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Overnight EMS Duty Crews

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  • Overnight EMS Duty Crews

    How many departments are using "duty crews" for the overnight hours? Not necessarily to sleep at the station, but a minimum number who will respond to EMS calls during the overnight hours on week nights. Other members who are not "on duty" could then choose to respond or not.

    How is it set up? Sign up sheet at the firehouse, web based, etc.

    How has this worked out for your department?

    We are a 34 member, home response department. Average of 300 calls per year, 85% EMS and we do BLS transport (County EMS does ALS transports)
    "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor." - Vince Lombardi

  • #2
    My department has people assigned by the EMS Captain/Lt. to respond to calls from 2200-0600. There are no sign-ups, really, and people not schedule CAN respond (although they usually don't). People with under 5 years in the department are mandated to go on a designated squad night (a terrible idea in my mind as it pushes away new recruits who have enough on their plate with trainings and whatnot).

    However, we do have paid first responders 24/7, so they respond, too.

    I have a serious gripe with the idea of mandating overnight responses. Volunteerism is, well... volunteering your time, as in you choose when to go (except trainings, obviously). You shouldn't be FORCED to respond, especially since some people have jobs they cannot jeopardize.

    I have 2 and a half years in, so my squad is actually tonight. I TRY to go, but I am a heavy sleeper. Usually they don't need me anyway and don't reactive the calls. It's hard, since I have work at 7AM Friday morning, so I don't want to be bothered with a drunk or old lady with a headache at 3AM. I need sleep so I can make money. I can't be "half there" at work because some guy decided to drink too much. Such calls should be handled by PD and/or the paid personnel. With a cardiac arrest or serious MVA the paid personnel run the ambulance right away.

    If you want an effective method I suggest doing sign-ups. Don't expect it to be popular, though. Try creating an incentive for members to respond at night. We go by a point system in my deptartment in which each member needs 152 runs per year (1 run = 1 point). Maybe make overnight calls worth 1.5 or 2 points. Maybe excuse constant-responding members from monthly meetings. Just something.

    I hope that this helps.


    • #3
      Thanks for the reply.

      The issue is all 34 members are expected to show up at these middle of the night calls and it's not operationally neccesary. 2 to 4 members can handle most EMS calls.

      Expecting everybody to show up when they have to work the next day just because "that's the way we've always done it" is not very smart and leads to poor morale, poor retention of members and burnout.

      If we went to this system, it stops members from "picking & choosing" calls, which is a common criticism of volunteers.
      "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor." - Vince Lombardi


      • #4
        Two of the previous volunteer departments I was on had duty crews.

        Department #1: Duty was 1800-0600, overnight spent in the station. Typical in-quarters duty crew was 6 personnel. You pulled the same night every week. Average 2-3 calls per duty night. You selected which night you wanted to ride, and as long as the crew wasn't overloaded with personnel, that was your crew.

        Department #2: Duty was 1800-0600. Personnel who lived in the immediate vicinity of the station (within 2 miles) could go home and respond from home after 2300 hours. The rest of us spent the night in quarters. Average 1-2 calls per duty night. Crews were assigned by the Chief of Department.

        I was also on a volunteer rescue squad (BLS/ALS transport) in the late 1990's that used nightly & weekend duty crews. Your on-duty nights rotated so you were on-duty every sixth night. It worked like this:
        Friday --> Thursday --> Wednesday --> Tuesday --> Monday (1800-0600 each night from quarters, no home response)
        Sunday (0800-0600) --> Saturday (0800-0800) --> Friday....

        We currently have a new station under construction, and we're going to start a duty crew program once we move in there (the current cramped station just isn't conducive to having duty crews). We're letting the members pick which nights are best for them, and they'll be mandated to be in quarters to be in quarters from 1800-2200, and home response will be permissible from 2200-0600 should the members not want to stay in quarters.

        We DO use iamresponding.com, and will probably utilize this as part of the duty program as well.

        I get to visit a huge number of stations while I teach, and in our area, the most common way of doing things is a voluntary sign-up (a week to month in advance) or crews assigned by the leadership of the department.

        Please take the responses you get with a grain of salt. Chem1cal has a serious issues with volunteers being "forced" to do anything, but those of us who've been in a number of different departments can testify that duty crews for volunteers do work and don't run people off.

        EDIT: We're going to duty crews for just the reason you stated -- a better deployment of resources for most calls which don't require anything but a smaller response.
        Career Fire Captain
        Volunteer Chief Officer

        Never taking for granted that I'm privileged enough to have the greatest job in the world!


        • #5
          My previous department had members assigned to a duty crew which rotated every 8 days, so you would have a Monday one week and Tuesday the next etc. These ran from 18:00 to 05:00. Saturdays and Sundays were covered by those who couldn't meet the weeknight schedule due to work or some other reason (having to work a standard work week was not a valid reason). This department ran more than 3000 total calls (fire & EMS) per year.

          My current department has officers assigned to a 19:00 to 22:00 duty. Overnights are covered by live-ins and an overnight duty officer. Duty periods are when people can make it, no sign up. We expect to run just over 2000 total calls this year.

          In my opinion, duty crews a a very effective way of making sure someone covers the "small" calls without everybody having to come out every night. There are several different ways of assigning crews from assignment to a crew to signing up for a specific time. Whichever you choose, set a minimum number of duty hours and then enforce that requirement.


          • #6
            We get paid a stipend to be available and a stipend per call. Minimum of 2 on a shift and we respond to fire or EMS calls.


            • #7
              In the stations I have been a volunteer in, EMS duty was part of a normal duty night. You usually got one rotation on to the BLS unit and the next time, you were assigned to the engine. The current station I am with has a paramedic ambulance which is staffed by two county fire fighters/paramedics. Rumor is that the department is looking into buying its own BLS unit but I think that is driven more by ambulance billing more than anything else.


              • #8
                In one of my old departments, you were expected to pull a duty night (asame night each week) - responding from home.....unfortunately for me I worked a rotating shift at the time and couldn't dedicate the same night each week.

                The EMS/amb. squad I volunteered at also had duty shifts - those you would sign up for and generally spend the night at the station (had sleeping/living quarters)....you could sign up for as many shifts as you wanted - I usually would do a Sun eve-Mon morning (2 shifts) and go to work right from there. I think we would have 3-4 people on a shift - driver, EMT, aide/assistant or 2.


                • #9
                  Thanks for the replies, you've given me some good ideas to add to a presentation for going with this type of program.

                  BoxAlarm187, We were already planning on using Iamresponding.com starting in January of next year. Everybody I know that uses it loves it.
                  "The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor." - Vince Lombardi


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