How do you visit the fire station if the fire station is closed?
With its headquarters on Tremont Street closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Duxbury Fire Department needed to find new ways to reach people. “We were used to having people stop by or go to the open house,” Captain Rob Reardon said. A new method of outreach came courtesy of photographer Jessica Laaper, whose husband Stephen is a call firefighter/paramedic with the department. Laaper has a 360 degree camera, which allowed her to take photos of the fire station from a new perspective.
Up to a thousand people visit the fire headquarters for the open house every year, Reardon said. Some 300 Chandler School kindergarteners visit the DFD’s headquarters every year. “We are transferring what we teach in the schools to the websites,” Reardon said. He credits his wife, Jen, a teacher at Chandler Elementary for suggesting the idea of offering virtual field trips.
Scouting groups visit on a weekly basis. Meanwhile, October is fire safety month,when Duxbury firefighters head to the schools to give fire safety tips to students. Reaching out to the schools “is a huge part of the job,” Reardon said. “It’s so much fun, we enjoy seeing the kids.”
Going virtual has its advantages, both Reardon and Laaper pointed out. For example, online guests can see what it looks like from on top of the fire truck, a vantage point that isn’t available on a traditional tour.
Reardon said the department is committed to providing the same level of educational outreach as it did before the pandemic made it impossible for people to visit the fire headwaters or for firefighters to go to schools and other locations.
Laaper specializes in branding photography and when her business shut down due to the pandemic, she began looking into 360 degree cameras at the suggestion of her husband, who uses it as part of his regular job, which involves examining manufacturing equipment. Laaper did a walk through of the building with her camera, creating 76 scans of the interior, Rear don said. She “donated literally hundreds of hours” of her time, he said.
She started by scanning the interior of the building with her camera and adding icons with descriptions of the items displayed. It’s like a doll house,” Laaper said of the multi-level video tour she created.
The parent of two children, ages 11 and 12, knew the video tour needed something extra to get kids interested so she created what she called a quest. Visitors can take the quest and, upon completion, download a junior fighting certificate. Besides the tour, videos have been made about different safety topics, like proper seat belt use and doing the stop, drop and roll. “It’s a great tool for the kids, especially when they can’t be at the fire station.”
The new photos are part of an upgraded fire department website that isn’t finished, Laaper said. The goal is to make it an information center for the entire community. She’s also working on a video tour of the new Regional Old Colony Communication Center. “The possibilities of this, it can be used in so many different ways.”
Visit duxburyfire.org to view the Duxbury Fire De partment’s new website.
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