Case Study: Crystal Lake Fire Department Discusses Their Move to FIRE Manager’s Workforce Management System


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Case Study: Crystal Lake Fire Department Discusses Their Move to FIRE Manager’s Workforce Management System

  1. 1. The company behind EMS Manager® and FIRE Manager®and Zanager® Crystal Lake Fire Department Discusses Their Move to FIRE Manager’s Workforce Management System By Anthony Jackson Recently Battalion Chief (B.C.) William “Bill” Whyte of the Crystal Lake Fire Department had a problem. His custom scheduling software was failing, and years of data was about to be lost. His developer was gone and each day the data was becoming more and more corrupt. It became clear it was a matter of when, not if, the whole system failed entirely and time was running out. Crystal Lake FIRE Rescue Department (CLFRD) is located in Crystal Lake, Illinois, fifty two miles north of Chicago. Established in 1913 with twelve founding members, CLFRD has grown to a staff of sixty nine full time members and three paid on call. Considered the busiest department in McHenry County, CLFRD answers between 5,300 and 5,400 calls per year. Aladtec Inc. 906 Dominion Drive, Hudson, WI 54016 | (888) 749-5550
  2. 2. The company behind EMS Manager® and FIRE Manager®and Zanager® Beginning in mid-July B.C. Whyte set out to replace the system he knew was failing. “Obviously, our biggest goal was to get a schedule out. That was number one.” He further explained that there were key situations that had to be met. These scenarios could potentially be deal breakers in determining which scheduling system to use. B.C. Whyte explained his needs: · His first need was time accountability. It was imperative that the system could track all possibilities when it came to time… scheduled time, vacation time, time off, Kelly days, shift trades, etc…no surprise there. · Second, Chief Whyte explained, was the need to keep an accounting of the positions firefighters have on any given engine because firefighters carry Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA’s) along with a Personal Alert Safety System (PASS’s). These devices not only help firefighters breathe but are used to send alarms as well. Firefighters use PASS’s to alert Command if they are in imminent danger or if a firefighter goes down and is stationary for more than thirty seconds, the PASS will automatically send out an alarm. During training, members can be stationary for the thirty seconds but then the PASS will go off and members will have to wiggle themselves to get the PASS to reset. “At least we know they work!” adds Chief Pollnow, another shift commander at CLFRD jokingly. The SCBA’s however, are numbered and correspond to a certain position on the engine. That is why they need to track positions. They need to know who each SCBA belongs to. It really could be a matter of life and death. · The third need was visibility. Whether members had training, public educational events, or any number of special events, CLFRD wanted a one stop shop for all of this information. “We wanted a schedule that showed everything that was happening on any given day.” “I sent out a letter explaining what I needed to a number of different online scheduling companies. If the letter didn’t scare them off, they went to the next round. My position was simple, this is what I need, and if you want my business this is what you have to do. It’s your problem.” shares B.C. Whyte. One such solution was Aladtec’s FIRE Manager. FIRE Manager is an online employee scheduling and personnel management system that can be used by both supervisors and employees 24/7/365 from anywhere with an Internet connection. “After spending time understanding FIRE Manager, the other products were falling by the wayside because FIRE Manager had become the standard for us,” said Whyte Aladtec Inc. 906 Dominion Drive, Hudson, WI 54016 | (888) 749-5550
  3. 3. The company behind EMS Manager® and FIRE Manager®and Zanager® He went on to explain what it was about FIRE Manager that ultimately sold him. “First it was the capabilities of the software. Naturally, I wanted it to create schedules, but I also wanted it to be online so people could look at it and use the functionality from any computer, smart phone, or mobile device. Being able to text and send email helped too. Second, the recommendations from three other neighboring Fire Departments,” he said. One of which he used to work for, who switched to FIRE Manager nine months earlier from an Excel program Chief Whyte had designed himself. “At the end of the day, they all said it was the tech support,” he indicated. He went on to explain that someone always answers the phone when you call and they are always helpful. The ease of getting answers compelled him to ask more and more questions. His relationship with his