Wednesday, March 7, 2012

**Special Post** Response to Anonymous' Comments Re: Firefighter Pay

I created this special post to address the comments made by Anonymous to one of my posts titled, "Here are the Facts about Guam Firefighter's Pay". This post and Anonymous' comments can be read here.

Here is the posted comments of Anonymous.... 

Hi there Mr. fire fighter.. well lets see here. How many fire stations are on Guam? Agat, Inarajan, Piti, Talofofo, Yona, Barragada, Tamuning, Dededo, and last Yigo. Wow that is a lot of fire men in all these stations responding to soooo many fires. In most states the size of our population, fire departments are voluntary. Now lets see how may police stations there are; Agat, Hagatna, Tamuning Dededo. Just four precincts with about four officers on duty, if your lucky. Some work 8 hour shifts and other 12 hour shifts, constantly responding to calls out there with very little pay nothing compared to your department. So don't make this fancy dancy website to justify your pay here on this little island. You guys should be ashamed or yourselves, you should all move towards a voluntary fire department and stop milking the tax payers.

Just Joe!!

Ok, so fair enough. And here is my response without going into too much detail....

Anonymous, first I want to thank you for your comments. I can respect anyone's point of view as that is one's right. That is what the constitution is all about. Having the freedoms to pray the way we want to, say the things we want to and protest and disagree whenever we want to without fear of repercussions from our government. Freedom of got to love it!!!

Secondly I want to thank you for reading my personal blog and responding to it. It shows that you are compassionate enough to read about issues and respond to those issues when you feel a need to. And that is what part of my blog is all about. Same as you... to respond to issues when I feel there is a need to.

But when you respond, please get your facts right. For one, the Guam Fire Department has 12 fire stations and 1 rescue station at the moment. You only accounted for 8 stations.

Two, you said that we respond to sooooo many fires. I know that you are being facetious with that statement. But you are right, over the course of a year we respond to quite a few fires, but a majority of our responses are medical emergencies. Our statistical percentages of our total emergency alarms indicate that about 70-75% of our total alarms are medical emergencies. We get in excess of 18,000 emergencies a year. This is statistically the same with the averages in the U.S. Mainland. These stats are kept by the National Fire Protection Association, better known as the NFPA. Here is the web site so you can do some more research. By all means, don't take my word on the matter.

Third, I would never compare us to Police anywhere. I used to be a police officer in the states. Two totally different jobs. We are all public safety brothers and I will always  be that way with our fellow officers in blue. Great job and a hard job and I respect them all for what they do. If they encounter hardships as you elude to and with which I agree, I would hope that those persons tasked with improving those services would do so. Our officers and our island residents deserve it.

Four, you wrote in most states the size of our population, fire departments are voluntary. Well, there is not one state with our population. I am thinking maybe you meant cities. Guam's population as per the latest U.S. 2010 Census is 159,358. If you research the U.S. 2010 census, for cities with populations similar to Guam, and I would say in the range of 155,000 to 165,000, you will find that all of those fire departments are paid full time departments.

You see most areas with large departments want a full time department if they can afford it because the response time is so much quicker because they have crews on duty. Volunteer departments are typically in the rural small town areas where there is a relatively small tax base and as such they cannot afford to pay for a full time department. And as you can imagine, when you have a volunteer department and you get an emergency call, they are not responding from a fire station. They are responding from their regular place of work. Now how long do you think it will take them to get to that emergency scene. Can you imagine if your mother was having a heart attack and you were waiting for those volunteers to arrive at her house and they were responding from their regular place of work. Or if there was a fire? Same long response time. But if that is the type of service that a majority of the people of Guam want, then so be it. It is up to the majority. 

But don't push something unless you have done a very thorough job of research. I have done an extensive amount of research and I can go on about where Guam is when you compare GFD with other jurisdictions in the states. And you would be hard pressed to even find a fire department serving a population that Guam has that protects 118 miles of coastline, hundreds of miles of aviation fuel pipelines, over 1 million visitors a year, 20 plus high rise hotels, over 4000 rooms, should I go on? 

And we don't have the other fire departments in our surrounding areas to help us out like they do in the states. We have the military. They help but not all the time because they have to protect their bases. We have Airport fire but they have to remain on the airport grounds per FAA. We are literally by ourselves. That is why every GFD firefighter holds so many certifications because we have to be ready, trained and equipped to handle just about everything that comes our way. We are a unique local with special problems that most other U.S. jurisdictions do not encounter in one location.

With regards to our pay, every year, Magazine, conducts a salary and response survey. Our emergency response activity is in the average or middle should I say, around the 50% of full time departments. But our pay for entry level firefighters is below the 2 percentile. We are substandard in pay. Not even close to being average.

What pay we are supposed to get, by law, we are not getting. But we still go to work everyday and give it our all.

Regarding you stating that I shouldn't make this fancy dancy website to justify our pay, well I didn't. I have about 66 different posts on my blog and only a few are actually about our pay and I wrote posts in response to issues brought up by Senators, other Government officials, etc. Kind of like you. See something and wanted to respond. Now I know you would not want to deny me the freedom of expression. I didn't do that to you though it was my liberty to post your response to this post. I could of just deleted your comments prior to posting but I didn't. I respect your right to expression.

You say we should be ashamed of ourselves. Why? We go to work. The rules and regs and laws say we are to be paid "X' amount of pay for the job that we said we would do. And all of that is in writing. We will get this pay for this work. Well we have been doing the work and much more and yet we are not getting the agreed upon pay and benefits. I am not ashamed. I am proud of the work that we do, plus more that we don't get paid for. But we are not slaves. I work, I get paid, same as you. Now if you want to volunteer that is fine, but I am sure even you have to work to make ends meet. And with all the push on education in order to get ahead, well that is what we have been doing for years. Going to school to get a better education so that we are not only more qualified to do a job but also to better our positions and pay. That is what work is all about.

Firefighters do a lot of community service. We teach CPR, First Aid, go to schools, belong to committees, we do a lot. But not everyone sees what we do, but yet there are a few people out there that are quick to point the finger at us and say we are greedy and we should be ashamed.

As I said, thank you for the visit to my blog and your comments. But before you point, know what you are talking about and do your research. Because I already have!!!! Just Joe!!!!

Until the next time....

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