A first responder is first on the scene to face challenging, dangerous, and draining situations while providing emotional and physical support for those that need help. These duties, while essential to the community, are no small demand – they can be overwhelming, and may increase the emergency responders’ risk of trauma. These factors can have an immediate detrimental impact – or they can build up over weeks, months, or even years.
Knowing the demands of the job, it’s understandable that first responders are only human, and sometimes that can mean a no-show to their shift. Some of the more common reasons include:
- Oversleeping due to long and irregular hours
- Misremembering traded or recently assigned shifts
- Confusing shift rotations, especially without an automated scheduling system
- Supervisor error, particularly with paper or manual scheduling systems
- Denied time off requests that were poorly communicated or completely overlooked
- Health condition or unexpected incident
Therefore, it’s crucial for agencies to have a framework in place in order to appropriately respond if off-duty personnel are in a no-call-no-show situation. Namely, when should there be a wellness check?
The truth is, it’s not always easy to decide to do a wellness check on an employee, and it might feel like you’re intruding. A wellness check is never intended as punishment, and is instead a safeguard to ensure a quick response in the event of a true emergency for one of the agency’s own emergency responders. In the industry of public safety, you’re not only taking care of your community, you’re taking care of your employees who serve that community and their well-being as members of it, too.
Here are steps to implement at your agency that will streamline procedures on when to perform a wellness check:
- Identify the key decision-maker(s) who will make the final call on whether or not to perform a wellness check for an employee
- Create a partner system for each employee by pairing them with someone who will know their schedule and vice versa
- Identify how much time an employee has to respond once they are contacted about not showing up for a shift
- Ensure there is transparency with all employees on these steps and the criteria decided upon to know when to perform a wellness check
If everyone is aware of the standard procedures, all of the above points have been fulfilled, and the employee still hasn’t shown up or been in contact, then it’s time to enact a wellness check.
First responders are most often at the forefront of very stressful incidents, all while ensuring the safety and well-being of the population. They are also at greater danger of being exposed to potentially traumatic situations that pose a heightened risk of harm to them or the people under their care. Making sure your team is informed and aware of the steps to take in the event that someone goes missing without notice will alleviate confusion and misunderstandings – and potentially save the lives of those who save lives.