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Industry Insight

Neither Sleet nor Snow ... GPO Open During Blizzard

I have been watching CNN reporters trotting around Washington D.

By Cary Sherburne
Published: February 11, 2010

I have been watching CNN reporters trotting around Washington D.C. knocking on doors to empty government buildings for the last couple of days during the government shut-down due to the blizzard.  Even the USPS has indicated there are disruptions in service.  But not the GPO! Our Government Printing Office has been hard at work all during the snow storm.  I spoke with Shelley Welcher, Assistant Production Manager, who is one of more than 200 GPO employees who have stepped up to the challenge of keeping the facility open and producing important work.  Shelley lives in Clinton MD, normally about a half hour commute, which has been taking her double that time with the weather.

"We have disaster teams designated for emergencies like this," she said. "We know what we have on our plate and we know who needs to come in to get it done."  Topping the list for the GPO is The Economic Report of the President, which was due today and delivered on time.  The crew has also been focusing on the Congressional Record and the Federal Register.

Gary Somerset, GPO Public Relations, reports that the GPO Police ensure the security of the building under all conditions, and a number of members of the force volunteered to remain on-site for 72 hours, sleeping in cots and eating MRE's to secure the facility.  Others include the facilities crews that make sure everything is operating.

"In Production, we have people from prepress, press and bindery," added Welcher. "Everyone who could come in did come in.  A few were unable to since streets had not been plowed.  Even some of the streets in Washington D.C. have not yet been plowed."

The GPO will be out delivering other work when the government reopens. "We have lots of deliveries of material that was produced before the shutdown that we have been unable to deliver," said Welcher, "but that will get taken care of as soon as the respective offices reopen."

"Since we opened our doors March 4, 1861," Somerset stated proudly, "we have not shut our doors.  We operate 24/7 regardless."

When asked if she was looking forward to things getting back to normal, Welcher replied, "I sure am.  Not the traffic, though.  The roads have been pretty clear.  My husband and I have even helped a couple of people that got stuck as we were on our way home."

It should also be noted that since President Abraham Lincoln, who founded the GPO, visited them in 1861, there has never been another Presidential visit to the GPO.

President Obama, I think this calls for a visit, don't you?

Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries.

Cary Sherburne is available for speaking engagements and consulting projects. To get more information contact us.

Please offer your feedback to Cary. She can be reached at cary@whattheythink.com.


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