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With Drones to scuba gear, TNFRS ready to tackle All emergencies
With Rs 64 crore sanctioned by the State government recently, the department is in the process of procuring more equipment.
The Tamil Nadu Fire and Rescue Services is in the middle of a smart makeover, making it one of the best equipped agencies in the State. “There is no lack of equipment here. You name it, we have it. Soon, we will be getting 100 drones as well,” said DGP CK Gandhirajan, Director, Fire and Rescue Services. Under his leadership, the department managed to get approval for modernisation of the force from the Chief Minister recently. “The government and Chief Minister are very helpful when it comes to TNFRS,” said the DGP, who received sanction of Rs 64 crore for various initiatives.
Why does the fire squad need drones?
“Drones help us to assess the damages when the fire is spread in a large area. They can also fly up to the height of several floors in an apartment complex and help us determine the damage using a laptop, while we are sitting on the ground,” explained Gandhirajan.
For the first time, the officers deployed a helicopter with help from the Indian Air Force to fight the fire that broke out at Vellalore dump yard in Coimbatore in March. This experience seems to have emphasised the need for having a view from above and identifying the eye of the fire to douse it quickly.
Being smart also means being fast, believe the officers in the wing. Over a period of time, they have reduced the average response time from six minutes to four minutes. “We are now responding faster in Chennai,” said the DGP. In mofussil areas, the response time has reduced to 10 minutes.
TNFRS, which has more than 7,000 personnel, will soon get two more 104-metre aerial ladder platform vehicles, known as skylift, to handle fire accidents in high-rise buildings. The force already has two such vehicles besides four 54-metre aerial ladder platform vehicles.
“Number of skyscrapers is increasing and it has become essential to have such vehicles to handle emergencies,” said Meenakshi Vijayakumar, deputy director, stationed in the headquarters of TNFRS.
Are there limitations in carrying out rescue operations at night?
Except for the aerial survey, all other rescue operations can be carried out at any time. The TNFRS has enough equipment to carry out firefighting operations in the night. Inflatable emergency lighting systems, the latest addition to the tool box of the fireman in the State, have also ensured that the firemen are equipped to handle such situations.
The agency also has specialised gadgets to aid the personnel who are engaged in saving lives during disasters like floods, landslides, building collapse, industrial disasters, road and rail accidents. Thermal imaging cameras and life detectors are some of the other state-of-the-art equipment that are being used for this purpose. Thermal imaging cameras allows allow firefighters to see areas of heat through smoke, darkness or heat-permeable barriers.
TN Fire and Rescue Services is one of the best equipped agencies in the country when it comes to handling emergency situations, claimed Gandhirajan.
The officer pointed out that the rescue squads are not always meant for human beings. “We received nearly 10,000 calls to rescue snakes across the State and also nearly 4,000 calls to rescue other animals in the last year,” he said.
Nowadays, there are incidents where air conditioners and refrigerators exploding. As many of the houses have these appliances, every house in the State can create an emergency situation that require the help of the service, noted a senior officer at the TNFRS headquarters.
As of now, the State has as many as 331 fire stations and more would be added in the current year. These fire stations received 22,601 fire calls in 2018 and saved properties worth Rs 292 crore, besides saving lives of 69 people. As many as 4,610 lives were saved due to the timely action based on 25,525 rescue calls in the same period.
Apart from 101, the telephone number dedicated for fire and rescue calls, Chennai residents can also call 102 for Fire and Rescue Services assistance, which is a toll-free number. “We also have a WhatsApp group to notify about the fire mishaps and other rescue operations happening across the State on real-time basis. It helps our officers to be updated,” another senior officer said.