GFD, GPD in desperate need of manpower
by Nick Delgado
Guam - When you call for help they are the first to respond, but two of the most critical agencies in the government are the ones in desperate need of assistance. The Guam Fire Department has 251 uniformed personnel on its payroll, but according to Fire Chief Joey San Nicolas those numbers are depleting. "I'm losing a lot of personnel due to deployment and attrition and in future we project a few more," he said.
San Nicolas says 25 of his fire fighters who serve in the military are currently deployed with an additional nine set to leave by the end of the month.
"At this point we are just meeting the standards and without the hiring I just may be faced with shutting services in certain villages," he added. "The only solution is to hire."
The fire chief says that's why Bill 421 was introduced this past week by Senator Dennis Rodriguez, Jr., which would carryover expired enhanced 911 emergency reporting system funds to conduct a fire suppression and EMS recruitment cycle. In the interim, San Nicolas says, "Fighting a fire requires a team of four and so as we start to lose personnel to deployment or attrition then out capabilities diminish, and we lose one person then that puts that fire truck out of service, which is a huge burden on our fire fighters, and the other plan is instead of one fire truck responding to a fire, its going to require two to three at any given time just for manpower, we might be there equipment heavy but manpower short and until more are hired that's the way we are going to have to do it."
GFD isn't the only law enforcement agency feeling the crunch; the Guam Police Department admits that they too have a shortage in precinct personnel - numbers totaling sometimes at just under a handful.
GPD Captain Maurice Sayama says the force has 303 uniformed personnel, with 71 serving in the military. He says of that number, 21 are deployed. He said, "We are buckling down and we are doing more with less, we do depend a lot of police reserves and CAPE volunteers to back fill the slots."
But Sayama says participation is low to backfill positions left by deployed police officers. As a result police officers are forced to work longer hours with less manpower.
"Workdays with out any days off to rest, no family time, no way to vent or remove stress from the body that all adds up then we start seeing officers get sick, officers not at their fullest potential," said Sayama. The stress level is one hurdle for GPD, who on average has less than five officers per shift working the precincts. "Studies have shown that we need to have at least a minimum of 40 officers per shift, but will we ever acquire that I doubt it, I believe at least ten to twelve officers would be sufficient," he said.
until money is identified, it seems both GFD and GPD are left with scraping the bottom of the barrel just to keep operations afloat.