Passion for public service inspired this graduate in Sociology from the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi to take up a job that required utmost courage, quick decision making and maximum physical strength, breaking into the field dominated by men.

N. Priya Ravichandran, Divisional Fire Officer, Chennai City Central, the Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services (TNFRS), is not only one of the few women in the force but also the first woman Divisional Officer of India.

Priya, has led a number of fire fighting and rescue missions in Chennai and rest of the State. “I wanted to get into a public service where I could serve the people directly. The fire department with the motto ‘We Serve to Save' was catchy and I opted for that profession. Now, I am totally happy about my choice,” says the DO with pride.

Getting where she is was not a cakewalk for Priya who hails from Salem. She took up the TNPSC exams during her JNU days in 1999. “I got my job order in 2003 just 10 days after my daughter was born. I took up the training shortly at the State Training Centre near Tambaram with great support from my family.”

The Fire Department and senior officers at the training facility were graceful enough to permit her infant daughter to stay with her during the training as a special case.

A young mother, officer Priya withstood tough physical training and became an officer in August 2003. “When I wore my uniform for the first time, I looked at the mirror and felt proud of myself,” recollects the officer.

Her first experience with the job came in 2003 (during her training period) when she had gone with the crew to the Meenambakkam Airport to attend an emergency landing of a plane. “It all started with good luck as the plane landed safely much to the relief of the fire personnel on the tarmac,” says Priya with a smile.

Priya's first posting was in Coimbatore in 2004 where she came across various fire fighting and rescue operations including a big fire that broke out in a cotton mill that lasted for more than seven hours. A temple structure that collapsed badly trapping a construction worker in the debris for over two hours was the toughest, according to her. Her team managed to rescue him.

She was posted in Chennai in 2007 and has led many operations here as well.

A mother of two daughters and a caring wife, the Divisional Officer says all have the potential and they are multitasking. “Women perform every task with utmost sincerity and come out with flying colours. Therefore, more and more women should involve themselves in public service,” she concludes.

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