Ill. fire dept. takes 4 responders off 24-hour shifts in new staffing plan

Four Naperville Fire Department firefighter-paramedics are now working 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as part of a “power-shifting” program


NAPERVILLE, Ill. — A fire department’s new staffing plan has some of its responders working eight-hour shifts instead of the normal 24 hours on the job.

The Daily Herald reported that while most of the firefighter-paramedics at the Naperville Fire Department will remain on the normal 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule, four of the department’s responders are now working 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Chief Mark Puknaitis called the new program a “power-shifting” move, and said the change in schedules will allow the department to run more ambulances during the day, when the department fields 54 percent of its calls.

The Naperville Fire Department's new staffing program puts four responders on an eight-hour shift schedule. (Photo/NFD)
The Naperville Fire Department's new staffing program puts four responders on an eight-hour shift schedule. (Photo/NFD)

"This is a benefit. The department is not losing staffing," he said. "We're just putting them in those boxes that make sense for the city."

On the first day of the eight-hour shift program, Puknaitis said the department was unusually busy with 50 calls. The program allowed two additional ambulances to be run.

The firefighters on the new schedule will be paid their regular salary.

"We know that having the same number of employees on the clock for 24 hours straight isn't optimal, and we also know service cuts or increasing overtime isn't right for our community," Puknaitis said. "By having four employees transition to this schedule, we meet our need for service when it is greatest without incurring additional costs."

Puknaitis, who is president of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association, said he thinks the idea will catch on with other departments.

"This is going to be a very contagious issue for other fire departments," he said, "in a positive way."

Naperville Professional Firefighters Association President John Sergeant said the 40-hour schedule could appeal to firefighters who want to have more time to spend with family, or simply to take a break from the demanding job.

"I'm pretty assured we'll be able to keep these spots full," he said.

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