Up-Close … with Tally Domingue, female firefighter and substation officer- ‘You can achieve a lot if you believe in yourself’


12-March-2013

Tally in her officeFirefighting and rescue is one of those domains that Tally Domingue ventured into a few months only after completing her A-levels at the School of Humanities at the Seychelles Polytechnic in 1997.

Fresh from school but not too sure yet what she wanted to be, young Tally was certain about one thing - getting a job. She had sent applications to different institutions, among them the School of Health Studies.

It was by chance though that the young graduate on that particular day in May 1997 accompanied her best friend Catherina Laurence to the Fire & Rescue Service Agency for an interview where she had applied for a clerical job.

While there both girls were encouraged to apply for a fire fighting post as the service at that time had several vacancies for new recruits especially in the field of fire prevention.

Pascal Payette, who was in charge of the fire service at that time, talked to both girls and in the end convinced them to submit their applications.

For both of them the idea of working in the fire prevention unit was not too bad but not once did they think of seeing themselves as fire fighters.

Surprisingly the two friends, who had applied for a course in both nursing and at the fire services simultaneously, got accepted by both institutions.

Today, almost 17 years later, the two friends are experienced firefighters occupying posts of great responsibility.
A few days prior to International Women’s Day, I met Tally in her office at the Fire & Rescue Services  Agency at the New Port.

Looking at the smiling, friendly, slender and petite figure before me, I believe that not many people would have guessed the job Tally does.

“It was really not the job I had considered as my dream career but it was more or less by chance that I made the choice,” confided the 36-year-old.

“When the opportunity was offered to me it was really a serious and hard decision for me to make because the choice I made then was going to determine my future career and change my life,” Tally recalled.

With the idea of going back to school suddenly becoming not too appealing to her, young Tally decided to opt for enrollment at the fire service instead even though she was not so sure yet in what particular unit she exactly wanted to be.

Both girls excitedly started their training as fire fighters in July 1997.

 

Tough training and new discovery
The training turned out to be very tough but the girls, who were the first females to join the service and follow training alongside the eight young men in the group they joined, were becoming more and more fascinated by this particular area of work they were discovering and which was new to them.

“I became more and more interested as the training progressed. I was fascinated by all the things that I was learning,” Tally pointed out.

Following their six-month training they joined the other more seasoned fire fighters on the different shifts for a year to gain experience before being transferred to the fire prevention unit.

Tally (first right) and her friend Catherina (first left)

At that time the unit took care of all fire safety requirements by making recommendations for commercial, public, private and domestic buildings, conducting site inspections and advising clients on fire safety measures, carrying out training on use of fire extinguishers, among other related duties.

Tally said this unit has now been divided into three sub sections – planning, fire prevention and training which comprises training for new recruits and members of the staff as well as conducts public awareness and safety training.

Career development and experience
Tally still vividly remembers her first work experience as a trained fire fighter.

“It was a simulated plane crash accident at the airport. I was excited because it was time to put into practice all the things I had learnt and to prove how capable and strong I was faced with such a big and critical situation. But all was not without some sense of misgiving,” Tally admitted.

The situation was handled as planned and from then on Tally was on shift when many other fire calls were recorded at the station and these include fires in houses, buildings -- including the Maison Quéau de Quincy which houses the Ministry of Foreign Affairs -- bush fires and rescue operations which include collecting dead bodies.

Tally has done all those things, including taking part in humanitarian missions during disasters which comprise rescuing people from their damaged, flooded  homes, cutting down trees, pumping water and clearing soil, among other tasks.
“Firefighters are jacks-of-all-trade,” Tally pointed out.

“An experienced fire fighter knows all those things like the back of their hands and should not hesitate to respond to any call for assistance,” she said.

“At the end of the day the objective of your mission is helping people and all fire fighters do not want to fail in this noble mission,” Tally stressed.

“I am really proud of my achievements as an experienced firefighter and to be part of the team working for such a noble cause,” she said proudly.

After working for many years on shifts, she is now responsible for the unit of emergencies and disasters and she works closely with different agencies and the department of community development and the Disaster and Risk Division Management (DRDM), being the fire services liaison officer, while her friend and colleague is the second officer in charge in the fire prevention unit.

“But that does not mean I no longer do field work. On the contrary, the fire service and rescue being a very small force, everyone is called on to take part in different missions when the need arises,” she said.

At present there are altogether five qualified female firefighters and one still on training.

In May 2006 Tally moved from the fire prevention unit to the training unit for a year or so before taking the position as a substation officer, a post she is occupying until today.

Being accepted in a field of work considered a men’s domain
Being the first of two women here to join a field of work so long considered a men’s domain, Tally has no qualms at all.

“For me it was a field like any other in which it so happened I had chosen to build a career and to tell you the truth I have no regrets and today, almost 17 years later, I can stand very proudly and say I am very happy with the choice I made then,” she said.

“The gender difference has never been an issue and I was accepted and treated with due respect like a colleague and a co-worker, as firefighters always work in pairs or more,” she pointed out.

Firefighters really stand by and support each other and encourage each other during difficult times, Tally added.
But has the idea of moving on to explore other areas of work ever crossed her mind?

“Never! I know and love my job and enjoy what I do so why should I ever consider changing it to something else? I feel at ease and my superiors recognise my ability and I have their respect and that of all my subordinates,” she noted.

At present there are only 124 fire fighters and with the first fire substation underway and expected to be completed later this year on La Digue and another on Praslin next year, there are plans to recruit more firefighters.

Future plans
“My dream is to continue to make progress and go as far as I can in my profession. I want to achieve my goals and this is not only in my personal development but that of the organisation I work for. I want to see firefighters given due respect and be recognised for their hard work. I want to see the fire services obtain all the facilities and equipment to allow it to deliver services of higher standards,” she added.

“Among our goals is to be closer to people in the community and to do that we need substations and enough staff and equipment, something which is being worked on in the strategic plan and my dream is to see this plan realised fully one day,” Tally said.

At present Tally is following an on-line master training course in disaster management and she is as determined as ever to succeed.

Leisure activities and family life
Originally an inhabitant of Plaisance, Tally, a mother of two sons aged seven and three, now lives at La Gogue.

She explained that from the start she had organised herself and her life to ensure that she carefully separates the two.
“My work has never affected my family life and I always save quality time for my children,” she said.

Tally is not a sports person but she enjoys taking part in social activities organised by the social club at work.

Coming to live back with her parents after a spell away, Tally enjoys the coziness of having her parents do mostly everything.

“I take my responsibilities as a parent but coming back to live with my parents is different and I consider myself really lucky, being the youngest child in the family,” she confided happily.

In fact she hails from a family of seven children - five sisters and a brother.

Her message for all young women is loud and clear: “Stop being dependent on others. Women are not weaker than men. On the contrary I believe women are the strongest of the two, often bearing more hardship in life. And a woman can do whatever she sets her mind on doing and can be whatever she wants if she is determined, confident and believes strongly in herself, her  abilities and in her Creator.

“Through my own experiences I’ve realised that nothing is impossible if you keep your head high, believe in yourself and in God. You will achieve a lot in doing so,” she said.

 

by Marie-Anne Lepathy

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