Firies pull 24-hour shifts
Monday, 6th July, 2015
By Craig Brealey
Working around the clock would not sound much chop to most people but Broken Hill’s firefighters reckon it’s the best.
Twenty-four hour shifts were first introduced at a station in Sydney earlier this year.
It was a first for Fire & Rescue NSW although the shift had been worked in America for years, said the Central Brigade’s Station Officer, Matt Hunter.
Now more stations around NSW were opting for it, SO Hunter said.
“It has to be discussed among the crews and everyone has to be in favour,” he said. “It’s purely voluntary.
“We did an eight-week trial and everyone wanted it to keep going. All the crews are happy with it.”
Each crew works 8am to 8am, has a day off, and then another 24-hour shift followed by five days off.
Broken Hill has four crews, each consisting of five members, making a permanent firefighting force of 21, plus another dozen or so retained (or volunteer) firies on call on a roster.
SO Hunter said the new hours were better than the previous roster of two day shifts followed by two nights and then days off.
“If you were due to start your night shift you wouldn’t sleep during the day so you would be up for 24 hours anyway if you’d had a busy night.
“Now we get that 24 hours off in between shifts so if you’ve had a bad night you can get some sleep and recharge a bit.
“You can also get through a lot more work in 24 hours and you can plan things for your next shift.”
Firefighters also appreciated having more time with their families and Fire & Rescue had noted a reduction in absenteeism and sick leave, SO Hunter said.
“It has been used in the United States for quite a long time and in the States they get many more calls than even our busiest stations in Australia. It seems to suit them,” he said.
Fatigue might appear to pose a problem for the firefighters and even to public safety but SO Hunter said the 24-hour shift was “nothing different to ordinary shift work.
“If you get a call to a house fire or a factory fire in the early hours, that does wake you up very fast,” he said.
“There’s a certain amount of adrenaline. When there is something that will impact on people, you become very alert.”