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The current extreme weather conditions are dangerous; yet public safety is always ready

Today’s post is written by Marie Salcedo, Marketing Manager for Public Safety at Kronos. Marie spends a great deal of time working with the public safety community and has high esteem for their day-to-day jobs. You’ll see this admiration reflected in the blog below.
During this time of year, I am always grateful for the specialized way that public safety operates and staffs its workforce to serve the community. The weather events occurring during this winter season are extreme. In fact, there were five weather related FEMA-declared disasters in the month of January alone. Temperatures are plummeting to unprecedented levels, breaking records across the U.S. and Canada, and bringing along heavy snowfall, rainfall, ice, gusty winds, and blizzards. But it’s not just extreme cold that’s occurring this winter, but also dry weather in some areas that are lacking normal rainfall and snowfall – leading to wildfires. Without a doubt, the weather this winter has been wild and erratic placing first responders in high demand.
For public safety, this extreme weather means one thing – danger. And the danger can last for several days, depending on the event. Whether it’s a superstorm or the unusually dry/warm weather out west, certain emergencies increase during winter time such as house fires due to improper or unsupervised heating sources, car/transportation accidents related to poor driving conditions, roof collapses from heavy loads of snow, as well as hypothermia and exhaustion caused by the extremely cold temperatures.
Given the number of emergency events that can happen during this time of year, first responders must be trained and ready to respond to just about anything. And thankfully they are. The fact that fire and police departments maintain the appropriate number of firefighters and police officers needed at all times to be able to serve the community depending on the nature of incident is vital to preservation protecting life and property. To know that firefighters certified in structural collapse are on duty should a roof give way to heavy snowfall or police officers certified in traffic safety procedures and first aid care are on patrol during icy driving conditions should give us great peace of mind, especially in light of all of the types of incidents that can occur during the wintertime.
Whether winter, summer, or fall, it seems that the extreme and volatile weather is the new normal. In light of this, I’m grateful that public safety agencies and first responders are ready for worst case situations with proven processes and specially trained personnel 24/7/365.

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Are safety and morale linked to better workforce management processes?

Last week I had the fortune of being in Tampa for the American Corrections Association 2014 Winter Conference. Yes, I’ll admit, I’m from New England so Tampa in February is not a hardship. Still, regardless of the location, it’s a great conference. We (Kronos) participated in a workshop session on workforce management in this particular industry. What struck me the most was how often safety and morale are impacted when labor tracking and schedules are mismanaged. Sometimes it goes unnoticed until an issue arises, or sometimes it’s in plain view, but no one wants to address it. This can be a ticking time bomb and one that several other correctional facilities have faced. Here are some of the stories heard at the workshop…
Several years ago, the Douglas County Dept of Corrections had an interesting way of issuing overtime. Each week a sheet was tacked on the wall giving the employees an opportunity to request overtime shifts. Sounds simple, right? Wrong. What about the employees who weren’t around when the sheet went up? What happens when the sheet disappears (this was often the case)? How does the Sergeant in charge of schedules really know who is most senior (seniority is how they issued overtime)? Will all posts be covered? This is where issues of morale and safety come in. Now, fast-forward to today and they have a much simpler and effective approach. Employees log-in to a system, find out what overtime is available, and request what they want. They can even do it from home. And the system automatically schedules based on seniority. Employees are happier and posts get filled with the right level of staff.
The Omaha Correctional Center – OCC (part of the Nebraska Dept of Correctional Services – NDCS) is a medium/minimum security facility with over 100 employees. As with many facilities, not all posts are created equal. Some require specific certifications. For example, prisoner transport officers require additional skills that not all Correctional Officers have. A few years back, the supervisors had little visibility into who was certified for what. This created all kinds of issues and they were uncertain, particularly when they had a call-out or no-show, if everyone was qualified for their posts. Since then, things have improved. The supervisors have a system that tracks all certifications and can quickly identify only those who have the right qualifications to cover a shift. It’s as simple as clicking a button and for added comfort alarms are set in place to avoid mistakes.
Safety will always remain as a #1 priority in correctional facilities. Employees who are treated fairly will have a lot more respect for this priority and initiative. So, will more facilities begin to realize now rather than later the correlation between good human capital management and supporting goals like safety and morale? Only time will tell.