This is one risky business

Firefighter in action during a fire accident. Photo: Hrudayanand

Everybody likes to wake up to a day of adventure, but to an extent. For most of us adventure is nothing but doing an activity for the first time which incites courage, excitement and fear. But there are a few people who risk their lives everyday in order save the lives of others; like firefighters who enter a burning building and save those who are trapped or sanitation workers who keep our neighbourhood clean by doing the dirty job of picking up the smelly trash daily.
Then there are the spider window cleaners who clean windows of high rises by precariously hanging on with a rope. There are many such professions in the world which are highly risky, but people take them up knowingly.

A common sight on the roads is that of an electric lineman working on poles. It’s their job to rectify transformers and electric lines.While on the job, there is a high probability that the current in the line could pass through to them. There are chances of falling from the pole and unexpected power surges from invertors or generators even after a thorough check. Despite these pitfalls, linemen are ready to take up the job.

“We take all safety precautions before starting work. After turning off the power, we ask two to three houses to check if electricity is passing through the line. Fortunately, nothing ever happened to me or my team so far. But another colleague was not so lucky, he got on to the electric pole to fix a problem and there was a surge of current from the inverter. He fell from the pole and injured his leg,” says Narra Pavan Kumar, assistant linemen. Even a skilled person can’t escape such mishaps.

Fiery livelihood


Linemen rectifying problems on an electric tower.

Be it an electrical accident, drowning or a person trapped with an animal in a cell, firefighters are always ready for rescue work. They are trained to handle fire mishaps by applying fire dynamics and using the equipment accordingly. “Before the fire engine reaches the place, firemen reach the site on bikes to take stock of the situation. Recently, the boys at the recent fire mishap in Secunderabad did not bother about their own safety, and went out of their way to rescue people,” says Rajiv Ratan, Director General, Disaster Response and Fire Services, Telangana.

Firemen need to be strong both physically and mentally. To become a firefighter, they must clear a written and mental test which is followed by practical training at a fire academy. Atleast 16 firefighters work 24 hour shifts at a given time. “Mostly, fire accidents happen during March, April and May since it is the time things get burnt easily due to the heat. A firefighter wears an anti-fire suit that can help them enter a place with 400 degrees Celsius,” says Rajiv Ratan.
While there are people who put their lives in danger to make our lives easier, there are also those who take risks just to entertain us. One of the toughest jobs in the 24 crafts is that of a stuntman. When it comes to action sequences in a movie, it is these daredevil men who play a crucial role in pulling off realistic stunts. Stuntmaster Ravi says, “There was a time when a dupe used to jump from the sixth floor just with the assurance of having a soft floor to land on. But today we have ropes to carry us from one place to another. Also today, heroes prefer doing stunts on their own so the risk has reduced. Precautions are taken for every scene. For example, if a stunt involves entering a fire, fire safety dress, soda and a viscous liquid slosh which is anti-igniting is applied on the face and body to prevent it from burning.”

Most of the stunts today are mechanically fixed so that they look dangerous, but have the safety mechanisms built in them. Though everything is choreographed well, stunts are still very dangerous. “Fights are simplified now, they are more natural and logical than blasting a series of Sumos and fighting hundreds of people at once,” says Ravi. Also production houses take care of any injuries sustained during the filmmaking. Special privileges are given to stuntmen as decided by the union. “Though work is simplified with ropes and graphics, the risk is still there; it’s just that we have a secure life now,” adds Ravi.