‘We got this’

Smiling postal workers donning Santa hats

USPS quickly restored service in Alaska last week after a magnitude 7.0 earthquake threatened to interrupt deliveries to the Northern Hemisphere’s most famous resident: Santa Claus.

The earthquake struck Nov. 30 near Anchorage, knocking out power to homes, schools and businesses. The Postal Service suspended mail delivery and retail operations, although everything was back to normal within days.

It’s a good thing, too: The Anchorage Processing and Distribution Center handles hundreds of thousands of letters to St. Nick from children around the world, as well as grown-ups seeking the famous North Pole Station postmark.

Soon after the quake, Alaska District Marketing Manager Melissa Medeiros went to the Anchorage facility to ensure the precious mailpieces were safe.

“What to my wondering eyes did appear were postal employees scurrying to process and deliver the mail after the earthquake — and that included sacks full of mail destined for North Pole delivery,” Medeiros said.

Pyung Song, a parcel post distribution machine operator and a 30-year employee, was one of the workers who helped keep the mail moving.

“I love bringing smiles to children’s faces as one of Santa’s elves,” Song said.

Alaska District Manager Ron Haberman praised employees for rising to the occasion.

“Many of them are personally affected by the earthquake, and yet they are displaying great commitment to our customers and the mail that is so important this holiday season,” he said.

Medeiros is also impressed.

“I’m proud to be part of such an amazing, resilient postal family, and we want to reassure the children of the world that ‘we got this,’” she said.

Holiday hours

Postal employee handling a transaction

The Postal Service has announced holiday hours for Post Offices and blue collection boxes:

• Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Some Post Offices may have limited hours Monday, Dec. 24. Post Offices will be open during regular business hours Monday, Dec. 31.

Blue boxes with final collection times before noon will not be affected by early closings Dec. 24. If a box has a final collection time after noon, its mail may be picked up earlier.

For mail pickup Dec. 24, customers should put their mail into blue boxes by noon regardless of the final collection time posted on the box.

Customers who have items to mail after the scheduled pick-up times Dec. 24 should use the Postal Locator feature at tools.usps.com to find Post Offices that may be open late.

USPS is also reminding customers that blue boxes are not serviced Sundays.

• Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. Post Offices nationwide will be closed Tuesday, Dec. 25, and Tuesday, Jan. 1. Blue collection boxes will not be serviced these days.

Post Offices will be open Wednesday, Dec. 26, and Wednesday, Jan. 2, and regular mail delivery will resume.

High school

Health insurance claim form

If you have questions about high-deductible health plans (HDHPs), one of the options available during this year’s open season, here’s what you should know:

• HDHPs generally offer lower premiums than other plans. This means you’ll have less money taken out of your paycheck.

• HDHPs give you greater flexibility. While HDHPs have higher annual deductibles and out-of-pocket limits than other Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) plans, they have features that help you pay your medical expenses, including the ability to pay expenses on a pretax or tax deductible basis.

• HDHPs work with HSAs and HRAs. With HDHPs, a portion of your premium or a credit is automatically deposited into your health savings account (HSA) or health reimbursement account (HRA).

You can use this money for out-of-pocket health care costs or to save for future medical expenses. HDHPs combine an HSA or HRA with the traditional coverage offered by health maintenance organization and fee-for-service plans.

Any unused money in your HSA rolls over from year to year and stays with you, even if you change plans or leave the Postal Service.

HDHPs are one of several options available to Postal Service employees during this year’s open season benefits enrollment period, which concludes Monday, Dec. 10.

The Open Season LiteBlue page has more information.

Need to know

Postal worker scans a package

Scanning snapshot. The Postal Service’s national scanning rating was 97.25 percent during the week ending Nov. 30, down from one week earlier.

Dakotas (98.42 percent) topped the districts, while Western (97.6 percent) led the areas.

To see the latest results, go to the Informed Visibility site and select “Customer Experience,” followed by “DES 2 Scan Performance.”

Flag reminder. Postal Service facilities are required to fly the U.S. flag at half-staff through Sunday, Dec. 30, to honor former President George H.W. Bush, who died late last week.

USPS facilities also are required to fly flags at half-staff for National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, an annual commemoration of the 1941 attack that will be observed Friday, Dec. 7.

For additional information, refer to the Postal Service’s online guidelines on U.S. flag display and maintenance.

Take a peek. Reminder: The new Peek into Peak LiteBlue page showcases Postal Service employees and their contributions to the organization’s holiday efforts.

The initiative is being promoted through Link, Postal Vision monitors inside USPS facilities, the tickertape scroll on ACE computers and the Lead to Win newsletter.

Postal Bulletin. The Postal Bulletin’s latest issue highlights Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention Month, which is held each December.

Got news for “Need to know”? Email your submissions to uspslink@usps.gov.

News quiz

Former President George H.W. Bush

Here’s Link’s latest “News quiz,” a weekly feature that invites readers to test their knowledge of recent stories. The correct answers appear at the end.

1. Fill in the blanks: Revenue for the (blank) lead generation programs increased 156 percent and 18 percent, respectively, during the most recent fiscal year.

a) Business Connect and Customer Connect
b) Customer Connect and Clerks Care
c) Clerks Care and Mail Handlers
d) Mail Handlers and Rural Reach

2. Who said, “When employees wear their uniforms properly, they are providing a positive reflection of the Postal Service brand”?

a) Manassas, VA, Retail Associate Mitchell Carte
b) Brand Marketing Executive Director Chris Karpenko
c) Alexandria, VA, Letter Carrier Edwin Tabarez
d) Riverdale, MD, Retail Associate Shannon Wilson-Ellis

3. True or false: From Dec. 1-Jan. 7, all First-Class Mail stamps will be canceled using the national holiday postmark.

a) True
b) False

4. Which of the following cities does not have a Post Office participating in Operation Santa’s digital program?

a) Austin
b) Chicago
c) Indianapolis
d) Pittsburgh

5. What is the title of President George H.W. Bush’s memoir, which featured many of the letters he wrote over the years?

a) “All the Best, George Bush”
b) “Cordially, George Bush”
c) “Sincerely, George Bush”
d) “Your Friend, George Bush”

Answers: 1) c. 2) b. 3) b. 4) b. 5) a.

Look for a new quiz next week and share your feedback with Link at uspslink@usps.gov.