Is Public Safety Ready for the Next Crisis?

TeleStaff in Crisis

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, and we’ve had eight active storms so far this year, with one-half of the season behind us. The first storm of 2021 formed early in May, and this represented the seventh consecutive year a storm has spun up before the official start of the season. Worse still is that we know historically our most destructive storms along the East Coast typically happen between now and early fall. 

Other portions of our country are also not immune to natural disasters. Flooding in 13 Midwestern states caused an estimated $6.2 billion in damage in 2019. And if weather-related events that compromise our safety and security aren’t enough, critical events driven by human actions have escalated across our nation in recent years. The Washington Post reported that as of July 7, 1,800 people have been injured or killed in mass shootings in 2021 … a troubling factor on the heels of another active year of civil unrest in our country. Wildfires, often caused by humans, are also reaching record levels this year. As of August 8, the National Interagency Fire Center’s Situation Report listed a total of 39,267 wildfires across the country that have burned over 3.5 million acres and had 23,930 personnel responding. 

If there is a bright light in these crises, it’s that many of our public safety organizations are doubling down on proactive strategies to improve the way they respond — and top priorities are having enough of the right personnel available 24/7 and having the ability to be notified and to act quickly. 

Telestaff blog

Yesterday’s disasters, today’s solution

Without question, public safety’s ability to provide a comprehensive crisis response entails many considerations, but fortunately technological personnel and resource scheduling advances are driving significant results.

Rapid deployment of the right first responders – Natural and human-made disasters are not one-size-fits-all events, so public safety personnel typically have very specific skills and certifications suited to respond to the situations. One of the keys to a comprehensive response strategy is having staffing and notification systems that can quickly match employee certifications to specific requirements, while also analyzing issues such as escalating overtime costs. In a study conducted by Lexipol, roughly half of all public safety organizations have thrown away their calling trees and have replaced staffing and notification practices with intelligent scheduling automation technology such as the UKG TeleStaff™ solution. TeleStaff’s intelligent staffing matches work schedules, work rules, and skills to ensure the most qualified first responders arrive on the scene quickly. 

Tracking costs – Every public safety leader knows there is nothing like a crisis to tax resources and wipe out budgets in tandem, so accurate tracking and fast cost recovery are critical to maintaining citizen safety. State and local government organizations are always grateful when FEMA steps in to assist when a disaster is declared; however, adhering to FEMA’s arduous reporting requirements can be overwhelming. TeleStaff’s FEMA module tracks personnel hours related to disaster recovery and pre-populates those hours, along with other data, into the FEMA 90-123R Report. This capability eliminates the manual process of gathering time and resource information, and it expedites reimbursement for critical cost recovery. 

Mobile support – We’re a nation of mobile devices, so there are good reasons why the data and pictures served up in real time from a crisis are particularly helpful. According to the latest study by Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans own at least one mobile device, and mobile devices are proving to be a critical tool citizens use to quickly relay important details to the first responders arriving at, or already on, the scene. With TeleStaff, mobile devices also serve as a means for automated assignments and notifications, because automated scheduling can communicate situational updates in real time through texts, emails, and phone calls in a medium that is familiar and highly available to the first responders who carry the devices. 

Fatigue monitoring – The tendency for those who work in public safety to sacrifice sleep and rest as part of a sense of duty is inherent in their culture and belief system. Answering the call to save a life, fight a fire, or catch a criminal musters up extraordinary physiological and psychological efforts. Often seen as a badge of honor, these efforts take a toll on responder health and safety. A recent study involving 277 officers showed that a full 69% had committed a fatigue-related error while working. Under routine circumstances, fatigue is hardly the exception, but the hours worked by first responders serving a natural or human-made crisis can be crippling. Proactive public safety leaders are starting to understand the effects of sleep deprivation and fatigue. To provide the highest quality of service while maintaining safe working conditions for responders, they are taking steps to better manage fatigue through technology platforms that drive effective policies and practices while honoring labor laws and union restrictions. TeleStaff can deliver optimal work schedules that promote responder health. 

The bottom line

There appears to be no end to the escalating number of crisis events we are seeing in our country. Driving new approaches to the ways we respond is important. It is critical to support our public safety workforce with innovative and automated tools that can ensure that the right people with the right skills respond to the crisis, that they are armed quickly with the best information possible to secure the situation, and that our public safety workforce arrives fresh on the scene and ready to serve.