by Nick Delgado
Guam - The island's beaches offer a great setting for families to enjoy time together in the water and in the sand. While Tumon Bay is a popular hotspot for fun in the sun, residents should be aware that you're swimming at your own risk because there aren't enough personnel to keep a watchful eye on swimmers.
The Department of Parks and Recreation has 11 lifeguards on staff to cover two major beaches and two community pools. DPR director Pete Calvo says park patrol officers can also provide some assistance, but the agency just doesn't have enough personnel to man all the beaches. "We are responsible for all beaches, but we can't every beach. So we go with the two primary high-frequency beaches used by tourists," he explained.
Those are the Ypao and Matapang beaches. Calvo says ideally there should be two lifeguards at each station every day of the week but in recent days the agency has only had one lifeguard on duty for all of Tumon Bay. "We have gone to bare minimum of one on site, like at Ypao and Matapang, we inform them that they must contact each other if anyone moves. So if something happens, Ypao will call Matapang and say, ‘I got a life-threatening situation here, cover me', and so he will keep an eye out and get ready to assist," added Calvo.
Calvo says the DPR lifeguards have been dealing with burning out and must be given a break from time-to-time due to the stresses of the job and the pressures to save a life during emergencies. "Ideally, I would like to put two people at every place and then have someone replace them for lunch, but we are not in an ideal situation. Times are tough, we went from 74 people down to 56. And we are looking at loosing another two to promotion transfers," he said.
DPR is working on a plan to allow for a third or even fourth lifeguard station if they can get the assistance of local hotels. He said, "The channels that come out in front of Nikko Hotel, that channel there is where a lot of things go down, and so we essentially need something down there in order to be able to respond quicker."
The department is also looking into starting a volunteer lifeguard program, but they are researching liability issues. In the meantime, DPR reminds the public to always practice safety when on the beach and in the water and use the buddy system as these could save your life in the event a lifeguard isn't around.