“If you are generally well-equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse, you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.” – U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Ali S. Khan, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Hurricanes, floods, wild fires, snowstorms, tornadoes, zombie apocalypse – you name it, the U.S. Postal Service is prepared to deliver. Part of the Postal Service’s extensive operational planning includes contingency plans to make sure mail gets delivered safely after every type of weather event, power outage, and undead uprising. Ok, maybe the Postal Service isn’t preparing for a zombie apocalypse, but its emergency preparedness plans could seemingly handle even that type of catastrophe.

The Postal Service’s immediate priority after a storm or major weather event is the safety of its employees. Once safety issues are addressed, the prompt delivery of mail and packages to affected areas becomes the focus. The resumption of mail delivery to a disaster-affected area is often a welcome event in recovery. Citizens are frequently without power and phone service, which severely limits communications. Mail delivery allows for the exchange of information, including relief checks and government services, and can even provide a small feeling of a “return to normalcy” for citizens. Sometimes after a storm, a letter carrier is the first direct contact a citizen has with another person. Postal employees are often dealing with disasters in their own homes, yet show up faithfully for work.

Halfway into 2013 and the year is shaping up to be an historic weather one. Winter storm Nemo, May tornadoes in Oklahoma, wild fires in Arizona, late spring snowstorms from Arkansas to Minnesota, flooding in many parts of the country, and record-breaking heat in the West all took place in just the first 6 months of this year. And hurricane season has only just started. This puts added pressure on the Postal Service to have sufficient controls in place to ensure employee safety and mitigate interruptions to service. Adding to the contingency challenge is the fact that postal facilities are often damaged in these weather events, forcing rerouting of mail and relocation of retail services. For example, the October 2012 Hurricane Sandy, which caused extensive power outages and infrastructure disruptions up and down the east coast, resulted in numerous postal facilities being damaged.

Share with us your experiences with the Postal Service during major weather events. Could the Postal Service improve its preparation and response efforts in dealing with extreme weather to minimize disruptions? 

Comments (23)

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  • anon

    Well I don't think I would be out there with Zombies lol. But I wouldn't have thought they would make them deliver in a hurricane.

    Oct 05, 2016
  • anon

    Ya.... but if the power goes out at a contract station in Alaska, we can't check our mail. Time to close the box.

    Aug 22, 2016
  • anon

    ......so if my mailbox is blocked by snow plowed by the township the rural mail carrier feels obligated to stuff my mail into the snow bank instead of reaching a little further to reach the box. How about holding it until I return from plowing the states highways so the mail carrier can get to work and I get a chance to clear the 11" extra to reach the box?

    Jan 26, 2016
  • anon

    The postal service's number one priority in bad weather is defiantly not the safety of the employees! All they care about are their numbers. Get the mail in and get the mail out. There is no safety precautions taken to ensure safe delivery. They tell you you better show up and when you do all they do is say drive safe. I don't call getting chains put on our little aluminum vehicles a great measure of safety. Ask any rural carrier, I guarantee they tell you the same thing. Mail just isn't that important. Its amusing how they pretend they have all theses awesome procedures in place to guarantee our safety- there is nothing! Calling bullshit on that!!!!!

    Jan 22, 2016
  • anon

    Shawn, I agree with you. I have a family member who is a postal employee and I'm concerned about this upcoming Blizzard. Being out in a blizzard is very dangerous and can be life threatening if a postal worker breaks down in one of those old mail trucks. I understand mail may back up some but I care more about my postal worker then I do about getting mail everyday. I think the slogan everyone wants to throw around no matter rain, snow, whatever weather they deliver needs to go. Lets think about their safety first. I certainly believe if its a state of emergency or a severe warning to stay of the road, the post office needs to shut down. I hope they consider their employees first during this upcoming blizzard.

