In Mishawaka, Indiana, the St. Joseph 911 Consolidated Communications Center is a 911-enhanced full-service center and the 9-1-1 Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) for St. Joseph County, dispatching for police, fire, and EMS. Consolidated since 2014, the now larger center, with 65 dispatchers running on three 8-hour shifts, needed a better way to manage overtime and more easily evaluate staffing needs. They had outgrown the spreadsheet process they used previously.
Raymond Schultz, executive director for the St. Joseph 911 Center, saw an opportunity to bring on Vector Scheduling, which he was familiar with from his time at the city’s fire department, to help manage the consolidated center’s complex scheduling with much-needed automation. In 2017, the Center implemented the flexible and customizable web-based solution.
Using Vector Scheduling to track staffing schedules and automate overtime helps the Center ensure they have the right dispatchers on the lines at the right times. St. Joseph 911 is expecting to grow even more in the near future, bringing on additional dispatchers. With Vector Scheduling, the Center is ready to scale, using the software’s agency-based rules and automation to do the heavy lifting.
Diana Scott is the police operations chief for St. Joseph 911 and is responsible for the Center’s scheduling. She shared how they use the intelligent callback feature to fill overtime shifts. “We have a couple of different ways that we do overtime. We put out monthly overtime schedules that the dispatchers can sign up for ahead of time. Then we do 3-day out overtime to identify which monthly overtime shifts were not filled for supervisors to start automated callbacks. And then, the day before the overtime, if no one has responded, it goes out with who is mandated to take those shifts,” said Scott. “We use it in different increments according to our contract with our union.”
Vector Scheduling’s flexible reporting gives Scott the data she needs. If questions arise around overtime distribution or time-off, she can answer with confidence and has the proof to back it up. “We used to have to audit our time-off, but now we use the Accrual Reports,” added Scott.
St. Joseph 911 is unique in that it is a St. Joseph County entity but funded by the county and two large municipalities, which means the Center answers to two city councils and a county council. “It’s nice that we can pull statistics for overtime, staffing levels, and other information to provide if we’re asked for it,” said Scott.
Reporting also helps identify staffing gaps to relay those needs to the councils. “We can’t just close our door if somebody is not here. We have to have people to backfill,” said Scott. “I think that’s been an eye-opener for them that somebody has to fill the seats. And if we don’t have the staffing to cover vacation, every time someone takes a vacation, it’s an overtime shift. It’s been helpful to be able to show that with reporting.“
“It does make it significantly easier when you can break down why overtime is needed,” Schultz added. “If it’s sick time, or vacation, or benefit time. Any benefit time creates overtime. It’s easier when you can separate that out from the rest of it. Reporting is very helpful in breaking that part out.”
The dispatchers like to use the system’s mobile app to see their schedule, respond to callbacks, trade shifts, and request time-off from any web-enabled device. Almost every dispatcher has the app downloaded on their phone. The Center uses an added layer of control to ensure coverage needs are maintained by automatically routing all dispatcher-requested schedule modifications through a supervisor for approval.
And the supervisors like the rules-based automation that prevents dispatchers from requesting time off on days that have reached minimum staffing requirements.
“We’re spoiled that we don’t have to pick up the phone and make a hundred phone calls. It’s nice that it automates through the 65 dispatchers as opposed to somebody having to physically make all those phone calls."
Diana Scott, Police Offerations Chief,
St. Joseph 911 Consolidated Communications Center
St. Joseph 911 finds great value in Vector Scheduling’s dashboard. In addition to using the color-coded dashboard for quick insight into the day’s shifts, the Center highlights which employees are off as well as shift trades for the day to help ensure proper coverage and keep the team organized and informed.
When there’s a home game at the nearby University of Notre Dame, the Center uses the notes section at the top of the dashboard as a reminder to supervisors to account for increased coverage needs in their overtime requests. “We also use it to indicate who is on call that week. We have three administrators who rotate weekly, and we have that at the top of the page as a reminder,” said Scott.