GULF WAR WOULD CUT PUBLIC SAFETY ON GUAM

HAGATNA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 11) - There's no question public safety agencies will be severely affected if the nation goes to war because more than 100 critical personnel are in the military reserves.

But officials said they are prepared and have contingency plans in the event war breaks out.

A war seems inevitable after President Bush pledged in his State of the Union Address to disarm Iraq, which he maintains possesses biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. In the past month, tens of thousands of troops have been deployed to the Persian Gulf in preparation for a potential strike. Last week, Bush declared that "the game is over" for Saddam Hussein and said Saddam would be stopped.

A significant number of people from the Guam Police Department and the Guam Fire Department also serve in the reserves. If war breaks out and reservists are called to duty, the departments will feel the impact because they are already suffering staffing shortages, officials said Jan. 30.

According to Fire Chief Mike Uncangco there are 74 firefighters in the reserves, including the Army and National Guard. That makes up a huge chunk of the 304 firefighters at the department, which still has 95 vacant positions.

Uncangco said he was reviewing the department's contingency plan, but details of that plan are not yet finalized.

"The Guam Fire Department doesn't know who will be activated and when," Uncangco said, adding none of its employees have been given notice of deployment. "The department is reviewing its contingency plan in the event of an activation and will ensure that emergency services are met, even if it means the consolidation of resources. That means if we have to consolidate fire stations then we will consolidate fire stations."

About five firefighters were deployed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. mainland, he said.

At the Guam Police Department, a contingency plan has already been drafted, according to spokeswoman Sgt. Kim Santos. She said 55 of its 263 officers are in the reserves, including the Army and Coast Guard. The officers are from various divisions including the Criminal Investigation Division, Crime Lab and patrol.

Although the department lacks an adequate number of officers, Santos said they have a plan if many of their officers are deployed.

"Our plan is to merge precincts if needed," Santos said.

For example, the Agat and Hagåtña precincts would join forces, as would the Tumon and Dededo precincts, she said.

"But they are going to have to assess the situation when it does happen, because ... not all reservists are activated at the same time," Santos said.

She said 11 officers were activated after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that had a slight impact on the department.

"We will be affected but officers were trained to handle what comes our way," Santos said. "Response time may be affected, but the officers will work and they will get the job done."

February 11, 2003

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