention to weather impacts), and increases that value yet further (through changes in policy that allow potential benefits to be realized more fully).

Science and policy working hand in hand? What a concept. And remember. This extends far beyond the government. Private business will take its cue from government. Moreover, if we can do it in this arena, we can tackle bigger tasks. Rescource extraction. Environmental protection, etc.

Let’s review. Supporting public safety. Enhancing economic productivity. Getting those kids picked up from day care, and thus contributing to family values. Reducing community stress and enhancing personal relationships at home and throughout the neighborhoods.

Now that’s value.



[1]Actually made earlier…last evening.

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