Firefighter Scheduling Made Easy

Ten years ago, I proudly became a full-time firefighter with Snohomish County Fire District 5, a fire department comprised of 6 full-time and 45 part-time employees and volunteers. In 2009, I was promoted to Lieutenant and have been involved not only with emergency response but also with the information technology at the department.

Since our workers are spread across two counties, creating a common schedule among the team is essential to keep our firehouse operating smoothly. In the beginning, we scheduled shifts for our part-time volunteer staff through a sign-up sheet. We hung a piece of paper in the firehouse and people would write their names down on the shifts they wanted. Since many of our workers don't live in the immediate area, this process posed a huge inconvenience. If someone called in sick, that added to the problem; we'd have to scramble to find a replacement, and often we couldn't make it happen.

When we started using Google Apps in 2010, I immediately saw how Google Calendar could help solve this problem for us. I created a dynamic 24-hour shift sign-up for everyone, which completely overhauled our scheduling system. Now the whole fire department has access to each other's calendars. We can always see which shifts are available and which are filled. Two months in advance, we have a mandatory sign-up date for teams to choose their desired shifts on a shared calendar. With the security permissions, my counterpart, Lt. Bertholf, and I can view of all the events taking place for the whole department, and can manage and modify the calendar at any time. We also created a standby calendar that lets us see who is available as backup in case we get multiple incidents back to back. Now I can see at a glance who is readily available to cover a shift and as a bonus all of this and more is available on our mobile devices.

Since starting with Google Apps, we've never had a shift go unfilled. It has made the scheduling process much more efficient. With a streamlined scheduling system in place, we can devote more time to keeping the people of Snohomish County Fire District 5 safe.

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