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Meet Remya Sreekantan, the first woman firefighter at Chennai’s airport

Remya's appointment in the AFS has definitely shattered a glass ceiling in firefighting as far as women joining the force is concerned.

Written by Shivani Ramakrishnan | Chennai |
Updated: November 20, 2019 2:15:18 pm
Remya Sreekantan is the first female firefighter in the Airport Fire Service (AFS) for the Chennai airport. Express Photo: Harinee Chandrasekaran

Remya Sreekantan has many firsts to her name, most recent being the first female firefighter of the Chennai International Airport. The appointment came on November 1, making her the first woman firefighter for an Airports Authority of India (AAI) airport in the southern region.

The 28-year-old who hails from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala is the only woman to clear the firefighting recruitment test in the southern region.

WATCH | Remya Sreekantan is Chennai Airport’s first woman firefighter

Recalling her appointment, Remya told the, “I am happy and proud to be the only lady in the southern region and the third in India to have been appointed as a firefighter for an AAI airport. While there is a little bit of fear with a new job, I am hoping to overcome it soon.”

Born and brought up in Trivandrum, Remya had completed her B.Tech and M.Tech from Mar Baselios College of Engineering, following which she worked as an assistant professor at the Lal Bahadur Shastri (LBS) Institute of Technology for Women for two years.

Remya Sreekantan, Chennai Airport, Firefighter Remya Sreekantan, an M.Tech graduate, is the third woman firefighter in India to work in Airport Fire Service (AFS) in an airport managed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

Despite having had no background in the field of firefighting, the mother of a two-year-old took the exam while facing tough criticism over her decision to part ways from civil engineering. Undeterred, she had decided to take up the exam as a challenge.

“I was confident about clearing the exam so after the four written exams, I decided to take up the physical exam. I had a gap of three months between the written and physical exams so I went for practise in Trivandrum and took training under Mr. Sajith”, said Remya. She cleared the physical exam after rigorous training in February this year.

Remya Sreekantan, Chennai Airport, Firefighter Remya received her initial training at a fire training centre in New Delhi for a period of four months.

It was only in March when the results were released that Remya realised, not only had she cleared the exam but she was the only woman among thousands of applicants to have cracked it in the southern region. “When the news broke out, my husband Arun, my daughter Anumitha and other family members were elated and extended their support to me. They were very encouraging when I decided to take up training and join the force”, gushed Remya.

Remya received her initial training at a fire training centre in New Delhi for a period of four months. “There was a batch of 100 trainees and I was the only lady among them. I had a good experience during my time there since my co-trainees gave me a lot of support and care during the module. Even the staff who were all men encouraged me and gave me much-needed support which helped me clear the training successfully”, recalled Remya.

Remya Sreekantan, Chennai Airport, Firefighter Remya Sreekantan with her co-trainees at the fire training centre in New Delhi.

The 28-year-old firefighter said that she had been given the same treatment and intensity of exercise as her male counterparts, which she said, helped motivate her to see the training to its end. “We had to prepare ourselves physically and mentally since we were new to the field. Our trainers were very helpful and shared a lot of insights and tips with us from their time on the field, she said.

After finishing her training in September, Remya was posted in Chennai at the fire station attached to the city’s airport. As a part of the Airport Fire Service (AFS), Remya is involved in firefighting and manning the runways to ensure safe take-offs and landings of various aircraft during her 12-hour shift.

Speaking about her job, Remya elaborated that working as a firefighter meant that she has to be mentally and physically alert at all times to respond to situations. “We only have a few minutes to respond and within that time, we are responsible for the lives of those who are arriving at the airport and have placed their trust and safety in us. I am happy that I am involved in being responsible for and saving their lives”, she said.

Remya Sreekantan, Chennai Airport, Firefighter Remya was inducted into the Airport Fire Service (AFS) at the Chennai International Airport on November 1, 2019.

With regards to the risks posed, Remya said that instead of running away from a fire, firefighters are trained to run towards a fire and douse it. “The main risk posed in AFS is the fuel carried by flights. We need to be prepared to handle anything, since even a small spark can trigger a major explosion. Our priority is to extinguish the fire and rescue passengers at the earliest”, she explained.

Remya’s appointment in the AFS has definitely shattered a glass ceiling in firefighting as far as women joining the force is concerned. To all the young women and men out there who are still looking to take a mark, Remya has one thing to say. “If you are thinking of doing something challenging, you should come forward. Do not shy away thinking that you are a girl or boy and you cannot do this. There is no gender discrimination when you want to do something. If you come forward, you will receive support from everyone. That was my experience and I received tremendous support from everyone around me. If you are receiving support, you can do anything”, signed off Remya.

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