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Russell Investments Center Deploys First-Ever Virtual Reality Fire Drills

Thursday, 15 October 2020 11:30 AM

SEATTLE, WA / ACCESSWIRE / October 15, 2020 / The Russell Investments Center will soon be the first commercial office building in the world to conduct fire drills through virtual reality (VR). With the COVID-19 pandemic making traditional fire drills impractical, the 42-story high-rise opted to deploy virtual reality technology to help ensure its occupants know how to respond in an emergency.

"With many employees working on modified schedules in this pandemic, its challenging to keep everyone up to date on important life safety practices with traditional drills and training " says Austin Upton, Manager of Property Operations for CommonWealth Partners, which owns and manages Russell Investments Center. "Virtual reality fire drills allow us to maintain our life safety training programs while maintaining social distancing."

Web VR fire drills allow building occupants to use a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer to explore their floor, locate stairwells and fire extinguishers, and exit the building. Developed by AK Preparedness, a Seattle-based emergency preparedness and life safety company, the new VR solution involves creating a photo-realistic 3D model of a building's interior, then embedding information about stairwells and life safety equipment. As users navigate their building, they can learn how to use a fire extinguisher or emergency phones, find out what happens when the building goes into alarm, and receive video-based instruction from a firefighter. They can also learn about responding to a wide range of other emergencies, such as earthquakes, medical emergencies, and bomb threats.

The Russell Investments Center, Thursday, October 15, 2020, Press release picture

Several fire departments have approved this type of alternate drill format for use during the pandemic, and major-city fire departments throughout the US are evaluating it as a long-term solution.

Rob French, principal at AK Preparedness, explains that "While VR drills will not fully replace traditional fire drills, they offer many advantages. In addition to not requiring people to gather during a pandemic, VR drills allow any building occupant to participate in training on their first day in the building, rather than waiting up to a year for the next drill... VR drills also offer a richer learning experience. We are able to add safety and building details that can get lost throughout an in-person drill."

He adds that VR drills are also attractive because they do not disrupt building operations, and buildings can document who participated and what they learned.

Upton says that in their case they were looking for a way to support all of the building tenants in the immediate term and provide a better day-one preparedness solution going forward. "If 2020 has shown us anything, it's that being prepared is essential for everyone's safety. We want occupants to be able to go through a fire drill visually, but it's impractical to bring all tenants together for a live drill in the current environment.

AK Preparedness is a leading national provider of emergency preparedness planning, training, and technology solutions, helping thousands of commercial office properties, corporations, government organizations, and residential buildings reduce risks through more effective life safety programs. Founded in 1981, AK provides emergency response plan development, online and mobile emergency response tools, live training and drills, tabletop exercises, life safety training videos, and other services.

CommonWealth Partners LLC is a vertically integrated, privately-owned real estate investment, development and management organization. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CWP has assets located throughout the United States, including New York, Washington DC, Seattle, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Boston. For more information visit its website

For more information about AK Preparedness' VR fire drills contact Rob French, 206-567-9104, [email protected].

Media Contact:

Christine Wetzler
[email protected]

SOURCE: The Russell Investments Center

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