The Government Printing Office continued operations through Tuesday night with about 100 employees to ensure its products, including the Congressional Record, were published on time.
After Tuesday’s 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook up Washington, the agency was quickly evacuated, putting into practice an emergency drill that has been in place for several years.
Within hours of the temblor, key operations were back up to make sure the GPO was “meeting the needs of the Hill,” assistant public printer Jim Bradley said.
The GPO has a list of people whose jobs are deemed essential, making it necessary for them to come to work in the event of an emergency.
Once officials determined there was no structural damage to the building or the GPO’s equipment and that the environment was safe, a limited number of staffers were brought in to make sure that the House and Senate calendars, the Congressional Record and the Federal Register for the executive branch were posted online.
By nighttime, the GPO, which functions 24 hours a day, brought in most of its full staff for the shift from 11:30 p.m. to 8 a.m.
Technology has made their jobs easier. Because the main concern was to make sure that the calendars and Congressional Record got online — especially with Tuesday’s Senate pro forma session — staffers who work in the bindery and on the printing presses did not have to come in, GPO production manager John Crawford said.
This isn’t the first time the agency has had to turn to this list.
During the 2010 snowstorms, the GPO continued to produce its publications, especially because Congress was in session. After 9/11, employees showed up to work. And during the 1990s, when a hurricane shut down the federal government for several days, the GPO kept on keeping on.
“I just want to emphasize how dedicated they are in getting things done,” Bradley said.
While it wasn’t necessary for GPO employees to relocate operations after the quake, there is a plan in place in case of future emergencies. Different locations around and outside of the city have been identified for GPO employees to work in case something happens to the building, which is located on North Capitol Street between G and H streets Northwest.
“Our main concern is safety,” Bradley said. “It’s very important to serve Congress, but we don’t want to put our employees at risk.”
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.