Being a volunteer firefighter is one of the most time-demanding volunteer activities in existence. These time demands come from many sources: emergency calls, training, meetings, fundraising, maintenance of the station and equipment, just to name a few.
The time provided by volunteers is a very valuable resource, and as such, it must be managed (and appreciated) properly.
For many fire departments across the US, this represents a unique challenge. Needless to say, volunteers do their work because they want to serve their community. But in order to fulfill their responsibilities, they also need the freedom to tend to their work and family commitments. That’s why most volunteer firefighters don’t schedule mandatory shifts and attend incidents only when they are free to do so. Nonetheless, this also results in station commanders needing to page all members of the station at the time of dispatch because they don’t know who is and who isn’t available.
Being available when it matters most
Assembling a crew at the time of the call is one of the station manager’s main concerns, and one of the most common ways to solve it is by paging everybody and await for confirmation of attendance.
If too few people show up, mutual aid is called in and other fire stations are alerted, resulting in a longer period before the emergency can be addressed.
If too many people show up, some of them will only arrive at the station to see the tail lights of the truck.
Even if the latter accomplishes the goal of providing a timely response to the incident, it also has the potential the downside of needlessly interrupting people during their work or family commitments.
The lack of scheduling availability of firefighters can result in an anxious wait for the station commander right after the call just before knowing who is arriving, and in unnecessary interruption for the extra firefighters left behind.
For a medical call, for instance, many stations only require 2 attendants: one to perform CPR and one to assist. Without knowing in advance who is available, all members have to be called in. Even if they are not required for the emergency, some firefighters can stay at the station waiting for a second call and it’s considered as a training exercise.
Volunteering for the Fire Service might not be compared by some to a regular job in different ways, but it’s an activity that requires commitment and passion to perform. This doesn’t mean volunteers need to be expecting a call 24/7, nor that they should be assigned ultra strict shifts to ensure the station’s ability to respond to incidents.
Our philosophy: Freedom + Insight
Luckily, there is a way to provide maximum flexibility while guaranteeing that the station is always ready to protect its community.
Flexible scheduling software allows volunteer firefighters to easily schedule their own availability, and to be on call when needed and free when possible. By doing so, all crew members know when they can take some real time off without jeopardizing the readiness of the station. They also know when they are not required to attend if other members are already taking care of business.
On the other side, station managers can know exactly who is available at all times, know who is responding to an emergency, their location and ETA, and automate the request for off duty members and mutual aid when not enough members are attending.
Altogether, implementing a simple and powerful solution, such as FireServiceRota, can help stations to plan ahead, resulting in more freedom for firefighters while ensuring the ability to serve the community.