When a major natural disaster strikes, safeguarding the populace will take a combined efforts of first responders - from fire to law enforcement, from EMTs to the National Guard. The necessary resources must be prepared in advance, in case such catastrophes do come to pass.
Exhausted and overworked EMS medics are more likely to struggle on the job and leave their positions sooner than expected. In Austin, Texas, a new plan hopes to offer relief by transitioning workers from 48-hour shifts to a 42-hour week.
This past spring, a student at the University of Texas at Austin was found dead near the campus Alumni Center. After the death was ruled a homicide, the campus public safety department took another look at its security policies.
This report suggested a number of safety improvements, including better lighting and video surveillance systems. It also found that there was a shortage of officers regularly patrolling the campus, and called for staffing additions.
When EMS agencies can't meet their staffing and funding needs, lives are at stake. In Boston, the city government responded to a surge of emergency calls by proposing more funding for emergency medical personnel. But officials still aren't sure why call volumes are increasing, or if demand will ever level off.
As the threat of global terrorism grows, security experts believe that a strong police presence is necessary to deter attacks, especially in areas where large numbers of people gather. But some potential targets may not be getting the protection they need.
For instance, staffing levels at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport are insufficient, according to an internal police report. The airport, which is among the world's largest and serves more than 60 million passengers each year, has fewer officers patrolling its terminals than other major U.S. airports.
How should cities determine minimum police staffing levels? In San Francisco, some city supervisors think it should be based on population. Others want to see it based on the police department's workload demand.
It can be a challenge for major cities to keep their public transit lines safe, especially with limited resources.
In Washington, D.C., a series of high-profile assaults and shootings on the subway have led the D.C. Metro Transit Police to boost patrols throughout the system. But personnel numbers are tight right now, and even officers who have been confined to desk jobs due to injuries will be asked to monitor stations.
When fire departments are overworked, the amount of money they have to allocate for overtime payments can reach impressive levels. At first glance, it may appear that the department in question is simply understaffed. But hiring additional firefighters isn't always the best answer.
For instance, in the Columbus, Ohio fire department, overtime payments reached $8.6 million in 2015, with some firefighters earning 30 percent more than their base pay.
Resource-strapped emergency services have enough on their plates when it comes to ensuring they are properly staffed during the day. But what about at night?
Throughout the U.S., police and emergency services in rural areas have noted that budgetary concerns make it difficult to keep a regularly scheduled night shift. For example, emergency services in Cape Elizabeth, Maine must rely on a few on-call volunteers between 10 P.M. and 6 A.M., even though a full-time night shift would lower response times considerably.