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Fighting The Fire! Officer Meenakshi Vijaykumar Unveils The Ground Reality of Battling COVID 19!

Duty calls: No ‘quarantine at home’ for fire officers!

While most of us have the luxury of staying home during a global pandemic disaster, Officer Meenkashi Vijaykumar of fire service department is always seen at the forefront of catastrophes. This is another day at work, just as she battled the woes of nature during the tsunami and Chennai floods rescuing all those she could, it is a raging global pandemic thus time that she and her team are up against. Officer Meenakshi and her team are out there putting their life and sanity at stake to thrive and help the state survive the malice of COVID 19.

 

The fire department is engaged in an umbrella of additional duties while they also simultaneously carry out their usual fire and rescue operations. The fire officers’ team is involved in sanitising streets, hospitals, religious places, markets, and residential areas. “The QRV- Quick Response Vehicle which usually carries foam to put out fires are now filled with a ratio of water and sanitizers that is sprayed in streets and on buildings.” explains Officer Meenakshi.  This is a 24*7 service and the team lead by the officer has covered more than 900 different areas in Trichy and is continuing to cover more ground each day.

We shouldn’t shut ourselves from what’s happening outside… from compassion!  

An initiative inspired by DGP Sylendra Babu to provide for the poor, the fire station also gets busy cooking food for the needy. “Just this afternoon we cooked food in our station and distributed it to the migrant workers from Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan.” says the Officer. 

Each day, food is cooked and distributed by the department to homeless people, domestic and municipal workers, sanitary workers, and labourers. 

“It is at times such as these that though we stay indoors, we shouldn’t shut ourselves away  from what’s happening outside. It is important now, more than ever before to develop compassion. There are hungry, thirsty people and animals out there. Poor, needy and underprivileged people who are lost in the huge wave of turmoil sweeping nations across the globe. We should help them in possible ways while keeping in mind social distancing. Do not crowd a place but do your part to help. Develop compassion.” Says Officer Meenakshi. The department is also regularly keeping a check on animals and strays, leaving them small tubs of water, milk, and food at regular intervals across the streets.

 

The fire department handmade 10,000 masks and distributed them to the needy 

Providing not just food and water but also safety and hygiene is of prime importance now. Keeping that in mind, the fire department has made 10, 000 masks and distributed it to the needy. “Our own firemen stitch it, a few reach out to their families for help, others to tailors. We have stitched and distributed around 10,000 masks to those who can’t afford It.” says the officer. 

Spreading awareness to those who don’t have the privilege of media exposure 

 

The team is also involved in propagandizing awareness. Several short films, street plays have been performed by the team as an initiative to keep people aware and also to teach them how to protect themselves. On how to wash hands, social distancing, etc. “We simultaneously have our duty to perform too. While we are out there on our rescue or fire operations we are using megaphones to educate people about COVID 19. We have the opportunity to go out there so we make it a point to create awareness to those who don’t have as much media exposure as most do.” 

Challenges being faced: “To teach social distancing to those who cannot afford to practice it.” 

 

One of the biggest and obvious challenges faced by the team is the crowd. To control them and to make them understand the importance of maintaining a minimum of 1 meter to 3-meter distance between each other, simple as it may seem is a rather daunting task .

“You can’t help. Some of them are very poor. We are talking about people who don’t have homes, families who live on roads, or labourers kilometres away from where they belong. Helpless old people who cannot afford basic amenities. It is a constant conscious battle while dealing with them and the situation. To teach social distancing to those who cannot afford to practice it.” 

 

Safety of the team is of prior importance  

Being out there on the battlefield would require wearing armour. The team wears personal protective equipment along with helmets with a visor. They are advised to wash up before they enter the fire station. Dettol and Lyzol are used to sanitise the station and keep clean.  

 

Self-isolation! 

At the end of tough days such as these, all one would want, is to seek comfort in the company of family. Unfortunately, this is also not a choice for most. Officer Meenakshi Vijaykumarstays in self-isolation at Trichy till all the operations are complete, while her son, husband, and mother stay in Chennai. It is mentally draining but she refuses to let risk others due to her exposure. “Decisions have to be made, selfless decisions. Great things in life can be achieved only through sacrifices.” She says. 

 

EndNote: 

We are in the face of a new unknown disaster. When Tsunami first hit our state, most did not know about its existence. No one was aware. Now we know about it and as a state, we are prepared to fight it better if it reoccurs. 

For COVID 19 fortunately, the government did its part very quickly. It is up to us now to help win this. Stay indoors, stay informed. At the same time do not fill your minds with unauthorized and fake news that’s floating around. 

God is trying to tell us something, listen. The animals have reappeared in our roads, in the world during the lockdown. The world was made to be shared with other beings. Use this time to develop compassion that would prevail even after all this is over. Lucky for me I have a great team to work with and our DGP Mr. Sylendar Babu who is always an inspiration. We will fight this, this too shall   pass and good times are coming. 

By Sruthi Ravinder 

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