Learning lessons from last year, firemen to get training for water rescues

After riverbed areas in the city were inundated in the 2013 rains, Pune fire department is tying up with National Disaster Response Force to train its personnel in saving citizens from flooded parts. Dheeraj Bengrut reports on Page 4

Rather than going with the flow, Pune fire department has decided to take the monsoon challenge head on. Last year, when water entered into areas on the riverbed, firemen had a tough time evacuating people. So, in a bid to provide its personnel advanced training, the department is tying up with National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and the exercise is expected to begin by the end of this month.

Left high and dry: Citizens trapped in floodwaters at Shanti Nagar slum in Vishrantwadi area during 2013 rains. File Pic

 “In the last rainy season, we encountered many cases in the city of people being marooned by river water flooding housing societies and dwellings. Our men rushed to the spots with rubber boats. But, the fact is, the personnel require superior coaching regarding such rescue operations. Basic training was imparted to one of our teams three years ago. Since then, there has been no such exercise, and we want to prepare each and every personnel we have,” said chief fire officer Prashant Ranpise.

State of flux: Due to water release from Khadakwasla Dam, the Mula River was flooded in July 2013. File Pic

“Not only during monsoon, but also when unseasonal rains occur, or a water pipeline bursts, we have to use boats for rescue operations. Our talks with the NDRF officials are going on, and we are discussing the minutiae of the training process. Most probably, we will send our first team to NDRF Talegaon training centre at the end of this month,” added Ranpise.

There are a total of 487 firemen in the department, and there are six rubber boats for such water rescue operations. The riverbed areas in the city where water seeps in during rainy season are Anandnagar on Sinhagad Road, near Dandekar Bridge slum, Patil Estate slum and Shanti Nagar slum in Vishrantwadi area.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a fireman told mid-day, “I have been in this job for more than 14 years. In my experience, going on a call to rescue people trapped in water is the most dangerous job.” He added, “We only have rubber boats, ropes and tyres, whereas there are no safety measures or equipment for us and even for the people, while an operation is going on.

Many of us do not have any training about such exercises. So, if we are getting it now, it would be beneficial for our firemen.”

PMC speaks

Ganesh Sonawane, officer, PMC’s disaster management cell, said, “This advanced training will include various aspects, like detailing of boat management would be provided, what safety measures are needed for minimising risk, etc. There is no river area in the city where we can impart training. So, we are tying up with NDRF, as they have their own training centre and adequate riverbed area for such drills.”

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