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City of Lincoln
Fire & Rescue Department

Is the 24 Hour Duty Shift Inefficient?

 

The 24 hour shift is believed by some residents to be inefficient and should be changed to a more traditional 8 hour shift. Some residents believe that reducing the hours worked could save funds by reducing firefighter pay.

Fire departments nation wide use the 24 hour shift to schedule employees, for a variety of reasons, including tradition and cost effectiveness. Firefighters who work this unusual schedule, are allowed to eat meals and rest (sleep) and take part in other employment related activities regulated by the department during the shift, but are always available for response during the assigned 24 hour period. Availability for response supersedes all other activities including training, meals and rest for the entire 24 hour period. No breaks for any reason are assured during the 24 hour period, as the firefighters are always expected to respond.

Some critics of the 24 hour shift believe that a change in hours would improve efficiency of firefighters eliminating time spent for meals, rest time and other non essential functions. In the state of Nebraska, State law requires that paid fire departments are only allowed to schedule employees to work either a 24 or 8 hour shift. (See Nebraska Statue 35-302 below).

Section 35-302 Paid fire departments; firefighters; hours of duty; alternating day schedule. Firefighters employed in the fire departments of cities having paid fire departments shall not be required to remain on duty for periods of time which will aggregate in each month more than an average of sixty hours per week. Each single-duty shift shall consist of twenty-four consecutive hours and shall be followed by an off-duty period as necessary to assure compliance with the requirements of this section unless by voluntary agreement between the city and the firefighter, any firefighter may be permitted to work an additional period of consecutive time and may return to work after less than a twenty-four-hour off-duty period. Any firefighter may be assigned to work less than a twenty-four-hour shift, but in such event the firefighter shall not work in excess of forty hours per week. No firefighter shall be required to perform any work or service as such firefighter during any period in which he or she is off duty except in cases of extraordinary conflagration or emergencies or job-related court appearance.

In the 2010-11 fiscal year, LF&R employed 245 employees in the general fund in the emergency services division (not including the 24 employees paid from the ambulance enterprise fund) who are assigned to the 24 hour shift. Each person is scheduled to work 2912 hours annually, an average of 56 hours each week. These employees account for a combined total of 713,440 hours of scheduled worker availability for response and service to the community. Traditional workers (8 hr/day) are scheduled for 2080 hrs annually. In order to maintain the same 713,440 hours of worker availability, it would take 343 personnel, an increase of 98 workers, or 40% more employees to maintain the same level of service to the community as currently provided using the 24 hour work shift.

Section 7 k of the United States Department of Labor Fair Labor Standard act exempts cities from paying firefighters overtime for hours worked greater than 40 hours per week. This exemption allows the city to schedule firefighters to work up to an average of 53 hours without requiring overtime pay.

Lincoln firefighters are scheduled to work 56 hours on average each week for which firefighters are paid overtime for 3 hours (the difference of 53 to 56). Currently LF&R employs 245 employees funded from the general fund in the emergency services division. Each person is scheduled to work 2912 hours annually, an average of 56 hours each week. These employees account for a combined total of 713,440 hours of scheduled worker availability for response and service to the community. If the work week average were reduced to 53 hours or a schedule of 2756 hrs annually, in order to maintain the same 713,440 hours of worker availability, it would take 259 personnel, an increase of 14 workers, or 6% more employees to maintain the same level of service to the community as currently provided using the 56 hour weekly average schedule.

City/county employee wages and conditions of employment in Nebraska are governed by state regulations that require comparison of work preformed, pay and benefits to like or similar employees in like or similar cities. Employees can appeal city pay/benefit practices to the Nebraska Commission on Industrial relations, if the employees feel that a city/county government is not following the regulations. http://www.ncir.ne.gov/



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