Balancing budget and contract performance in Fire and Rescue Services

For Fire and Rescue services across the UK, ensuring optimal staffing levels at all times, as well as keeping track of individual performance, has become an increasingly difficult challenge.

If we consider the increasing number of qualifications, complex crewing models and an increasing number of stations working with wholetime and retained duty firefighters combined, it has become progressively challenging to track achieved versus expected shifts or on-call hours, especially when firefighters perform different activities that can affect appliance availabilities. With budget constraints, staffing changes and complex compliance requirements, it’s become an art to balance the Service’s financial performance, firefighters’ wellness and high-quality levels of service to the public.

Optimising staffing levels requires a lot more than a fixed rota or target contractual hours; it is a matter of seeing the big picture and act accordingly. For that to happen, Fire and Rescue Services can’t rely on manual processes anymore. Instead, it requires the aid of technology that provides insightful information about the availability of resources, firefighters’ skills and qualifications, and their contractual obligations and rights.

Balancing staffing rules and financial performance

Every service has its unique set of rules designed to comply with labour and union conditions. These rules, outlined in contracts, dictate the expectations for firefighters’ performance and, in a limited manner, provide an overview of the available rota. However, emergency response is an unpredictable environment that demands thorough planning and forecasting to ensure optimal crewing levels at any time. To comply with it, it is necessary to understand the roles, skills, and schedules of every member of the organisation, to achieve resilience. A powerful way to solve these challenges is through availability codes in the Service’s resource management system.

Different activities account towards compensation and resilience.

Sickness, Training courses, Detached Duty, Leaves, and carryover shifts, among other conditions have an impact on resilience, payroll and compliance, but understanding the different activities that each member performs, as well as their availability status, and if they earn compensation for their duties, can help Services have a clearer picture of the service-wide response capacity. Rules may vary from one Service to another, but regardless of how sophisticated they are, all staffing decisions should be validated against them. This also applies to overtime allocation. Considering financial restraints and labour laws, assigning overtime shifts demands careful planning and solid data support to allocate them fairly and avoid any violation to labour laws.

From compliance to performance: Allocating resources where they matter the most

However, taking all these different rules and codes into account can be a complex challenge, unless the software is fully customizable and flexible enough to support each service’s individual needs. Finding the most suitable candidates to fill positions and prevent understaffing, while preventing overstaffing and overtime costs, requires detailed planning that complies with service’s and union rules. Technology is necessary to support processes at every station while providing an overview of actionable information that can help services to manage compliance of contracts, optimise quality and elevate performance at every level and make informed decisions.

Flexibility is the key to go beyond complying with contract requirements toward achieving better performance and increasing the quality of service to the public.

FireServiceRota provides software specifically developed to aid Fire and Rescue Services in achieving those goals and has done so for the past decade. Rules, skills and requirements are never too complex for FireServiceRota.

Through Agile methodology sprints, we implement our customers’ specific requirements in our scheduling and availability solution to fit any possible scenario. Through innovation, empathy and close collaboration, we provide a powerful solution to the Fire and Rescue so firefighters can perform their contractual duties when and where they matter most.

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