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Public Safety Scheduling: Building a Base Schedule

On June 9, 2022

Starting from scratch when building a new schedule can be overwhelming and often tedious, but it’s the perfect opportunity to establish a stable foundation for your agency’s staffing needs. Creating a base schedule is a critical component of successful scheduling, especially so in the public safety environment.  Recognizing there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, this article outlines how to create a base schedule tailored to your agency’s operational requirements.


What to keep in mind

Every public safety agency may operate differently when it comes to emergency service scheduling, but the importance of a functional schedule is essential across the board. 24/7/365 operations demand exact minimum staffing tailored to the requirements of your organization. Identifying your organization’s staffing needs is the first step in creating a base schedule. As you begin to determine these requirements, consider the duration of different shifts lengths as these differences will directly affect staffing requirements. When considering shift duration and pattern, it may be helpful to review our articles discussing the benefits and challenges of 8-, 10-, and 12-hour shift configurations. This phase may seem endless, but it will help expedite the process as you move forward.


People are undoubtedly our most valuable resource, but a difficult variable to calculate. Schedule design must take into account all types of leave: unplanned sick time, vacation time, furlough days, FLSA requirements, annual training and professional development, and any other instances that an employee may not be available to count towards your minimum staffing.  


Finding your minimum

Once you have determined the shift length that’s best for your agency, and you’ve taken the time to consider the different variables that could affect your schedule, you can calculate what your minimum staffing will be.


To get an accurate picture of the total hours an employee works in staffing over the course of a year, you’ll want to subtract their leave hours, of all types, from their working hours. That number is then used to determine how many people are actually needed for shift coverage. Calculating this number can be quite eye opening for administrators and managers, but it’s key to ensuring your agency has the correct number of personnel. Whether you are currently working with the SafeCities™ team or not, we’re happy to help you perform a self-evaluation to identify the optimal scheduling practices for your operations. 





Creating a base schedule is beneficial because it establishes an easy to manage, consistent schedule that ensures the human resources required are available. Maximizing available resources to cover daily requirements is always the priority, but additional shifts may be added, essentially overlapping the base shifts, to increase staffing when needed – and if resources allow. Ultimately, a base schedule is a framework that must be regularly monitored and modified. 


The demands and high-pressure nature of public safety operations makes achieving a good work-life balance extremely difficult. By putting in the work to create an effective base schedule for your agency, you can help create a healthy work-life balance environment for your personnel.  


Although there is no single, perfect method for scheduling that fits all public safety agencies, the shift schedule is a crucial part of the emergency response operation, and it determines an agency’s ability to provide services as effectively as possible – often when seconds matter most.

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