“Fire accidents happen only because of negligence. At least from these incidents, we should learn, how important fire safety is” says Taniya Sanyal.
Taniya Sanyal is the first woman firefighter to be appointed on Airport Authority Of India (AAI). She joined AAI in the year 2018. She is currently posted as a Junior Assistant in Fire Service in Fire Service Training Centre Kolkata. Since there was no woman in aviation firefighting when she joined, Taniya was appointed to train many women as well as men firefighters.
Here’s an interview with Taniya Sanyal:
What made you choose this field?
“I did my masters in Botany. It was a different field. I saw an ad in a newspaper that time and I fulfilled all the criteria, then I thought, ‘why not? I should apply for this’. I applied just like that and I cracked the first few levels of screening. Then I know I’m destined for this!”.
How did your parents react to this?
They were very supportive. After a couple of online screening, I had to go to Bhubaneshwar for first physical assessments, medical checks, etc. When I told them this, they were very happy! My elder sister was also very supportive, she used to give me training for running.
This field should be new, how did you manage this physically demanding training in the first place?
Yes, I didn’t have any experience, I don’t even have a sports background. But I have to thank my trainers, they taught me very well. Initially, it was difficult as everything was very new. I’m thankful to my trainers. And I was so determined to take this up.
You are an inspiration; would we get see more women firefighters?
Firefighting is still a male-dominated sector, the women percentage is very low even now. But in future, we will see many women firefighters as there are many private airports now, who are recruiting many female firefighters. We recently trained 14 women firefighters in Bangalore airport. Times are changing now. Actually, men and women complement each other. We have to work together in any kind of job.
Being a first woman firefighter could be difficult, how friendly was your work environment?
My colleagues were so welcoming, training was good, but on the job, I learnt a lot from my colleagues and my seniors. The work environment is very good and supportive.
How is Aviation firefighting different?
We are trained to handle aviation fires, that is fires in airports, especially aircraft. The survival time on any aviation fire is only 2.18 mins, which is a very crucial time for us to react. As the response time is very less, aviation firefighting requires special skills and also training to handle special equipment. In most cases, we will have only a few seconds to decide our course of action. And this is why it is very important to have an airport fire service. Apart from firefighting, we are also trained to respond to rescue and medical emergencies.
We don’t have an awareness in our country?
Yes, that’s true. Whenever I go out, in the neighbourhood or for shopping, I check everywhere if there are enough fire safety measures. In many places, I see no fire safety measures or even if the fire safety equipment is there, it wouldn’t be operational. I feel it is a mindset issue of the people. A fire can happen at our home. Everything starts from our home, for that matter, even the training for fire safety should start there. We have to train the people at our home and equip our homes to fight fires.
Basic training to identify the risks or understand preventive methods are required for everyone. It gives knowledge and makes people more sensitive to fire safety. It helps to eradicate apathy. Awareness helps to avert fire accidents in the first place.
In any fire incident, a firefighter can control the fire and that will happen only when he arrives. It will take only a few seconds for a fire to get uncontrollable. But, at the basic level, if people have knowledge about when an ignition starts. Usually, it starts at a very small point. If people have awareness about it, they can prevent a fire accident.
We don’t have any conversations at home about fire safety – what is the reason for this?
It is an awareness issue, as we discussed earlier. Even after training, when I came back to teach my parents, they didn’t know the importance of it. Generally, people are very casual about fire safety that is why big fire incidents are happening.
When we see major fire incidents like AMRI hospital fire, Kolkata, which happened when I was in college. Many other fire incidents like Kamala mills, or Bavana, are like eye-openers and these are preventable. These accidents happen only because of negligence. At least from these incidents, we should learn, how important fire safety is.
Who is your role model and what is your aim?
My inspiration is my grandma, she’s my mom’s aunt. She was working on a government organization at that time. She used to motivate me a lot and she was very close to me.
I want to focus on many young girls and inspire them to take up firefighting!
Taniya Sanyal is our #firechampion.
Author: Savitha Sampath is a Digital Marketing Consultant.