Image courtesy of Baltimore City Department of Human Resources

Baltimore City’s human resources department released an emergency plan Wednesday afternoon, detailing operations for employees and city agencies during a potential coronavirus outbreak or other emergency in the city.

The 32-page plan outlines steps that city agencies are required or advised to take to prepare for a COVID-19 outbreak or “other catastrophic events.” Some of those steps include identifying primary and secondary personnel to provide priority services; identifying a line of succession and delegation of authority in the case that staff members become unavailable or shift duties; and defining procedures for compensation and absences.

Per the plan, the priority levels of services are as follows: public safety and security, such as law enforcement and emergency medical services, are Priority 1; essential and core services, which may cause “economic impact and chaos” if not delivered after a few days, are Priority 2; necessary services that can be temporarily disrupted for a few days or weeks are Priority 3; and deferrable services that can be put on hold for the duration of the declared emergency, such as educational and general maintenance programs, are Priority 4.

The emergency plan said each agency’s succession plan should be four employees deep, and should identify alternate lines of succession in case all personnel in the main line are unavailable. Each agency must have at least two employees who are trained to perform payroll, which is designated as a Priority 2 service.

The plan noted that school and daycare closures are expected to have “a significant cascading effect on staff absenteeism in both the private and public sectors” and Baltimore City must prepare for staff reductions related to parents staying home to take care of children and other dependents.

Employees will not be allowed to bring their children to work if schools and daycare centers are closed, and they should each have their own family care succession plan.

During an emergency, employees’ work schedules and hours, including overtime, may change and approved leaves of absences–other than for protected medical leave purposes–may be rescinded with minimal notice. Employees may also be assigned out-of-class work, out-of-title work, other duties, and work in other agencies with minimal notice, per the plan.

The plan calls for staff to be informed of their priority designation and expectations when it comes to reporting to work, including provisions for teleworking.

Agency heads or designees have the responsibility and authority to send an employee home if that person exhibits symptoms of the COVID-19 virus, including fever, cough and shortness of breath, the plan said.

Employees without leave who are unable to return to work due to illness during a declared emergency can borrow from future leave earnings, and can be granted a maximum of 15 days of advanced sick leave, per the plan.

Agencies will coordinate with the mayor’s office and the health commissioner to make decisions about facility closures on a case-by-case basis, the plan said.

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at