When people think about technology for public safety departments, they probably think about modern equipment, updated vehicles, improved communication systems – things like that. What they might not realize is that public safety scheduling software can have a big impact on emergency responders and prevent significant issues. Recent scheduling problems across other industries have highlighted the importance of avoiding shortages and filling breaches quickly. Below, we’ll expand on how scheduling software helps departments avoid common pitfalls and prevent last-minute breaches.
Scheduling Issues in the News
In December, American Airlines made news when an error in the airline’s internal scheduling system allowed too many pilots to request vacation time during the holiday season. The aftermath? Thousands of flights were left without a pilot.
When assigning pilots to cover the unmanned flights, the airline also had to be careful to avoid violating rules from the pilots’ union contract.
This is not the first time something like this has happened. Back in September, a scheduling “mess-up” in Ryanair’s pilot rostering system allowed too many pilots to take vacation, leading to a pilot shortage and months of flight cancellations.
Luckily, American Airlines fixed its issue within a few days and did not have to cancel flights, but what if effective scheduling software could have prevented the issue in the first place?
It’s easy to imagine how a similar issue could affect the public safety industry. What if a department’s scheduling glitch allowed too many firefighters, law enforcement officers, or EMTs to request time off – leaving the public unprotected?
Scheduling Software’s Place in Public Safety
Complicated union or business rules can make scheduling and filling vacancies more difficult. The process of assigning vacation time can take weeks, if not months, to cycle through the entire department. Often, one person oversees the scheduling process. If that person leaves the department or suffers an injury that prevents them from coming into work, scheduling comes to a standstill.
Now, many departments are implementing public safety scheduling software – precisely to avoid the problems mentioned above.
Below, we’ll explore a few of the specific public safety issues that staff scheduling software can prevent and mitigate, so agencies never run into a shortage of critical first responders.
One of the biggest advantages of public safety scheduling software is its use of automation. Most types of scheduling software will automatically prevent staff from choosing vacation days that are already full.
For instance, if a day has six slots and all six have already been chosen, there is no way for the seventh employee to request that same day.
If that seventh person really wants that day, most scheduling software options allow staff members to request a shift trade. But if fellow employees don’t agree to a shift trade, then the trade doesn’t happen, and employee number seven will simply have to request another day.
This automated vacation processing system helps avoid understaffing and prevent human error. In the past, a staff member may have requested a date off on a physical paper calendar without telling anyone. Then when the next employee goes to request that same date, they might not see the first request.
With scheduling software, all your data is in one place. Departments don’t have to worry about X being listed on one calendar while another calendar says Y.
Vacation requests are automatically recorded and transferred to the appropriate system. Data is integrated across all systems, limiting confusion and preventing breaches.
Fix Upcoming Issues
One of the biggest differences between the problems faced by Ryanair and American Airlines is that American was able to catch the problem early enough in advance to fix it. In the end, American didn’t have to cancel any of its December flights because of the pilot shortage.
Scheduling software gives public safety departments a similar capability.
With old pen and paper scheduling, commanders might only see that day’s roster. While not all scheduling providers offer the same benefits, several programs allow administrators to view upcoming staffing for the day, week, or even month.
Even if a breach managed to slip through the cracks, the department can find the issue ahead of time and assign a crew member to cover that upcoming day.
Scheduling software is designed to notify administrators if a staffing decision will cause a shortage. With this information, departments can easily see upcoming problems and make assignments to mitigate the issue.
While a pilot shortage might mean a canceled flight, a first responder shortage could prevent constituents from getting the help they need.
In the public safety industry, ensuring appropriate staffing levels is vital. That’s why many agencies are implementing public safety scheduling software. With staffing software, departments can avoid breaches and fix problems before they even happen. Using automated features, they can easily prevent human scheduling errors and keep their constituents safe.
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Sanjay Kalasa is the president of Adashi. He is also a current active volunteer firefighter/EMT at the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department in Maryland.