FIRE Manager sales person was growing with each conversation. “Her name is Ericka Hawkins. She worked overtime to manually enter data for our schedules. When I found that out I was like are you crazy? It was things like that which made the decision easy. I spent hours talking with Ericka making sure this and that would work. She even brought in developers and I was able to speak with them too.” While Whyte was researching the competition he found other companies said “no we can’t do that,” while FIRE Manager proposed a solution. He described one competitor as smaller, younger, and having less resources. “While a developer would make changes to accommodate my needs. The software would break here and cascade from there and I wasn’t going to deal with that anymore.” So the decision was made and the Crystal Lake Fire Department moved forward with FIRE Manager. It was now time to get the staff on board. “That was the hardest part of the transition. Getting my staff to change from the old system to the new one. Even though we were doing extensive testing, it was hard to imagine every situation that would come up and how we should handle them with the new software. The firemen took to using the online portion like ducks to water. The administrative portion was a little more difficult due to our new found ability to bring multiple areas under one program. This forced me to have to come up with solutions for areas that I was not familiar with and incorporate them into a functional solution. In order to keep our accountability while we transitioned I decided to run both systems. That was a mistake because while double tasking, you’re going to miss something. If I had it all to do over, I would pick the switchover date, shut down the old system, and commit to the new one.” After Crystal Lake rolled out their new scheduling system Chief Whyte details, “My men are happy. I’m happy. Morale is up. My men are logging in from home on their days off, requesting time off online through the system.” Aladtec Inc. 906 Dominion Drive, Hudson, WI 54016 | (888) 749-5550
  4. 4. The company behind EMS Manager® and FIRE Manager®and Zanager® Whyte explained that in the old days, people had to submit paper requests for time off or trading shifts. “The first guy had to sign it, then the other guy had to sign it, then they brought it to me and I had to sign it. Now with their digital signature, my men are at home with their families, accessing the system, planning their lives.” As we were wrapping up our conversation Chief Whyte commented, “You know the best part is we are consolidating our information. We had a calendar for this, we had a calendar for that and that. It’s all in FIRE Manager now with greater detail. A unified calendar is something we’ve wanted for years. We are becoming more efficient simply by not wasting time and as we get better accustom to the system we should be able to get rid of other technologies for a significant cost savings.” FIRE Manager will save Crystal Lake Fire Rescue Department money by: · Eliminating paper calendars, ink cartridges, paper, and other office supply costs. · Eliminating the need for additional computers and the software they run. · Eliminating the costs maintaining said computers. · Eliminating the need for third party paging systems. · Increased productivity. Still adapting to their new system, Chief Whyte and the rest of the CLFRD are moving forward confident that FIRE Manager is a perfect fit for their department. Finally Chief Whyte offered, “I was thinking well heck, why couldn’t other departments in the city, that have to schedule people, use this system. That’s where my vision would be is that this becomes across the board, a standard. Wouldn’t that be cool?” Battalion Chief Whyte has been serving the Crystal Lake community as a firefighter in Crystal Lake, Illinois for seventeen years. He is also part of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) command staff. The EOC is also staffed with police and other representatives that in times of natural disasters and state emergencies is called upon to head those efforts. FIRE Manager is a SaaS (Software as a Service) online employee scheduling and workforce management system. It is available as an annual subscription and the fee is based on the number of members accessing the system, so it is affordable for departments of all sizes. For more information visit Anthony Jackson is part of the technical support team at Aladtec Inc. In a constant effort to improve the training provided by the technical support team, Jackson researches the implementation efforts used by EMS Manager, FIRE Manager, and Zanager customers, to streamline and simplify the transition process. Aladtec would like to thank Chiefs Whyte and Pollnow for participating in this study. Aladtec Inc. 906 Dominion Drive, Hudson, WI 54016 | (888) 749-5550