A squad of 14 women firefighters carried out a live drill at Kempegowda International Airport on Tuesday ahead of International Women's Day on March 8. The women members have completed one year in the Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighting (ARFF) team.
Members hail from various parts of Karnataka. Many, like Priyadarshini from Jevargi taluk in Kalaburgi district, come from a family of farmers.
“I have a diploma in aeronautical engineering. Last year, through WhatsApp, I got to know about the vacancy in the ARFF department. I did not have any idea about the job. So I did an online search for more details. After I applied, I underwent a physical and a written test in Mysuru,” she said.
She cleared several rounds of interviews and underwent training at the Airports Authority of India Fire Service Training Centre in Kolkata for four months. “I feel very happy to work as a firefighter. This is a big opportunity for me in a male dominated field. At first, my family had some inhibitions about me joining ARFF, as it also involves risk but later, they encouraged me a lot,” she added.
Another firefighter, Suma from Devanahalli, admitted that the training course was so rigorous that she thought of quitting. “But all of us decided to stay firm. Now, everyone praises us for our achievement. They say we are role models for other women.”
They have good reason to be proud. Of the 279 firefighters in the ARFF team, only 14 are women.
According to Selvaraj Arumugam, head of ARFF, as per the parameters, the firefighters can reach the end of the runway within two minutes to attend to emergencies, and three minutes to reach any other area where an aircraft is taxiing. “The ARFF team has undergone training in hazard mitigation, evacuation and rescue of passengers during emergencies.”
As the women get more experience, they will move on to the next level where they will be handling other responsibilities that include driving fire tender trucks.
When asked whether more women would be recruited, he said. “As of now, we have sufficient number of firefighters to handle the parallel runways. When these firefighters go to the next level, designation or any vacancy arises, we may go for further recruitment.”
BIAL has inducted eight Austrian-made Rosenbauer Panther tankers to attend to emergencies. A release states that these tankers can touch a maximum speed of 120 kmph. Weighing nearly 40 tonnes, the trucks can go from 0 to 80 kmph in 25 seconds. The pumps have a discharge rate of 7000 lpm, with a water tank capacity of 12,500 litres and foam tank capacity of 1,500 litres, read the release.