Like other public safety agencies in the State of Florida, Alachua County Fire Rescue has struggled to maintain an adequate workforce to meet the needs of a service delivery demand that continues to grow. The department has continually advertised its vacancies but has been unsuccessful in filling them. Therefore, the department has had to rely upon overtime and mandatory overtime to keep units in service. Mandatory overtime is when an employee is not scheduled to work but is required to do so.
Regarding mandatory overtime, Alachua County Fire Chief Harold Theus stated, “We have worked hard to reduce and eliminate mandatory assignments when we can. These last few months, it has reached an unreasonable point. Mandatory assignments are not good for the employee, the department, or the citizens we serve. We have implemented several changes to accommodate for our reduced workforce, but at this point, I have no other option other than taking a rescue unit out of service.”
Some of the efforts to keep units in service and available include:
- Streamlined hiring process
- Suspension of all out-of-county transfers
- Alternative special event staffing
- Administrative staff working on Rescue Units
- Placing Basic Life Support (BLS) units in the Peak Load Division
- Encouraging employees to work overtime in the Rescue classification
As of June 1, 2022, Rescue 24 at Station 24, located at 3509 NW 143 Street, is out of service unless it can be filled with available staffing or voluntary overtime. This unit was selected for several reasons. First, station 24 has an Advanced Life Support (ALS) Fire Engine for immediate first response medical care. Additionally, this rescue unit has a lower call volume than many of the other 14 Rescue units and has Rescue units located to the North, South, East, and West.