    Jan 21, 2016
  • anon

    I work for the USPS. Snow is the proverbial "elephant in the room " We preach Safety First, but it is never acceptable, to not show up for work. When States Police issue a warning to not be out on the roads , why am I expected to drive in unsafe conditions, in a vehicle not equipped with 4 wheel drive , in unsafe conditions. Why am I expected to even leave my house, in unsafe conditions? It is not exhibiting "Safety First "

    Jan 20, 2016
  • anon

    You are not required to go to work if a state of emergency is declared and are entitled to administrative leave up to 8 hrs not affecting your annual leave

    Jan 22, 2016
  • anon

    Exactly! Holding onto the old we-deliver-regardless-of-the-weather or a declared state of emergency mentality is idiotic. Supervisors require the carrier to do all he can to get to work, then send him out to deliver what he can, yet never considers that the carrier must drive sometimes long distances to just get to work. If you are a city carrier and walk, it's one thing and still dangerous, but moreso if you are a rural carrier driving roads that are unsafe. It just seems wrong that the USPS ignores the directive of the governor who declares a state of emergency, telling people to stay off the roads, yet supervisors and station managers require carriers to be on the job and softly threaten them if they are not. All those postal vehicles on roads that are slick, snow-covered, and untreated make it unsafe for themselves and any others. And for what? Just to deliver someone's check who can't get out to deposit / cash it at a site that is closed because of the weather? Seems to me that when the governor issues a state of emergency--especially for snowstorms--the USPS should suspend delivery for the days involved. They might start doing that when an accident happens and then a lawsuit is filed against the USPS.

    Jan 21, 2016
  • anon

    I have just returned from speaking with our local postmaster as our mail was not delivered today...again. It's because a car was parked in front of the mail boxes. The postmaster says that it is USPS policy that they cannot get out of their delivery vehicles in order to place the mail in the boxes...I'm talking 10 feet! Hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes I can understand...but 10 feet of walking! (Yes, I'm serious...he says that it is USPS policy!) Please don't tell me about their heroics regarding delivering the mail. The heroes have all left the building...

    Nov 20, 2013
  • anon

    It is against the law to block a mailbox. People who continually have their mailbox blocked will eventually stop getting their mail. If we had to get out of the truck at each house, due to a blocked mailbox, we'd never finish our route on time. I, myself get out to deliver, but if it's a constant offense, I put a notice in the mailbox, and stop delivering until the mailbox is no longer blocked. Remember, we have to turn off the truck, turn the wheel toward the curb, shut the windows, lock the doors. The mail has to be secured when we leave the truck. Put yourself in our shoes before you pass judgement.

    Oct 01, 2015
  • anon

    "postal service's immediate priority AFTER a storm or event is the safety of its employees" True words...The operative word is AFTER..The problem comes into focus before and during the event. Local emergency management proclamations and states of emergency are ignored and countermanded by districts and regions. Employees are left in harm's way unable to return home to secure property and ensure safety of families. Discretion often is the better part of valor. Macho, "we will deliver no matter what" is dangerous and childish, not the kind of actions one would expect from true leadership. That being said; one hopes that issues brought up here and in all other blog posts, will get ultimately to the impacted levels of management and that they will benefit from reflection on them.

    Aug 30, 2013
  • anon

    This is almost hilarious. I say almost, because getting delivery at all is a rare event. Here in Seattle it seems like that at least for our route a bit of rain, a bit of sun, a few clouds, or demolished "Cluster-boxes" is all it takes to keep the mail from showing up. A little rain, In Seattle, where it rains at least 3 months out of the year. I understand if they won't deliver in the snow, since nearly every street is a grade, but UPS, FedEx, an OnTrack sure can make it any day that's not declared a state of emergency. Zombies! If our postman saw a snowflake, a rain drop, the sun, or a cloud, I'm fairly sure he'd call in sick. I wouldn't fault him for doing that in the case of a Zombie Apocalypse, but doing it because it's Tuesday and putting mail in boxes is a rough job and it's easier to just tick the "delivered" box on all of the mail with tracking numbers is easier than doing the job he's paid to do. Having to wrestle with the USPS for over 3 YEARS over mail delivery and still missing most of your mail is absolutely absurd, at least as absurd as the title of this blog post.

