Below are answers to some common questions from RETAINS Toolkit 3.0 subscribers.

How do I get access to APCO Project RETAINS?

The APCO Project RETAINS study is available free to full members. These documents can be downloaded from the APCO shopping cart. Log into your member profile to see the documents.

A subscription is required to access the APCO Project RETAINS Toolkit 3.0.
Features include:

  • Estimates for appropriate staffing levels.
  • Examines turnover/retention rates.
  • Administers the employee satisfaction survey.
  • Generates customized reports based on your ECC’s data.

Subscriptions can be purchased online. If you are an APCO member, please make sure you’re logged in to your My APCO account to see member pricing.

Does the system save my data from one visit to the next?

Yes. Your data is saved and stored from one visit to the next as long as you have asked the system to save it. Data in the staffing tool remains in place until you change it or clear a field. To be on the safe side, however, it is a good idea to track your data separately as you work through the Toolkit. The data used to generate the Employee Satisfaction Survey report is deleted when you set up a new survey. The years for the retention section are changed automatically on January 1, so you will always have the five most recent years of data. The last year will drop and the data will not be saved.

Where is the Effective Practices Guide (EPG)?

The EPG can be found under the Resources tab of the online Toolkit. The staffing workbook is the second part of the EPG or can be downloaded separately.

Is it possible for two people to log on and work with the tools at the same time?

No. When purchasing your subscription for the Toolkit, only one profile per subscription will be permitted. Each agency must designate their Toolkit user and purchase the subscription under that person’s MY APCO account.

How long does our agency data stay in the Toolkit?

As long as you maintain your yearly subscription with the APCO Project RETAINS Toolkit, with the same subscriber, or until you clear the old data. One copy of the staffing report, retention report, employee satisfaction survey report and bonus tool report can be generated and saved.

How many reports can I generate with my subscription?

Each subscriber may generate ONE of each report type during the subscription year.

What if our agency does not separate the call taker and dispatch functions?

If all employees handle all calls from pick-up to completion/dispatch, you will need to decide whether to use the coverage calculation or the volume-influenced calculation. If the ECC can handle the workload with minimum staffing on all shifts, use a coverage calculation to estimate staffing needs. Consider volume influenced calculations if staffing levels need to be increased to handle increased phone activity during specific shifts, or if the number of call taker/dispatchers needs to be increased to handle consistent and predictable increases.

How do I decide which positions are volume-influenced vs. coverage vs. function positions?

It is important to distinguish between people and positions. The position is the job, assignment or task. The call taking task is the same for an employee that is cross-trained to perform both call taking and dispatch functions. Start with the easiest positions to classify. A brief explanation of each position type is included below. See the Glossary or the Staffing Workbook for additional examples.

  • Function positions: Positions independent of coverage or call volume. Persons filling a function position do not sit at a console unless there is a major emergency. Examples of these positions include Manager / Director, Quality Assurance, CAD Administrator, etc.
  • Coverage positions: Positions that handle a particular task. Examples of coverage positions could include telecommunicator, dispatcher, call-taker, etc.
  • Volume-influenced Positions: where the number of staff is determined by the number of calls (volume) or call processing activity. These positions are generally staffed to handle peak call volume times and are in addition to the minimum staffing.

How do I determine a Text-to-911 session?

A Text-to-911 session encompasses all communication from the initiation of a text to 9-1-1 incident to the end of the communication.

How do I determine the call volume? What qualifies as a “call?”

Call volume is needed in several areas of the Toolkit and input may vary depending on the type of information. For our purposes, a call is inclusive of a telephone call, text-to-911 or other means of communication received by the agency. Call volume is generally higher than the number of dispatched events and in some cases includes both incoming and outgoing calls. The Toolkit is specific in identifying the types of call activity needed in each section.

Can I calculate staffing needs for partial positions that just cover part of the day or part of the year?

Yes, the calculation for coverage positions allows you to make an adjustment for partial positions. A part-time employee can be accounted for as .5 of a position if they work a regular schedule of 20 hours per week. Two part time employees can equal one Full Time Employee (FTE) or you can split up a position in percentages. For an explanation and examples, refer to the Staffing Workbook.

How do I adjust the calculation for volume-influenced positions if incoming calls are simply routed to whoever is available to handle the call?

Some ECCs have a strict division of labor and incoming calls are only handled by designated agents. In most ECCs, however, call responsibilities are widely shared, and calls are routed to any available agent. Set up the staffing estimator based on the division of labor in your ECC. If the distinction from one position to another is frequently blurred, it makes sense to treat all call takers as a single position. It ultimately depends upon the dynamic of the ECC and if the information can be justified. For more details and examples, refer to the Staffing Workbook.

Is there a standard for the number of dispatchers to the number of units/channels?

No, there is no specific standard, equation or formula to estimate the most appropriate ratio of dispatcher to unit, dispatcher to number of channels or number of units per channel. The RETAINS 2018 study addresses several factors affecting dispatcher ability to serve units assigned to a dispatch position. When trying to discern the differences in workloads by ECC size, agency type, even time frame of individual dispatch shifts, it is important to closely review the non-radio responsibilities of individual positions.

My employees are having trouble submitting their survey responses. Is there something special they need to do?

Employees must access the survey by clicking on the URL that is included in the employee notification. Each notification has a unique access code to ensure all responses are anonymous.

It is the last day of data collection and employees are using their unique access key and the proper URL, but the page says access denied. What’s wrong?

Employees will not be able to submit a response after the close of the data collection period. Data collection is set to end at midnight Eastern Time on the day you selected as an end date. You can extend data collection up to two weeks to accommodate late responses. Be careful to extend the data collection and not create a new survey. Creating a new survey will erase all data associated with the initial survey.

Still Have Questions?

If you have any additional questions, contact [email protected].