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Saturday, April 04, 2020

Taking a call,day in,day out

Their identity is the helpline 108. For every call they attend to,it is expected they be prompt and focused

Written by Tabassum Barnagarwala | Published: August 4, 2013 1:35:38 am

Their identity is the helpline 108. For every call they attend to,it is expected they be prompt and focused. There have been times when they have been in the control room for two days at a stretch. Welcome to the life of a Disaster Management Cell (DMC) operator.

A DMC operator’s day typically starts with “Namaskar BMC disaster management cell”. It ends on the same note.

The eight-hour shift is not easy for the DMC operators. Rashmi Lokhande,co-incharge in Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) DMC,says,“Never for once in my career have I thought of quitting this job. While one caller asks for first aid assistance,the other might call for civic issues. I believe it is my duty to guide each caller in distress.” Lokhande,who has been working with BMC for 17 years,has been employed with the DMC for the last 12 years. Her husband is also an employee of the DMC.

Work for her can never be boring. “I know whenever there is a crisis,my team will mobilising help from every quarter. When the Mahim building collapsed,a local intimated us. We immediately informed the police,the fire brigade and the hospitals.”

There have been instances when operators have stayed for two days in the control room and attended calls patiently.

Vijay Jagtap,an assistant shift in-charge,working with the DMC for 15 years now,said,“For us,there is no Holi or Diwali.” He has also worked for two consecutive shifts. “It is our job. How can we ignore it?” he asked.

With even the terror threat looming during the 26/11 terror attack,the DMC employees continued with their duties. “I had just reached home when I heard about the terror strike. Since I knew there was a shortage of staff in the DMC,I went back to office. On my way,I met Hemant Karkare. He asked us to drive in absolute darkness till VT station where our office is located. Only after entering the office,we realised we were stationed right where the threat was,” Lokhande said. Operators have been trained to follow a set of protocols while receiving a call. “We once got a call from a builder who had been shot. Though this is not a case of disaster,we still asked him relevant questions and returned his call to confirm he was the caller. Then we alerted the nearest police station,” Jagtap says.

Even complaints on Videocon and Tata Sky are assisted without hesitation. However,frustration builds up for the operators when they receive hoax calls. “We might miss an important call because of it,” Jagtap adds.

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