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Duxbury, Mass., Fire Department Offers Virtual Station Tour

The Duxbury Fire Station has opened its doors to residents, students and guests from across the world, welcoming visitors for the first time since the pandemic began, and it’s all being done virtually.

by Wheeler Cowperthwaite, The Patriot Ledger / September 14, 2020

(TNS) — On Sunday, for the first time since the pandemic began, the Duxbury, Mass., fire station opened its doors to residents, students and even people from across the world. It just did it virtually.

When the fire station opened its virtual bay doors, anyone would take a step inside, nearly walk around and interact with the fire engines and ambulances parked inside.

"Parents and adults can come into the station, basically walk around on your computer," Capt. Rob Reardon said. "You can go up the engine and there are dots you'll be able to hover over and see a video of the ladder going up and the stabilizers going down."

The virtual tour, which looks and navigates a lot like an interactive Google Street View, was initially geared toward children unable to tour the fire station after the pandemic made closed down most of the world.

Want news like this sent straight to your inbox? Head over to PatriotLedger.com to sign up for alerts and make sure you never miss a thing. You pick the news you want, we deliver."They're filling a need of having the open house and bringing fire awareness and prepardness to our community," photographer Jessica Laaper said.

Laaper invested her time, hundreds of hours, and money into purchasing the Matterport system, which scans the inside and outside of a building and generates a navigable landscape with a 360 degree camera.

"Right now since we can't go anywhere, we can't do much in person as we used to, this can help bridge that gap," she said. "Once we are through COVID, it opens doors to anyone in the country to experience the fire department or experience a museum."

Reardon said he worked on virtual field trips for students during the spring and enlisted the help of a teacher to make the 3D tour into something more interesting.

"Kids love technology," Reardon said. "They have gaming, iPads, iPhones, this was the logical step to connect the two."

Laaper said to interest children in the tour, and fire awareness and preparedness, they created a "quest."

"It's not just a virtual experience, sitting there," she said. "They're having to interact, to look for certain answers, they're having to pay attention."

Once they get all the information required, they can contact Reardon for a reward.

Firefighters normally teach students in school not to be afraid of them when they appear in all of their gear, especially if attempting a rescue from a burning building. One of the interactive elements is a video of firefighter demonstrating how they go from being a regular person to a hulking suit of yellow and tan.

Reardon said he plans to incorporate other training plans, like stop the bleed, CPR and storm preparedness, into the virtual platform.

Reardon said the virtual tour technology will make training easier because it allows new firefighters to learn where everyone is in the fire engines as well as in the station.

"We hired five firefighters over the last year," he said. "It's important they know every piece of equipment in every truck, like where is the water extinguisher. They can use this to study and train on every single component. Externally, firefighters from other towns can see how we do things."

Often parents who tour the fire station have more questions than their children. Hopefully, a virtual and interactive tour will help answer some of those questions, like what are the yellow houses dangling from the ceiling, often attached to the trucks and ambulances, he said.

Reardon said he could not find any other fire departments in the country with similar programs, which means Duxbury could be the first.

Laaper said she donated hundreds of hours to the project, which also included a new website for the fire department.

"You scan the area every three feet," she said. "That's a lot of scans."

The initial purchase of the equipment came about after her husband, a Duxbury firefighter who also does manufacturing work, talked about how to remotely get into factories.

"He was looking for a technology to help him work and move to help his clients," she said. "This tech helps his clients without him being there. He then came to me and said, 'I came across this.' I call this a new way of bringing experiences to people who can't get to the fire department."

©2020 The Patriot Ledger, Quincy, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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