To pick your own shifts - Reaching a new level of flexibility in fire stations

As the need for efficiency grows, Fire and Rescue Services look to adopt new scheduling models that allow them to provide top quality service to the public and optimise crewing and financial performance.

On the quest to ensure optimal crewing levels, the Flexible Duty System allows firefighters to pick their own shifts in advance. Crew Managers are responsible for setting up the shift picking periods to enable firefighters to select their shifts in a different order every time. This promotes a fair distribution of (un)desired shifts across all members of the team. This model provides fairness to the process of shift picking and allows firefighters to plan commitments well in advance.

However, for Crew Managers to manage this without proper tools presents a cumbersome task that demands a lot of time and supervision.This is why we have received a suggestion from our user base to develop this functionality and streamline the process of self shift-picking through FireServiceRota.

The self shift-picking module

As we have previously mentioned, the goal of automating shift picking is to move from a one-person responsibility towards a more open, accountable and collaborative process. In FireServiceRota, a Crew Manager with the role of supervisor will be able to create new Shift Picking sessions and select involved crew members and their picking order.

For crew managers, allocating shifts can be a cumbersome process.

We allow managers to determine dates, the target number of shifts per crew member and other restrictions or rules. Managers will be able to create multiple sessions, but crew members will only be able to belong to just one shift picking session, to avoid confusion. When ready, the system notifies the first user via notification/email/SMS that he/she is now able to select their shifts. While picking shifts, a crew member will be able to see his target number of shifts to be chosen for the period, as well as statics of the number of day/night/weekend shifts as defined by the duty pattern. Once the user has finished the period becomes Read-only. The next user in the queue is notified through their desired channel and can start picking their shifts. The manager also gets a notification of the status of the process.

What would this mean in terms of flexibility

The model is not new for the Flexible Duty System. It has been used and proven for some years, and it represents a fair and transparent process that allows firefighters to have control over their shifts. However, for an officer, this responsibility can be a daunting task that is prone to human mistakes and demands hours of planning, supervising and reviewing.

By creating an automated self-picking process inside the same scheduling and availability software the Service already uses, we can provide a more visual, conscious and auditable experience for managers and crew members alike. Plus, Flexible Duty is not the only process where this module could be useful. In wholetime duty stations, self-picking can be a great asset to allocate leave in a fair manner, while ensuring that optimal crewing levels are always in place and rules are always complied.

Next steps

As we will begin the development of this functionality, we would love to hear from you. How do you ensure a fair allocation of shifts in your Flexible Duty System? How many hours does it take you? Please let us know in the comments or send an email to to discuss the possibilities for your Fire and Rescue Service.

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