Boston feds work around DNC

Planning and technology helps feds survive the onslaught of the Democratic National Convention.

For 2,000 federal employees in Boston's "hard security zone," 11 months of planning and new communication approaches eased the disruption created by the first day of the Democratic National Convention, organizers said.

Adjacent to Boston's Convention and Exhibition Center, where the Democrats have descended this week, the Thomas P. O'Neill Building is home to 15 federal agencies that provide public services, such as Social Security information, passports, food and nutrition services, small-business administration and the federal bankruptcy court. Officials decided in early July to close the building to everyone except credentialed federal employees. Agency officials made alternative plans and publicized other locations where citizens could come for services. The federal bankruptcy court, for example, set up shop at another nearby court. All other federal buildings are open in Boston, said Kim Ainsworth, executive director of the Greater Boston Federal Executive Board.

"It's been a pretty good day, a positive experience," Ainsworth said. Monday is the first day of the convention, and many federal employees in Boston either stayed home or relocated to other offices. "As this was the first convention in a major city [since Sept. 11, 2001], and the first time for Boston to have such a high-impact event, a lot of us worked together to plan for nuisances and disruption."

"The most important thing was to have accurate and consistent information so people in the federal workforce could make informed decisions," Ainsworth said. Officials built a hotline message system to give important information to employees at their office, home or wireless phones. In addition, Federal Protective Service officials set up a secure Web portal in which senior executives could chat and exchange information.

Federal employees could choose to work in their offices next to the convention center, telework, reroute calls and visits to other agency locations or take the week for vacation. Agency officials sought to assure staffing for services, said Kurt Czarnowski, Social Security Administration's regional communications director. SSA officials, for example, announced other neighborhood office locations and relocated some staff from the O'Neill building and also alerted the public to online and phone services.

Welles is a freelance writer based in Bethesda, Md. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

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