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How do Most 24x7 [Public Safety] Agencies Schedule Staff?

April 2020

Close up view of personnel schedule in spreadsheet view.

Public safety agencies running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, must have total coverage to maintain proper service. But how do most police departments, EMS, fire departments, and dispatch agencies manage those personnel schedules? What is a rotating schedule? What are shift bids? What tools do agencies use to manage schedules? What kind of shift patterns and lengths are common? 

We will go through these questions throughout this article to give you a better understanding of how 24x7 scheduling for public safety agencies works.

How do departments manage personnel schedules?

Each department will vary a bit but for those with full time staff, they will typically have a set schedule rotation. 

What is a rotating schedule?

Employees will be set in a rotation or schedule pattern for a period of time. For example, someone will be assigned to work 4 days in a row and take off 4 days. They will have a day shift of say, 0700 - 1700 and rotate through each week as their rotation falls. Their template will look something like this:

4 on 4 off template example in PlanIt scheduling software

What about departments staffed with mostly part timers? 

For departments with many part timers, they may schedule as they go depending on employees availability. This becomes a bit more complex to schedule because there is not anything set. However, if you have a tool to manage employee's availability and they can sign up to work certain shifts on the schedule, this becomes a much more manageable process.

What is a shift bid?

Some departments offer their employees the option to switch schedules/rotations. So, they will switch up their schedules every month, some every 3 months, some every year. 

Shift bids allow employees to feel they have a say in their work schedule. They also allow for employees to take turns trying different schedules. A lot of departments will offer to the most senior employees first and go down the list.

Any time changes are made in scheduling software where they can publish out the schedule, it can be set for as far out as the department would like.

What tools do agencies use to manage schedules?

Before technology became as advanced as it is today, many organizations were forced to manage their personnel schedules on paper, a whiteboard, or a spreadsheet. While these provided a way to plan and document schedules, they were not easily communicated with employees throughout the organization. In order to see the schedule, employees were required to either physically go to check the schedule or were communicated with (ex: emailed) each time a change was made. 

Without a scheduling tool that is real time, it is difficult to get open shifts filled, keep track of employees availability, overtime, and time off.

What kind of shift patterns and lengths are common?

We went through and analyzed some of the most common rotating patterns and shift lengths form our law enforcement customers and posted some of the results on previous posts:

Personnel Shift Schedule Examples

Common Shift Times for Day, Mid, and Night - 8, 10, and 12 hour

We split them into 8 hour shifts, 10 hour shifts, and 12 hour shifts. But we also saw grouped by the size of the department.

Below are the most popular shift times we've seen used for 8 hour shifts:

  • First: 0700-1500
  • Second: 1500-2300
  • Third: 2300-0700

The most common shift times for 10 hour shifts are:

  • First: 0600-1600
  • Second: 1400-0000
  • Third: 2200-0800

There are 2 shift times, only an hour difference, that are most commonly used:

  • Day: 0600-1800
  • Night: 1800-0600
  • Day:0700-1900
  • Night:  1900-0700


Each organization has different needs when it comes to manpower. Taking into consideration things like minimum staffing, certifications, availability, and time off, it can be a lot to handle. Utilizing a tool, like PlanIt Schedule, will improve communication throughout and reduce scheduling errors.

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About Us

PlanIt Police scheduling software is extremely powerful yet easy-to-use. It is meant to simplify scheduling and enhance communication for law enforcement agencies. PlanIt was developed by Ragnasoft, Inc who have specialized in public safety scheduling solutions for over 10 years.

Contact Us

PO BOX 4903
Lancaster PA 17604
717-925-3908 (fax)
Contact Us
PlanIt Police

PlanIt Police is an online scheduling system for police departments. PlanIt is developed by Ragnasoft, Inc which has specialized in public safety scheduling solutions for over 10 years.

Our Contacts

PO BOX 4903
Lancaster, PA 17604
Phone: 1-866-471-2001
Fax: 1-717-925-3908
Email: sales@planitschedule.com