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Fire service uses exciting new immersive technology

03 September 2019

STAFFORDSHIRE FIRE and Rescue Service has been showing off an innovative piece of technology designed to help deliver educational programmes.

The team responsible for the delivery of the service's Safe+Sound programme is gearing up for the start of the new school year by demonstrating ground breaking, brand new interactive pods. As the first fire and rescue service to use these interactive pods to deliver its education programmes, the Service has been inviting partners and staff to come and see for themselves how the pods work. Stoke-on-Trent south MP, Jack Brereton attended last Tuesday's (20 August) demonstration at Longton Community Fire Station along with representatives from the City Council, the NHS, local community groups and Longton's White Watch: while on Wednesday Chief Fire Officer, Becci Bryant was joined at Stafford Fire Station by members of staff from Public Health England.

They were shown how the mobile pods provide an immersive learning environment which will allow the team and partners to teach various topics including fire safety in the home, road safety, water safety, emotional wellbeing, and CPR amongst others in an interactive way. Various scenarios are projected onto three walls of the pod producing a 270 degree view of the scene for the student. The software allows participants to answer questions and access more information by swiping sensors on the walls. The use of the pods adds an interactive element to Safe+Sound events to maximise learning outcomes.

The first interactive programme within the pod educates children on fire hazards in the home. Young people use the touch technology projected on to the walls of the pod to make their way through the life-like home, identifying hazards and learning what to do in case of an emergency. More than 3,000 children attended Safe+Sound events throughout the county in April, May and June 2019, and plans to deliver the project across the county to Year 5 and 6 pupils in Academic Year 2019/20 are already in place.

Each pod folds away to make transportation easier and there are two different sizes to accommodate either a large or a small audience. £1.1 million of funding for the pods, vehicles and running costs was received from the Home Office Transformation Grant; this includes funding for the updating, refresh and maintenance of the products. Staffing for the delivery of Safe+Sound is provided from the Service’s budget and is not included in the above cost; SFRS volunteers also provide an invaluable service in delivering some of the activities.

One of the greatest testimonials about the Safe+Sound project came when a Year 5 girl who learned CPR during her visit to Safe+Sound later had to use it in a real situation – her school said, “She really was a brave young girl and I thought your team would like to know that the Safe+Sound project does have an impact on children.”

Another example of Safe+Sound having a positive impact is that of a young person whose support worker recommended he attend Safe+Sound with his parents as he was struggling to understand the dangers that he was putting himself and others in. Dad took him along and both Mum and Dad were really pleased with the activities that were undertaken at the Fire Station and commented that he really enjoyed the morning. Mum even highlighted in his Educational Health Care Plan application form that he had benefitted from the direct work that the fire service and partners were able to give him and he responds well to such activities, even though he struggles in group situations at school. He is now being supported by the Prevent team for Youth Offending and they will reinforce some of the guidance given by Safe+Sound partners in their direct work with him.

In academic year 18/19, before the pods were in use, SFRS has delivered Safe+Sound to more than 10,000 children across the county and has also held a number of workshops and activities for over 60s and other community members.

Other partners will also be making use of the technology in the pods, and work is ongoing with partners such as the Police, Canal and River Trust, RNLI and Staffordshire Safer Roads Partnership to develop more content that can be delivered in this new, innovative way.

Helen Wood, education manager, said, “These pods are a fantastic way to deliver our educational messages and enhance learning. SFRS is committed to incident prevention and this resource allows us to lead the way in educating young people on fire and road safety.

“The Safe+Sound project also enables us to work with partners like DHL and St John’s Ambulance, utilising this fantastic technology in a combined effort to make Staffordshire the safest place to be.”