Firefighting, law enforcement, and other stressful public safety roles often see high levels of burn out. One way to combat this is through appropriate scheduling of vacation time and paid time off (PTO). However, vacation management can be a major burden on the shift officer. Ensuring that the correct number of people and skillsets are scheduled for every shift can be a tiresome and time-consuming process. If the administrator makes even one mistake, then trucks won’t be able to respond to incidents, affecting an entire community’s level of public safety.
Now, digital firefighter staffing programs are making it easier to quickly and fairly handle vacation management. Rather than circulating a physical calendar around a department, the entire process can be set up online. With these systems, agencies can efficiently ensure that staff are receiving the time off that they need to recharge and recuperate. Administrators can also automate much of the staffing process, giving them more time to focus on other department activities.
Below, we’ll cover a few ways that digital firefighter staffing is changing the way departments handle vacation management.
1) Simplified Processes
One of the clearest benefits of a digital firefighter staffing system is simplification. Generally, scheduling time off has required complex processes and procedures. While each department does the leave bidding or vacation scheduling process differently, it can often be time-consuming and difficult.
In this industry, ensuring that enough people are available to work each shift is vital. Otherwise, departments encounter breaches and their vehicles are unable to respond to calls.
Firefighter scheduling software eliminates many of the problems involved in the traditional vacation management process. Rules for vacation management based on seniority, role, or other factors can be set up in advance and then automated. As soon as the first person is finished selecting their days off, the schedule is sent to the next person in line. No waiting, and instantaneous turnaround.
Some systems can also set up limits to ensure that there are enough staff with the necessary capabilities to respond. A critical benefit of these digital tools is that administrators can be sure that vehicles will always be able to run. For example, the staffing program can track which company officers have already requested leave for a particular day. If the last remaining officer also tries to get that day off, the system will automatically stop them. This ensures that every shift is covered based on the agencies policies.
2) Year at a Glance
Some departments will set up vacation scheduling quarterly, while others will do it for the entire year in one go. Another significant benefit of digital staffing software is the ability to see the whole year at a glance.
If a last-minute wedding, family obligation, or other event comes up, staff can automatically see who is scheduled for vacation that day. Firefighters can then contact the people who have vacation time booked on those days about shift trades. Many online scheduling systems will also have an app for staff members to use.
This way, employees can quickly and easily reach out to fellow staff via phone, text, email, etc. to trade shifts or get the vacation time they need. With automated scheduling processes in place, administrators also see benefits. Rather than having to manually approve each request, battalion chiefs can bulk-approve requests in one glance. The system will automatically flag any issues with trade requests, so that administrators don’t need to inspect each shift change one-by-one. This leaves administrators free to focus on other tasks that benefit the department.
Having access to this big picture information also benefits fire administrators. Battalion chiefs and other scheduling admins can see which times of year are the busiest and plan to hire overtime or extra staff as needed.
3) Data Integration
Since these programs are based online, firefighters don’t need to go into the station to submit requests or shift trades. Changes to the vacation schedule can be submitted digitally from any location.
Once vacation time has been booked with digital firefighter staffing software, that data becomes part of a department’s records. Any PTO, FMLA, Kelly days, training, overtime, or other changes to a regular shift are automatically recorded when they are set up. With these systems in place, firefighters can ensure they’re getting accurately paid for the time they have worked.
Most types of staffing software will integrate with an agency’s other digital systems including records management and payroll. Using a digital staffing product, departments can eliminate manual data entry and optimize their backend processes.
4) Flexibility to Existing Rules
Every fire department has different rules on how to manage vacation, and learning new procedures can be difficult. Another key benefit of many digital staffing programs is their ability to adapt to an agency’s existing protocols.
No matter how a department has done leave bidding in the past, modern scheduling systems should be able to handle it. If you’re still using outdated staffing processes, these systems can bring your department into the 21st century while maintaining critical union or departmental rules.
Digital firefighter scheduling tools are disrupting the way that departments handle vacation management. In many cases, these programs allow departments to more fairly and efficiently schedule time off.
Since these professions can have high rates of burn out and turnover, well-organized vacation scheduling is vital to maintaining a positive workplace with employees who are physically and mentally sound.
As online staffing software becomes more intuitive, we expect that more departments will implement this technology. To learn more about Adashi’s firefighter staffing software, check out our Adashi RollCall product.
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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.