Seattle Office Tower Deploys First Virtual Reality Fire Drills

As noted in Markets Insider and the Puget Sound Business Journal, 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 impracticalthe Seattle high-rise opted to deploy AK’s new virtual reality technology to help ensure its occupants know how to respond in an emergency.  

The 42-story commercial office tower is the first of more than a dozen office, residential , and medical research facilities around the country turning to AK’s SafetyNet VR fire drill solution.  Installs are currently underway in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

SafetyNet VR allows building occupants to use a smartphone, tablet, or desktop computer to explore their floor, locate stairwells and fire extinguishers, and exit the building After creating a photo-realistic 3D model of a building’s interior, our development team embeds 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.  

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.  

While VR drills will not (and should not) fully replace traditional fire drills, they offer many advantages:

  • 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 offera richer learning experience; users can exit the building via all stairwells, not just the one they happen to use during a traditional drill, and learn about all life safety systems and procedures
  • VR fire drills don’t disrupt building operations
  • Buildings can document not only who participated, but also what they learned – did the user enter both stairwells, did they make it to the external assembly area, etc.

For more information about AK’s SafetyNet VR solution, contact Rob French206-567-9104,