How to buy crew scheduling software

By Greg Friese

From a paper calendar, ball point pen, and bottle of whiteout to an organization intranet and Web-based systems, fire departments have lots of options for scheduling staff. As a user of scheduling software, I think these features are important and useful:

1. Web-based and smartphone access to my schedule and bid on available shifts from anywhere I have an internet connection.

2. E-mail and/or text message notification of open shifts or schedule changes.

Synchronization with timecard software so I don't have to punch in on both the scheduling software and a time clock.

4. Administrator oversight to ensure fairness in filling open overtime shifts and making shift trades.

Dave Feyereisen, President/CEO of Aladtec (the makers of EMSManager and FireManager scheduling software), told me that agency managers shopping for scheduling software should ensure that any system has these three capabilities:

1. Internet access for all employees to complete common tasks like viewing the schedule, submitting availability, shift sign-ups, trading, and requesting time off.

2. A good track record. Ask the vendor how long they've been in business and how many fire service customers use their product. Employee scheduling for fire departments is usually more complex than scheduling for other businesses, so choose a system designed for and used by fire departments.

3. Flexibility. Choose a system that is flexible. For instance, you may require administrator approval for shift sign-ups or trading at first, but as you get more comfortable with the system, you may decide to eliminate these extra administrative steps.

Any scheduling program needs to be easy to use. Programs that are too complex to enter and access data will not be supported by field personnel and you may find yourself managing two calendars and double entering data. That process rapidly leads to mistakes and wasted time.

Finally, just like you should do with any other equipment purchase, talk to customers already using the scheduling software in your area. Ask them about system reliability, ease of use, and vendor customer service.

  • Any other suggestions? Anything we missed in the list above? Leave a comment below or e-mail with your feedback.

Greg Friese is an e-learning specialist, author, presenter and paramedic. He specializes in the design, production, and distribution of e-learning for emergency responders. You may submit tip ideas and discuss online EMS education with Greg by e-mailing him at or by visiting

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