    Aug 21, 2013
  • anon

    Our business can't even get Saturday delivery on a clear day from the Great Neck, NY PO because the letter carrier is insane and the supervisor likes to verbally abuse you when you call to complain about it. It's out of control.

    Aug 20, 2013
  • anon

    Please tell me Why am i paying for a PO box and cannot get my mail. Important is mailed to me from within the US and it takes from one and half weeks to three weeks. The Postal service employee's attitude is so what it is a low priority. This is totally unacceptable.Customer. It is rumored the this particular Post Office has lost their lease and no one from the Postal Service have informed the community in Harlem. or the rental box . Renewal rates have been placed in the box for August 31ST and the building is closing on that date from another source. This so disrecptectful on so so many level.

    Aug 21, 2013
  • anon

    Well I know there wasnt a hurricaine and certainly no zombies, but my package was scheduled to be delivered today, my package according to tracking data has been sitting in a warehouse somewhere since July 12th and hasnt moved, hasnt left the facility either, I could have driven down there to pick it up myself. Im not usually impatient, and USPS has always come through, but I am concerned that the tracking data hasnt been updated since friday, its monday afternoon, where is my package???? Its a vital component and I must have it soon. Label Number: 9405510200793746071040

    Jul 15, 2013
  • anon

    I think it is a clear injustice as to how postal employees are treated. Chicago at 22 inches of snow and employees were expected to come to work. How can you come to work if the road are not clear or you cannot get out of the front or back door of your home. Employees who could not get to work were force to use annual leave, and they have not receive that day back.

    Jul 15, 2013
  • anon

    Can you dig it?

    Jul 12, 2013
  • anon

    This is the best thing i have seen on the postal service website.

    Jul 12, 2013
  • anon

    You are absolutely right. We are tied to FEMA, state EMA’s, as well as the Centers for Disease Control. We have agreements to deliver emergency items including medical neccessities under escort of the US Marshalls if needed. That’s why I say there’s alot more to the Postal Service than the average American understands.

    Jul 10, 2013
  • anon

    This is an excellent article as it deals with issues that most people never ponder until faced with a crisis. People will be expecting and looking for checks, advance payments and documents from their insurance carrier. There are a tremendous amount of documents that still need mailed and not sent via email. Some how, the USPS should be tied in to FEMA on when to deliver and when it is safe. At most storm sites, there are fema tents and instruction sites set up. I would think that the postal service would or should coordinate your services at these same sites for the people displaced. I am sure the safety of the employees is foremost. But you can never minimize the importance of mail returning some semblance of normalcy in a time of crisis. As for delivering around zombies, ….. Suggest you let management figure that one out.

    Jul 10, 2013
  • anon

    I agree Tim, the penny saver is the last thing on our mind in the event of a disaster. However, I don’t think most people understand the Postal Service plays a vital role in emergency preparedness. We have expertise and knowledge unique to our organization, in that we have mastered the routes and addresses of the entire United States. In the event of a natural disaster or biological attack the Postal Service is needed to deliver information and medication to the American public. While the health and safety of our employees is always first and foremost, we are a key player in protecting the public at large. For example, in the event a public quarantine could prevent outbreak of a disease or spread of a biological agent; the Postal Service would play a vital role in delivering information and antidotes to prevent public alarm, panic and further contamination. Of course this would all be carried out in coordination with other first responders but I think we all need to recognize and respect the fact the Postal Service delivers a much larger service than distributing junk mail and penny savers.

    Jul 10, 2013
  • anon

    Granted, people don’t need the pennysaver when the weather is bad, but the USPS delivers vital packages like prescription medicines. They are professional drivers and really what can’t you buy online and get delivered by USPS? Instead of everyone’s vehicle on the road picking up essentials, let the professionals deliver what you need. Stay home.

    Jul 10, 2013
  • anon

    USPS should cease making employees come to work and go out delivering Mail when local governments declare a state of emergency and request only emergency vehicles be on the road. Rather than excercise federal presumption of applicable laws, USPS should recognize the good judgement of local authorities in the matter. Delivering Mail is really not a “vital service” and is not worth putting people’s lives at risk.

    Jul 10, 2013

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