In an exclusive interview with JFW, Priya Ravichandran, the Joint Director of the Fire and rescue department, Chennai, talks about how the Fire department involved themselves into the issue, how they are dealing with it on a daily basis with utmost commitment and how all they are requesting for is for us to stay home to avoid further spreading of the infection.
The involvement of the fire department
It is not about the fire safety and rescue anymore, we are contributing largely towards the Corona precautionary measures as well. Before the 21-day lockdown came into effect, we created various awareness programmes, we came up with skits, dance and other interesting ideas that enacted the importance of washing hands, using sanitizers and basically maintaining social distancing. After the lockdown, we have shifted to complete sanitization. The corporation has supplied us with disinfectants we have gotten into sanitizing different locations across Chennai.
Many of our vehicles, based on the need, have been converted for sanitization purposes. Our men are constantly at work with regards to the same but it is also our responsibility to keep them equally safe. What we teach the public, we also ensure to follow the same. Be it washing hands constantly or social distancing, we abide by these.
But that is not our only responsibility. We make sure we cater to those who are helpless – we feed the dogs, the abandoned animals and the birds. We have arranged for water pots at all our stations to ensure that these helpless beings get basic necessities.
Steps taken to ensure the safety of these fighters.
Being in charge, I make sure my men stay motivated and encouraged. We keep ample number of masks and sanitizers at our station, we check the temperatures of our men everyday and we have asked men who are 55 years and above to stay at home.
A shift from fire and rescue
Fire and rescue are our arena of work and we have been trained for it exclusively. But this is a pandemic and we are completely out of that system. The compassion is always there within each one of us since the motto of our department is that we serve to save. We only see this as an opportunity to safeguard the lives of our people. We know that right now the morale boosting is very important and the confidence building is crucial because everybody is feeling low, they are concerned about the outcome of it but that is what we are here to do – serve and protect. We have disinfected around 400 to 500 places in Chennai and this has been going on every single day.
Priya Ravichandran is mom and has a wonderful family too. So how is she balancing work and checking up on safety at home too?
It is quite hard since all domestic help has been withdrawn and we have to balance the home- front also with extra care. But I have made sure that my family abides by the rule of wearing a mask when they head out for absolute necessities and the same hand-washing and keeping the surroundings clean is constantly looked after at home as well. I personally make sure to strictly follow the above mentioned religiously when I step in and out of the house. It is times like these that kids must be taught to manage home without their mother and domestic help and evidently, my kids are doing great at it.
It is time to take this seriously.
When we went about disinfecting a location, they thought that we are putting up a show and gathered around to watch that. We had to request them to stay home and inform them that we are doing it for their safety and the entire purpose of this goes down the drain. So we had to tell them to stay at home and requested them to stay in no matter what and that this is just an ordinary work of disinfecting. The overconfidence in people is a little scary, honestly. Most of them are confident that “okay, this will never affect us no matter what. We will be just fine.” But they do not realise that this is not just about their safety. They could be a career and infect others – even educated people are least bothered about this. The least an individual could do is wear a mask and go. You could be a person with great immunity but you may still be a career so wear a mask in order to keep others safe. Although to a certain extent there is not much crowd or traffic, we come across something somewhere.
A message to the public.
Please remember that the government servants have a family to look after during this untimely situation. They have their family waiting for them to return home safe. But they are working tirelessly for the society and for the people. It would be nice if they considered us at times and did their part accurately. The least they could do is stay home and stay put and not moving around unnecessarily. In fact, they could spread the awareness too for our sake. Our fire persons have left their homes to wholeheartedly serve the public and this is a lot of risk.
Many of their families live in other districts but these men cannot even go visit them for the sake of the public. It is imperative that these men are appreciated for their commitment. Even when we requested the aged fire men to return home, they would return saying that they prefer serving. But we request them to stay at the office and compel them to work from here. Their enthusiasm is infectious and applaudable. This is a completely new job for them as well and doing what they are doing, it makes me really proud of them.