Fredericton / News / City stories

Virtual fire station tour brings the experience home

360-degree camera provides multiple benefits for fire prevention

Many public service providers had to change how they did things in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including incorporating masks, social distancing and remote working. However, in some cases it has also led to an enhancement of services. For instance, the pandemic inspired the Fredericton Fire Department to implement a long-discussed idea to develop a virtual tour of one of the city’s fire stations.

“Once the kids couldn’t come into the station, we realized that’s a major service that we provide and it was lacking as things were locked up and they couldn’t come in,” says Fire Inspector Steven Magnus.

“We thought about doing a video where everyone would have the same experience when they walk through,” says Fire Inspector Jennifer Vail. “But even when we have kids in here in person, they’re going to be interested in different things. They run in different directions when they first come in. So, we set up the virtual tour where if they don’t want to look at every truck, or if they just wanted to go straight to the video or run in and climb the ladder, they’re able to do exactly what they want.”

The tour allows users to explore Fire Station #2 on Two Nations Crossing at their own pace, with clickable links which bring up videos and text explaining the features of the station and the purpose of various equipment. The tour can be explored through a browser window or using a virtual reality system, and is available in both English and French.

“It’s a very interactive and modern educational experience,” says Fire Chief Dwayne Killingbeck. “It’s not intended to replace any of our normal offerings when we get back to normal. It’s to create another layer of contact with our core groups – children, families, educators and special interest groups.”

“And to make it a little fun for the kids, they did incorporate Sparky the Fire Dog,” adds Assistant Deputy Chief David McKinley. “It’s an extra for the little kids who may not be quite as interested in what you do with an axe or a prybar.”

The link to the virtual tour can be found on the education section of the Fredericton Fire Department website. Click here to get started.

In addition to the tour, the 360-degree camera has also started being used for other purposes by the Fredericton Fire Department. When newly constructed buildings are being approved, Inspectors Magnus and Vail will take 360-degree photos of the site which will provide invaluable reference in case of future fires at that location.

“We make sure that we go in all those places that will concern a firefighter when they go there on an emergency call, for example, in electrical rooms or sprinkler rooms,” says Inspector Vail. “It’s a really good proactive way to get pre-planning done around the city. It’s a really positive asset.”

The camera is also used for investigation after a fire. And having a catalogue of previous fires photographed by the 360-degree camera is a valuable training resource.

“You can sit someone down in your office and walk them through, step by step,” says Inspector Vail. “Show them burn patterns, show them what to look for when you get to the scene. You can expose them to more fire scenes than if they have to wait until one comes in.”

October 3-9, 2021 is Fire Prevention Week and this year’s theme is “know the sounds of safety.” The theme was inspired by the number of teachers who had switched to online learning in the past year and had complained about hearing chirping sounds in the background while working with students. It turns out those were the sounds of smoke detectors that needed their batteries changed. By knowing those sounds, teachers may have been able to prevent fires by passing word along to the families.