Women are natural “disaster managers,” says department head

Women need to be trained to deal with disasters, says Rashmee Lokhande. Women tend to panic when there is a short circuit or fire in the kitchen and their first impulse is to run out of the building. But women need to know emergency numbers, fire exits, fire alarms, emergency evacuation plans, emergency plans in schools attended by their children, etc. “Women are more patient than men, learn quickly and if you train a woman she can train the whole family,” Lokhande explains.

Disaster management comes naturally to women, she quipped. She should know. Head of the disaster management department of the country’s richest civic body, the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), she rose through the ranks. From security guard in the department to her management, she has seen it all.

The service, she recalls, started operating from the basement after the Latur earthquake in 1993. The control room at the time was only occupied by six people, with two telephones, one fax machine and basic wireless communication setup. It would respond to emergencies related to flooding, a recurring problem in the city, weak, illegal and dangerous structures, complaints related to sewerage, etc.

Since then, the department has evolved and responded to landslides, serial bombings, building collapses, waterlogging and the pandemic. Today, the department occupies an area of ​​4000 square feet with an advanced communication system (ACS) and a much larger workforce.