Assam: Firefighters wage the battle against coronavirus in Hailakandi

Hailakandi- The Fire and Emergency Services personnel have just returned to their barrack after completing sanitisation of COVID-19 infected institutional quarantine centres here.

This has become quite a routine affair for the fire fighters of two fire stations ever since the outbreak of novel coronavirus COVID-19 in the district on April 9.

The 33-odd firemen in Hailakandi district are on their toes since the COVID-19 turned pandemic. They are busy disinfecting the institutional quarantine centres, containment zones and public places to contain further spread of coronavirus in the district.

The district administration, health, municipality authorities and other local bodies are seeking their help to sanitise the sensitive areas under their jurisdiction.

“We are responding at once to the calls of various authorities to carry out decontamination work of the public spots, quarantine centres, containment zones and government offices. We have been receiving many such calls from various places. However, our main focus is disinfecting public places to ensure hygiene and cleanliness,” said Albert I Khobung, Station Officer, Hailakandi Fire & Emergency Services.

The firemen spray disinfectants at high pressure using hoses attached to the fire tender vehicles. The main objective is to disinfect the places selected for the cleaning up work.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic situation, the firemen who are battling the highly contagious disease, take adequate measures to protect themselves by wearing masks and other protective gear. The Health department have provided the personal protective equipment to the fire personnel and procured disinfectants as part of the preparations to meet any exigency.

“After returning from the operation, the fire tenders are cleaned up and sanitised and the crew given hand sanitisers. Before entering the barrack, each and every one of us take a bath and change clothes to keep the disease at bay. At this crucial juncture when COVID-19 cases have witnessed a spike, we cannot afford to get infected otherwise the services will be affected,” quipped Albert.

Firemen involved in the process said that they had disposable gloves and surgical masks as a precautionary health measure while participating in the cleaning up process. “We are following the guidelines and protocols issued by the Health department for protecting oneself in such a health scenario,” they said.

The pandemic situation has forced the district fire wing to cancel the leave and leave requests of its personnel. All the firemen have been asked to be on duty, considering the gravity of the situation.

These firefighters who are on the frontline in the battle against the pandemic have separated themselves from their family members, staying in isolation after returning from their jobs. Many have not met their children and families for months together since the lockdown began.

“I remain isolated from my family and stay separately and wash my clothes myself daily. My children are shocked by my behaviour. I am not doing something extraordinarily heroic being on COVID-19 duty, it is a routine for us. Firefighters cope with dangerous conditions on the line of duty,” said a fireman on condition of anonymity.

“When a man becomes a firefighter, his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. But what he does after that is all in the line of duty,” said Albert.

The fire personnel have their tasks cut out. Besides, battling COVID-19 pandemic, they are also attending to other emergency calls such as dousing fire and engaged in rescue operations. “A team comprising an officer or havildar, two firemen or emergency rescuers and a driver is engaged in disinfectant operation while other personnel remain at fire stations to attend to any fire call or any emergency like situations such as landslide, drowning, accident, earthquake, floods et al,” said Albert.

Till now, fire personnel from Hailakandi and Katlicherra fire stations have had attended to three drowning cases, a massive landslide rescue operation and several fire-related mishaps during the pandemic situation.

“We review station-wise activities that enable us to come up with suggestions to further improve our activities in order to cater to anyone in need of emergency support amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Albert, who underwent a specialised training in handling disasters and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in Guwahati.

“We’ve seen it time and time again, every time a major catastrophe or crisis comes about, all first responders step up,” said Albert, adding, “There’s no doubt whatsoever that tomorrow firefighters will take on even greater responsibility and greater skills and certifications in order to adapt and manage whatever comes to their community.”

Trained to handle different types of emergencies and serve as a vital part of the medical chain in the COVID-19 situation, firefighters here continue to offer services while departments make the necessary adjustments to keep everyone safe while attempting to contain COVID-19.

“This will be the time when you’ll see the fire service shine,” Albert said. “People will realise that all emergency services, and the fire service in particular, will be highlighted because we are built for resiliency. We are built for worst case scenarios. We’re the ones to call if everything goes sideways.”

Salute to these firefighters who are working day in and day out to keep the people safe from the coronavirus pandemic.

On their toes COVID-19 prevention activities by Fire and Emergency Services personnel in the district during lockdown and unlockdown Phase 0.1:

  • Quarantine centers/containment zones decontaminated : 61 times
  • Office buildings, residence, schools, etc decontaminated: 33 times
  • Public places disinfected: 36 times
  • Ambulance/fire tenders/other vehicles disinfected: 93 times

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