When a little girl sees a fire truck, a big red shiny fire truck, seeing people emerging out one by one, rushing to save people’s lives, leaves behind a hopeful wish to many young girls to be just like one. You could see it from their school’s career day, when their eyes brighten up in a firefighter costume wanting to be just like one one which consequently grows into an ambition.
In reality, firefighters risk their lives going to the field, saving not just humans’ lives from all walks of life, but also animals. They have a job to do, and saving lives whilst risking their own is what they do. For our first issue of Woman of The Hour, we’ll be looking at an inspiring woman, Linda Hj Pungut, who works for the Fire & Rescue Department in Brunei. Keep reading to see what it’s like to be in her shoes.
Can you tell us about yourself and how you became a firefighter?
I’m FWN 956 Linda Hj Pungut and I’m a firewoman in the Operational Unit under operation of C command. I started joining the Firefighter Department on the 19th of July 2008. That’s almost ten years of service now. Before our placement on duty to the Unit, we are given a 6 months of training at Fire and Rescue Training Center. After completing the training, I was assigned at the Control Room for almost 2 years and then transferred to Women Operational Unit.
What made you want to join the Fire and Rescue Department?
I’ve always adored seeing firefighters rescuing people’s lives, and I know it’s a challenging and tough job. I once never thought that there were women working in this kind of environment, or actually, I’ve never thought that any women could bear the load! That’s when my admiration for it grew. I didn’t actually know that female firefighters existed in Brunei. I always thought it was a male-dominated environment. So, I wanted to be a part of it. To be what I want to be, to save people’s lives. Never did I ever thought it could be an option.
Can you share with us how your everyday routine at work looks like?
We work for 24 hours. We have our daily routine from 9am until 9am the next day. We have two days off and then there’s a station routine which is given to all stations. While waiting to respond to any emergency calls or incidents, our daily station routine includes in-house drill exercise/fire drills, revising fire fighting syllabus and doing in-house sports to maintain our fitness and at the same time, being on alert for any possible calls. We also do self-inspection of our rescue equipments and tools to make sure all of it are properly stored in the fire truck. It is crucial to when we have to respond to any emergency situation knowing all of the equipments are in good condition, fully functional and ready to be used immediately.
What’s the most difficult thing about working at a place where you’re always on standby and can be called at anytime?
It’s our duty as a personnel, it is our job and task as a firefighter. It’s expected to be called at any time of the day. When they need any manpower for big operations, we’re always prepared to take it, even if we’re not on shift at the time.
I have registered myself in this situation and a part of the work nature is that we are required to sacrifice our time, which also means missing family gatherings. I have always let my family know and understand that I have to work when duty calls. We’re fortunate that in today’s technological era, it has hugely helps us to communicate through video call with our relatives especially when we have to miss family gatherings like hari raya.
How do you balance your family time and work?
When it comes to balancing my time with work and family, I use my days off to spend time with my family as much as possible. I’ve learn to appreciate time even more now. The value of time is only known when you start craving for it and it is the truth.
To become a firefighter might be dangerous and risky, hence, you need to be strong mentally and physically and most importantly have the trait to balance everything up. You have to have patience and be aggressive at the same time.
When you go to the field, how do you feel emotionally when you see the victims?
Our job isn’t always about putting out fire, but we also get to see innocent people being trapped in buildings on fire or being injured in an accident and families going through a hard time. Sometimes, we don’t even realize our energy can be doubled or tripled to save people lives as much as we could. We put our lives before them, just to make sure everyone is safe and sound.
We try our best to tackle the problem and find solutions to save the victim. We follow orders from our officier’s instructions by following the procedure.
Is there a difference between the men and women’s roles here in the Fire and Rescue Department?
Actually, there’s no difference at all. What men do, we can and will do too. Even driving the firetrucks! We put out fires, we lift heavy water pipes which weight 15 kilogram each, we rescue trapped man and care for the injured, we do what men do. We do what we are suppose to do. In fact, in ASEAN, Brunei is the only fire station that has an operation unit specifically for women, managed by women firefighters.
Who is your role-model and why?
Here at the Fire and Rescue Department, my role-model is Assistant Director Fire Rescue, Hajah Siti Mayang Binti Haji Hussin. She is the first senior woman officer in Brunei’s Fire and Rescue Department to hold such a high position. She’s my role-model because she’s been a commander and the C Command in this male dominated field. Hajah Siti Mayang is a good icon that shows women can just have the same traits with other gender and have the willpower to succeed in any area of work.
Do you have anyone who looks up to you and wants to be just like you?
We have a lot of children visiting our station from various schools across the nation. They see us and want to be just like us. These children like to wear our suits too! It warms my heart and makes me happy when they told us they just want to be like us. It motivates me to be better. To be what is expected from them.
What is your advice for the younger generation who wants to pursue in a career of being a woman in this environment?
At the Fire and Rescue Department, we don’t just save animals or put out fire. It is more than what meet the eyes. We face hazardous environments: situations where there is a risk of injury, heavy smoke, falling objects, unstable floors and it’s hazardous to our health. We attend a lot of training and courses to be where we are. It is something that people often overlook other than being fit both physically and mentally. In this environment, you need to be patient and tough. I could not highlight that more. You must be up for any challenges that comes your way.
What are the three things that you value most about life and work?
The three things that I value most would be my family, friends and human life, no matter what race, religion, or status. Life comes and goes, I see it all the time when I’m working. It makes me value life more because life is valuable! Take it from someone who could see things go with just a blink of an eye.
Final question, how do you feel about being a woman firefighter in Brunei?
I feel really proud of all the women firefighters worldwide, and I am definitely proud to be a part of it. Anything that the men can do, we can too! One of the reason we are the only station in ASEAN with Women unit just shows that women are great, too. We all should be proud of this more to come achievement.