Emergency Services – West Rand District Municipality
Emergency Services Official / Fire Protection Association Officer
Why the passion for EMS?
Always when the sirens went off in town I was curious to see what`s happening and I wanted to do what firemen do. In the EMS family we share a very unique type of passion for saving lives, property, and for rendering specific humanitarian services to communities during emergencies, disasters, or illnesses. Every morning to be dressed up in uniform and have a sense of pride and commitment to serve, protect and save a life or property is your main goal, to know that someone out there might need your help today. Communities depend on us to be there when unforeseen emergency situations strikes. The passion to be in this service is inscribable. Knowing you`re a woman behind the steering wheel of a fire truck, holding a hose onto a fire or extricating someone from a vehicle wreck was my greatest passion, knowing you could save a life a day.
How did you get into the fire service?
In 1990 I applied for a volunteer post, those days called “Civil Defence” at Westonaria Emergency Services, enhanced my experiences in EMS operations as a volunteer and did my Basic Ambulance Assistant course in 1991. In February 1994 I was appointed permanently as a learner fireman.
Tell me about your career path?
After being permanently employed I completed internal fire, rescue and medical courses as required by council. In 1995 I got married and have two beautiful daughters. When they had to start attending school in 2002 I applied for a transfer to Carletonville Fire Station, where I reside till date. I met a new EMS family at the Carletonville Fire Station where I did EMS, Fire & Rescue operations, as well as more advanced Fire & Rescue courses. In 2002 & 2003 I was awarded by the West Rand District Municipality as the Most Promising Emergency Services Official of the Year for two years in a row. Proving that woman in this service can also excell as much as men. I also participated in Toughest Firefighter events and SAESI Angling events.
My favourite Fire Truck – Brutus at Carletonville Fire Station
On 1 February 2014 I had my 20 years permanent service at West Rand District Municipality. In 2005 I was assigned to assist and coordinate the registered Fire Protection Associations in rural areas within the West Rand District, where 11 Fire Protection Associations are registered. The Executive Director of Public Safety – West Rand District Municipality, appointed me as the Fire Protection Officer for the West Rand Umbrella Fire Protection Association. In October 2012 I was elected as Deputy Chairperson Logistics and Admin for the newly established provincial Fire Protection Association namely Gauteng Umbrella Fire Protection Association to coordinate and assist 22 registered Fire Protection Associations within the province. One of the responsibilities is to compile and submit rural veldfire statistics on a monthly basis to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Provincial Disaster Management and the National Fire Protection Association.
In 2013 I was elected as the secretary for SAESI (South Western Gauteng Branch) and an Executive Committee Member of the West Rand District Public Safety Awareness Task Team Committee. My role in this committee is to assist with awareness regarding veldfire hazards and legislation of the National Veld & Forest Fire Act, Act 101 of 1998 after completion of the Law Enforcement course in 2008. Numerous flyers, banners and posters were designed by me to assist with awareness campaigns, especially in rural areas where most veldfires originate. When extreme fire emergencies emerge I assist Fire Protection Associations with activation of additional resources for backup and reports of the aftermath of fires. Regular inspections are also performed to ensure compliance with the act and regulations of the Fire Protection Associations in rural areas.
West Rand District Municipality -Public Safety Awareness Campaigns
In November 2012 I completed the Incident Commander Type 3 course at the Working On Fire Training Academy in Nelspruit together with other provincial Umbrella Fire Protection Associations. My goal is to complete all the Incident Command System training courses and Fire Investigation courses.
What message do you have to new recruits?
Being in a male-dominant working environment doesn’t mean you have to place yourself second in anything you want to achieve. There are times that opportunities and tasks look like mountains to climb but, you will get there! Don`t let anyone break your spirit and never say I can`t. When I started in this service, men made it clear that it`s a man`s world, and today I`m the only woman after 20 years still standing while others left. I`m proud to still be here!
Who were your mentors?
Most of the Regional Commanders at the service supported me and some even put pressure on me but that got where I am and what I do today. Some days were tough, but I didn`t give up. Hard practice makes perfect!
Your best and worst experience in the service?
Having children at home and responding to calls where children were victims was one of my worst experiences. The world outside made us stronger to protect our own in a better way as we deal with reality. Whether it is accidents, fire or medical calls, you always take something home and make the things at home safer for your loved ones. Teaching them why not and how to be safer.
Best experiences were being acknowledged for rendering exceptional service. The days when someone comes back and say “Thank You”, and it always motivates you to worker harder and do better. I still enjoy what I`m doing today, but what I love most of the service is the work on the road (extinguishing, extricating, packaging and saving someone or something in an emergency).
What challenges did you have as a woman in a man’s world?
The words “woman in a man`s world” bring back a lot of memories. Experienced when I started in the service 20 years ago when men told me this is a man`s world and all the booby-traps I had to deal with every day. At the end it made me a stronger woman and I never competed with men but some teached me to be stronger, to hold on when you want to give up and some motivated me, whether it was hanging on a rope, climbing a mountain or carrying someone, they were there when I needed them. In this service, both men and women will need each other in certain situations. I`m proud of what I do and did. Most of my colleagues of 20 years ago already left this service.
I`m still here… I`m a woman… I`m still going strong!