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Ruben Stranders

Craft of Code
Ruben Stranders - FireServiceRota

Freedom for Firefighters,
Saving Lives

With a background in search and rescue work, Ruben Stranders wasn’t satisfied with the antiquated emergency alert systems for fire brigades in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe. Along with his FireServiceRota co-founder and lifelong friend, Cor Klaasse Bos, the Dutchmen knew there had to be a better way.

Today, what began as a PHP web application written alongside fire station managers struggling with overcommitted on-call firefighters and an unsophisticated alerting system, has become a trusted and valuable resource for fire brigades in the United Kingdom, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Since its start in 2006, the company has evolved into an all-encompassing, state-of-the-art scheduling, deployment, and alerting tool with plans to expand to fire stations throughout Europe and North America. By streamlining highly time-sensitive and mission-critical scheduling and alerting services, FireServiceRota delivers greater freedom for firefighters while assuring that fire equipment gets adequately crewed. But it took some time to get here.

Now the CTO of FireServiceRota, Ruben joined the company after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in computer science, then a Ph.D. in AI, eight years after the company’s original developers committed their first lines of code. “Cor and I share the same nerdiness and curiosity for technology,” said Ruben. “Since we were 13, we would talk about starting a business together.” 

In 2013, they rewrote the software to allow emergency services to efficiently mobilize the right crew through different communication channels and have a real-time overview of their turnout. FireServiceRota developed a mobile app that incorporates push notifications that use WiFi, cellular, and SMS for understaffing, duty planning, and team schedules. Geo-location technology and real-time chat brought even more precision and real-time communication to this vital mission.

Before moving application hosting to Linode, Ruben and Cor had inherited a monolithic server from their old hosting company. The app now runs in Linode’s London data center with backups in Frankfurt. Understandably, the new system also had high flexibility, reliability, and accessibility requirements, which called for a more modular, multi-server solution. This need led Ruben and his team to re-architect the app on the Linode Kubernetes Engine (LKE) to support a more controlled DevOps environment for the critical services they deliver. In addition, Linode NodeBalancers allow the company to scale up and down at busier times, which is a real benefit for emergency services because fires are unpredictable. 

In a world where performance, backups, and automatic failover are essential, FireServiceRota cannot go down. “Linode’s clear pricing, simplicity, strong performance, and excellent service ensure the up-time and redundancy that is critical to what we do,” said Ruben. “It’s literally a matter of life or death.”

FireServiceRota’s scheduling engine is at the core of planning and forecasting, helping ensure that the right people get mobilized at the right time. On-call firefighters now can plan their availability based on their work and personal commitments. Off-duty firefighters can relax, travel, and engage more fully with family and personal activities when off duty because they know it’s doubtful their brigade will need them. Fire station managers using FireServiceRota report that fire station morale has improved and so, too, the quality of emergency services they can deliver.

“There were always limitations with other cloud providers,” said Ruben when asked about his decision to use Linode. “For example, we need streaming and encrypted backups, or automatic failover or scheduled failover within five seconds. We’re not talking about a system that can go down for 10 or 15 minutes. That’s not sufficient. If we have downtime, it needs to be in the order of seconds, not minutes and definitely not hours.”

Working with his childhood friend and on FireServiceRota continues to be incredibly rewarding for Ruben. He’s heard from grateful families of firefighters, sharing how much they value the freedom that their service has created, giving them a more rewarding experience for the lifesaving work they do for their communities.

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