Phone system reduces load on fire department staff
The telephone can be used to check bank account balances, weather forecasts and traffic conditions, so why should it not be used in the area of human resources? Last fall, officials at the Santa Ana (Calif.) Fire Department asked themselves that question and decided that phone technology might help them schedule employees’ time more efficiently.
The department installed TeleStaff, an automated telephone staffing system accessible by a touch-tone phone or personal computer. Fire departments in the California communities of San Jose, Fremont, Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Orange and El Dorado County also have begun using the system, made by Irvine, Calif.-based PDSI.
The system is intended for operations in which constant staffing requirements exist and selection of replacement personnel is governed by complex internal and/or labor rules. A user can easily find out what his or her schedule is and request scheduling changes by pushing the correct numbers on the telephone keypad or by navigating through screens on a personal computer. “The data is better disseminated to the end user,” says Battalion Chief’s Aide Jeff Morgan. “Things are more accurate, and we have quicker detection of any errors.”
Employees can request vacation or sick leave, and the system can automatically call employees needed to fill vacancies. In the event of a large-scale emergency that necessitates a quick call-up of extra firefighters, the system can make hundreds of calls per hour if necessary. Furthermore, overtime is distributed automatically, based on a set rotation rather than on a “first come, first served” basis. Once staffing is completed, daily rosters are printed and can be faxed or exported to other systems.
The department also has the option of using Santa Ana’s Intranet so that the city’s finance department can download fire department work records for payroll purposes. Four of Santa Ana’s 10 fire stations have both the wiring and the hardware to access the system, and the remaining six stations should be online by the end of the summer, Morgan says. Eventually, about 270 employees will have access to the system.