In many fire and rescue services, on-call firefighters need to be able to crew an appliance in under 5 minutes. If a firefighter is unable to reach the station within this time, he or she is expected to book themselves unavailable. So someone who works or lives just too far away, let’s say 8 minutes, is not counted towards crewing strength.
But is this strict deadline really necessary? And doesn’t it unnecessarily cause appliances to go off the run? After all, most resilient fire services do not need all appliances on the run 24/7.
In addition, some capacity needs to be available to relieve crews and to provide resilience in case of large scale incidents. While some on-call firefighters may not be immediately available, they may be able to provide cover with a slightly longer response time, perhaps after 10 minutes or after one hour. That capacity is currently invisible, leaving a blind spot in the organisation’s resilience strategy, and wasting valuable human resources.
Is there a more flexible approach to resource management help address this? The answer is the Tiered Response Model, developed by Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue, and recently being developed into FireServiceRota.
The Tiered Response Model allows personnel and appliances to report to predetermined stations within a response time which suits the staff and the organisation response model. This can range from 10 minutes to up to 3 hours. By doing this, the resilience capacity becomes visible and manageable. It allows a larger group of firefighters to contribute to the service’s on-call availability, possibly combining the crew of two or more stations that would otherwise both be unavailable.
It also offers more flexibility for firefighters to combine their primary job with being an on-call firefighter. With staff recruitment and retention being a challenge in many services, the extra flexibility will offer a welcome new contracting option for many firefighters and their primary employers.
The Tiered Response Model is not just a change in processes and technology. The introduction of a tiered availability system will also imply a cultural change for all staff involved.
Using FireServiceRota as their resource management system, Buckinghamshire F&RS are now able to develop a proposition to involve a much larger group of on-call firefighters, offer their staff more flexibility to combine being an on-call firefighter with their day-job, and to increase on-call availability with the same human resources.