EastGreenwich Fire Department Overtime:
Supporting Documentation

How Overtime is Assigned

The East Greenwich Fire Department has a well thought out, formal plan for assigning overtime shifts that is designed to equalize the burden across the department.

  • The department is structured as four platoons of nine firefighters each.
  • Each platoon consists of four officers (lieutenants and captains) and five firefighters.
  • Usually, when a shift has to be covered, officers cover for officers and firefighters for firefighters.
  • There are policies governing both voluntary and involuntary overtime ("orderbacks"). Several years of records document that they are being followed.

Voluntary Overtime

When a shift needs to be filled, the officer who manages this function refers to either an alphabetical list of the firefighters, or an alphabetical list of the officers. The former has 20 entries, while the latter has 16. Which list to use is determined by whether the shift to be filled belonged to a firefighter or an officer.

Starting on the appropriate list with the name of the person who most recently volunteered for an overtime shift, the scheduler considers the next person on the list in alphabetical order, according to the following algorithm:

  • If the next person on the alphabetical list works on the same platoon as the shift being filled, he is removed from consideration.
  • If the next person on the list is out with an injury or otherwise unavailable to take the shift, he is removed from consideration.
  • At this point, no attempt is made to contact him, his entry in the current column on the overtime call sheet is marked with an X, and consideration moves to the next name on the list in alphabetical order.

Notice that this procedure eliminates everyone on two of the four platoons from consideration, so at most there are 8 viable candidates to fill a shift for an officer, and 10 for a firefighter, assuming no one is injured.

  • The scheduler continues through the list in alphabetical order until an eligible person reaches the top of the list. An attempt is made to call this person. If they cannot be reached, the scheduler waits a few minutes and then tries again. If he is still unable to contact the candidate, his spot on the call list is marked with a 'U' and the process continues with the next person on the list.
  • If the scheduler is able to contact the person, he is offered the overtime shift. He can refuse, in which case an 'R' is recorded in the call history, and the process continues with the next person on the list.
  • If the person accepts the shift, the date and time of the shift are filled in on the call sheet. The next time a volunteer is required, the process starts with the name immediately after him on the list.
Separate lists showing who was called, who could be reached, who refused, and who accepted are maintained back several years by the scheduler. This provides a detailed record of the shift allocation process. While it varies, on average the list advances 9 positions for every shift that needs to be filled

Involuntary Overtime (Orderbacks)

The fire department has to ensure that every shift is filled. If the procedure above cycles all the way through the list of eligible firefighters and no one volunteers, a firefighter has to be ordered in to work the shift.

Once again, there is a strict policy based on a detailed record of all orderbacks, going back up to 10 years for some firefighters.

  • Everyone on the three platoons not working the shift that must be filled is eligible, including those on duty in the active platoon.
  • Using the orderback records, an attempt will be made to contact the firefighter with the fewest orderbacks.
  • If that person can be reached, they are ordered to work the shift.
  • If they cannot be reached, an attempt is made to contact the person with the next lowest callbacks.
  • This process continues until someone has been ordered in
  • The process always results in someone being ordered in, because the firefighters on duty can always be reached.
  • If the name of a firefighter on duty comes up, he is ordered to stay and work the next shift.
  • If the shift after the next one has a spot to fill and no one volunteers, he may be ordered to stay for that one as well.

Orderbacks were once quite rare but now are much more common. Through an APRA request we obtained the orderback list, which shows that this is the case.