911 dispatchers play an integral role in public safety. 911 dispatch centers, also known as Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP), are the center of emergency services, and an estimated 240 million calls are made to 9-1-1 in the U.S. each year. Along with directing emergency services to those who need it the most, 911 dispatchers provide lifesaving instructions, coordinate strategies, complete inquiries, and more. Working in a PSAP can be incredibly stressful, so it’s critical for Dispatchers to be supported through their schedule and work environment.
Similar to other public safety industries, PSAPs require 24/7 scheduling coverage. Depending on the department’s operational size, some PSAPs have a chain of command that also gets factored into schedule requirements. The chain of command can include Emergency Communications Officer I, Emergency Communications Officer II, Lead Dispatchers, Dispatch Shift Supervisors, Training Coordinators, and more. Administrative teams must ensure they reach set training and skill requirements for every shift by creating a schedule that balances trainees and Junior Dispatchers with those with more seniority and training certifications.
While 911 dispatch centers may vary in structure, they’re all faced with the same challenging task: ensuring every phone and console has 24/7 coverage.
Why 911 call centers need scheduling software
Public safety scheduling software is specifically designed with the needs of public safety industries in mind. It’s built to withstand 24/7 scheduling needs, and most public safety scheduling software is customizable to fit the needs of every agency and department. For 911 call centers in particular, union and FLSA rules place restrictions on hours worked, which can further complicate scheduling requirements. On top of that, managers and administrators must also consider consecutive days worked, training qualifications, required rest time, overtime compensation and more.
Every 911 dispatch center should consider implementing scheduling software to help them precisely schedule their Dispatchers. Along with precise and equitable scheduling, scheduling software also helps departments comply with union and agency rules, and time constraints.
Here are four of the most important scheduling features of 911 dispatch software:
Automated scheduling based on agency rules
Few schedules are more demanding than a 911 dispatcher’s schedule. Because the phones and radio consoles need to be covered 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, scheduling for PSAPs can be extremely challenging. While every 911 call center operates differently, many operate 12-hour or 10-hour shift rotations. Not only are these hours challenging, but the on-shift tasks are also extensive.
By implementing an automated scheduling system, schedulers and operational managers can schedule more effectively. Most automated scheduling systems allow administrative teams to create schedules based on skills and positions. 911 call centers can fill shifts based on the required skills and mitigate any chance of conflict by pulling availability from up-to-date employee requests and leave balances.
As most people who work in emergency services know, no two PSAPs operate the same. For larger dispatch centers that have a chain of command, an automated scheduling system can filter through employees and balance schedules based on seniority, training certifications, skills and more.
Automated scheduling is one of the most useful and practical software features for every 911 dispatch center, regardless of their size and call volume.
If you’ve worked in dispatch, you know that mandatory OT isn’t uncommon. Many Dispatchers are used to seeing 8+ hours of OT on their paychecks. For the agencies that don’t have mandatory OT, they may have rules in place that give OT based on seniority.
Regardless of the OT process, every dispatch center needs to have an overtime management system in place, especially if they require mandatory OT. Overtime needs to either be assigned or offered fairly, otherwise morale can drop and unfair bias may be perceived. Dispatchers work challenging and lengthy schedules, so overtime management needs to be completed as equitably as possible.
A well-designed overtime management system should allow administrators to easily post shifts for sign-up, sort officers based on location or console view and assign shifts based on training compliance. An automated overtime management process also allows administrators to know where overtime is being spent, so they can proactively optimize budgets.
Customizable schedule visibility
Scheduling software allows complete visibility into a Dispatcher’s schedule. By implementing scheduling software, operational managers get real-time visibility into shift vacancies within their PSAP. Many public safety scheduling software allows managers and schedulers to customize their visibility to console-view only, allowing them to instantly see where their Dispatchers are scheduled. This visibility improves agency oversight across the entire department, down to every console.
Customizable visibility also enables administrators and operational managers to view the entire schedule at once, allowing them to balance shifts based on seniority and training requirements. This visibility ensures the busiest shifts are staffed with the right people.
Be sure to be aware of the support hours offered by the software company. This is important for police agencies in particular, who run 24/7/365 operations. If your software goes down in the middle of the night, you want to make sure you have a support team available to help you.
Remember to also review the type of support provided. Is there a ticketing system with a specified service level agreement (SLA) response time? Or, will you need to wait on hold for hours for someone to explain why your expensive software isn’t working? Unfortunately, it’s difficult to predict the level of support and service your agency will receive ahead of time. This is why it’s important to read online reviews and testimonials from other police agencies.
Extensive reports for 911 dispatch centers and employees
The value in scheduling reports stretches far beyond what you see at first glance. Configurable reports give granular visibility into scheduling insights, overtime causes, leave processes and approvals, labor patterns, and more. Using these reports, you can better forecast future budgets for your dispatch center, and accurately forecast which days or times of the year may require more coverage.
Moreover, many scheduling software for public safety industries also includes real-time employee reports. These reports allow your employees to view important information pertaining to their time bank and overtime, including personal time bank, leave, overtime worked, and approval history. It’s important for your Dispatchers to have visibility into this information to improve transparency and reduce any chance of miscommunication.
The bottom line
Automated scheduling, overtime management, customizable schedule visibility and extensive reporting are four features that every 911 agency should look for when shopping for new scheduling software. Contact our team to learn more about our scheduling options for 911 dispatch software.