Planning against COVID

Supporting Fire & Rescue Service staff volunteering in test and vaccination centres, and saving the sanity of planners in the process

We have the tests. We have vaccines. But do we have the people to administer them? Health services across the world need to mobilise all the resources and support they can get. In an effort to resource test and vaccination centres, they have reached out to Fire & Rescue Services for support. 

With success. Many thousands of firefighters are ready, willing and able to provide the support that is desperately needed. In some Fire and Rescue Services, between 20 and 30% of the firefighters have volunteered to support the test and vaccination effort.

With Fire and Rescue Service personnel playing their part, FireServiceRota was looking to serve those who serve.

Failing to plan is planning to fail

How do you efficiently plan such a large group of volunteers, having a range of skills and attributes, in such a short amount of time? With hourly payment rates ranging from £15-25, how do you allocate the shifts fairly? Do you prioritise personnel whose jobs are particularly impacted by COVID? How do you ensure appliance availability is not negatively impacted? On such a large scale, how do you manage the communication of inviting volunteers to work a shift, allocate the shifts, keeping an overview of who works where and when, and streamlining the payment process?

Historically, planners would pick up their phones, and start calling the pool of available volunteers. They would inquire about the availability and confirm the allocation to a test/vaccination site shift. In the real world, several attempts and follow-ups may be needed, easily summing up to 5 minutes of effort per crew member.

Apply this to a pool of hundreds of firefighters for a typical Fire & Rescue Service, many tens of shifts to allocate each week, the planning effort involved ranges from tens to hundreds of hours of work each week. And to make matters worse, this work typically lands on the shoulders of frontline personnel already under pressure due to the pandemic. Figures of up to 80 working hours per week have been quoted. Surely we can use their time more efficiently...

Fighting COVID one push notification at a time

This is where FireServiceRota comes in. Several key features contribute to the ideal solution to manage the allocation of volunteers to shifts:

  • Track the crew skills & attributes relevant to the test and vaccination sites. Differentiate between the sites where the crew can work, and the roles they can perform. 
  • Maintaining the 'business as usual' operational availability ensuring minimum crewing and skill levels are met. While fighting the virus, we should not forget about fighting the fires too.
  • Streamline the shift request and allocation process. This process lists available candidates, filters them on the skills that are required for each shift, allows selections based on fairness, invites staff to respond through automated emails and push notifications, captures their responses, and fairly allocates the shift to confirmed candidates. The entire process is automated, and both planners and volunteers know exactly who works where and when. Payroll reports are pulled from the system to facilitate an accurate and fast payment process.

So far, FireServiceRota has helped Fire and Rescue services handle over 4,000 requests and allocate well over 50,000 hours of deployment.  Many hundreds of hours of placing phone calls (and having to pick them up) were prevented. Or as one of the planners involved in the process describes it:

The ease of use, speed of setup and already embedded features of FireServiceRota allowed us to provide the aforementioned services free of charge as our way of supporting the pandemic response. Would you like to find out more? Reach out to

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