Friday, February 12, 2010

Snowpocalypse at NPR . . .

Vivian Schiller at work (Photograph by Julian Dufort for

NOTE: This e-mail from NPR's President and CEO, Vivian Schiller, went around to stations yesterday. Thought you might enjoy a festive report from the frozen NPR HQ!
Greetings from the NPR igloo --

It’s been a week of wild weather in DC, where we are now shoveling out from major snowstorm #2. While the news reports are full of cancellations and closings, NPR hasn’t missed a beat – despite reduced, emergency levels of staffing.

To keep our operations going and the programs on the air, NPR has been working full time on snow planning and snow operations since last Thursday. Led by Director of Engineering Shawn Fox and Director of Operations Charlie Mayer, our logistics group (a.k.a. the NPR Snow Patrol) has worked with staff to keep the behind-the-scenes work running smoothly despite the weather -- and with extraordinary good cheer.

More than a hundred core “essential” programming and operational staff have spent the night at local hotels when it was impossible for them to return home between shifts.

We rented three oversized SUVs for the week to provide emergency transportation to and from work for staff marooned without public transportation or a snow-worthy vehicle. They’ve been running almost non-stop, crammed with hosts, reporters, managers, technicians and executives all together. I hear the seat-warmers have been a hit.

The NPR can-do spirit is alive and well. Employees from across the organization have volunteered to take turns driving the transport vehicles. (See photo of News SVP Ellen Weiss turned chauffeur, below.) Some, including Labor Relations Director Paula Olson, drove their own 4X4s. By the way, Paula also managed to deliver hundreds of fresh baked cookies to the staff. Charlie Mayer even put his chainsaw skills to work to free weekend All Things Considered host Guy Raz’s front door from a fallen tree when he and Shawn Fox came to pick Guy up for work last Saturday. (Photos below.)

Fortunately the fabulous staff members of the small cafeteria that operates on our 7th floor agreed to brave the conditions and stay open through the weekend and both storms to provide NPR-paid hot meals to hungry staff members. NPR’s sidewalk/driveway snow removal operation sets the standard in our DC neighborhood thanks to Dave Tenney and our Facilities division.

Not all the action is at HQ. Hundreds of employees have been productively working from their snowed in homes. From across the region, staff members have joined conference calls, answered emails, and moved forward on projects in what has been the largest work-from-home operation we’ve ever attempted. Just two examples, Support Technician Michael Cullen helped to set up our crew at the Vancouver Olympics and is able to adjust our IP-based equipment there over the Internet from home. Support Technician Chris Nelson is working on audio clips for NPR programs and newscasts using his laptop at home.

As for me, I finally made it into the office. But until today I was snow-trapped at home waiting for the snowplows to visit our remote cul-de-sac. Luckily the Internet and phones are working so it was sort of like being in the office…but with fuzzy slippers. Here’s a link to a time-lapse of last weekends snow fall outside my back window. Let’s hope spring comes early this year. After this winter, I’m pretty sure we’ll need it.


The tree in front of Guy Raz’s house….

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