They have no flying licence, no aviation training, and no aircrafts to fly, yet they are called ‘pilots’: pilots who are entrusted with the job of steering lives out of danger. Meet these ambulance drivers (108 service), the saviours, who have the permission to vroom past vehicles on busy city roads. One cannot but appreciate their driving expertise, their presence of mind and the service they render to people.

V. Krishnan, young and vibrant pilot of Alwarpet circle, describes the many unpleasant moments and embarrassing situations he encounters on duty.

“It is a challenging task. We never know what kind of emergency we will be expected to handle. We have to be alert and ready to tackle whatever comes our way.” Navigating the city traffic is a Herculean task in itself, “but it is a risk one has to take. After all it is a matter of life and death and every time I start the vehicle, I drive with a thought that God has given me an opportunity to save a life,” he adds. Emotions have no place on the job. Caught in a poignant moment, silence is all they have to offer. The sight of the sick, injured, or the grieving can take a toll on them, but they have to portray a tough exterior.

“Sometimes, I wish I was a cab driver transporting happy people, but then driving an ambulance certainly gives me a sense of satisfaction, especially when babies are born on the vehicle,” says R. Rajesh Kanna, another pilot of Adyar circle.

The job is no easier than that of an emergency room doctor or nurse. The pilots must be well trained in the fundamentals of first aid and should be able to offer assistance to the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT).

J. Nithyadevi (23), an EMT of T. Nagar circle, says there were times when people shout at the pilots without understanding the seriousness of the situation.

“We follow the Platinum 10 concept, which is a general guideline for the pilot and the accompanying EMT. The first ten minutes of attending on an emergency is very critical.

The first minute is for assessing the condition of the patient, next five for resuscitation and the remaining for immobilising the patient,” says B. Prabhudoss, Regional Manager, GVK Emergency Management and Research Institute.

The ambulance drivers have a word of advice for the public. Everyone should be trained in administering first aid.

Treatment should be left to the paramedic. Crowding around the accident site should be avoided. Most importantly, the person who calls 108 should wait at the spot till the ambulance arrives. Not caring about recognition or honour, these pilots fly to attend to their duties. And for once, speed thrills and doesn’t kill.