Fighting fire under the new normal

GEORGE TOWN: When Muhammad Shafiq Mohamad joined the Fire and Rescue Department, he was mentally and physically prepared to put out fires and help people in distress.

But he did not expect to do so while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) against Covid-19.

A member of the department’s Special Tactical Operation and Rescue Team of Malaysia (STORM), Muhammad Shafiq said firemen have to adjust to the new normal when carrying out tasks as their duty stays the same – keeping people safe.

“When we are out saving lives, we have physical contact with victims. As such, we are easily exposed to the novel coronavirus.

“In the course of sanitising public areas, we’re also exposing ourselves to the virus. This is part of our job hazard now, ” he said.

Muhammad Shafiq, who joined the department three years ago, said it was his childhood dream to be a firefighter.

“As a STORM firefighter, we also deal with major disasters such as collapsed structures or landslides.

“Besides being a full-time firefighter, I’m active on various social media platforms, sharing my work experience and daily routine.

“I have around 150,000 followers on my Instagram and more than 400,000 followers on my TikTok account.

Routine vigilance: Muhammad Faris Latiff (left) and Chang Yeek Woei cleaning their firefighting equipment at the Beach Street Fire and Rescue station in George Town, Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The StarRoutine vigilance: Muhammad Faris Latiff (left) and Chang Yeek Woei cleaning their firefighting equipment at the Beach Street Fire and Rescue station in George Town, Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

“By sharing my work, I hope to inspire the younger generation to become firefighters, ” he said.

Beach Street fire station chief Muzamer Mohd Salleh, 30, said they must now comply with all the standard operating procedures under the new normal.

“Since the Covid-19 outbreak, we have had to sanitise at least 10 places, including schools, government offices and other hotspots in Penang every day.

“Sometimes, the hazardous material (hazmat) response team worked late into the night.

“We have to put on full PPE suits to protect ourselves against possible exposure.

“It can be uncomfortable as it is very hot and we sweat buckets.

“Most of our training routines now is different, with some carried out virtually.

“Even during Ramadan, we carry out our physical training as usual.

“We’re always on call despite having to fast, ” he said.

State Fire and Rescue Department director Saadon Moktar said all firefighters now have to sanitise their clothes after each operation.

“We also have to monitor our team members’ health conditions before and after work, ” he said.

“Of course, there is an increase in workload but it is not a problem for us as we are well prepared.

“During the pandemic, sanitation activities in public places and government buildings are being carried out quite regularly.

“So far, our personnel have carried out their task without any fuss, ” he said.

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