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CFITrainer.Net Podcast

The IAAI and CFITrainer.Net present these podcasts with a focus on issues relating to fire investigation. With expertise from around the world, the International Association of Arson Investigators produces these podcasts to bring more information and electronic media to fire investigators looking for training, education and general information about fire investigation. Topics include recent technologies, issues in the news, training opportunities, changes in laws and standards and any other topic that might be of interest to a fire investigator or industry professional affected by fire. Information is presented using a combination of original stories and interviews with scientists, leaders in fire investigation from the fire service and the law enforcement community.

April 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast

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Transcript

Welcome to IAAI’s April 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast. This month’s podcast focuses on the first of our two-part safety series called "It Could Happen To You." In part one, our roundtable participants discuss some of the accidents they’ve been involved in at the fire scene, the dangers of acute injuries at the fire scene, and what steps you can take to work the scene safely. In a future podcast, we will present a second roundtable on the health hazards of long-term exposure to fire scenes, as a follow-up.

Our roundtable is moderated by Robert Schaal, current President of IAAI, an ATF Senior Special Agent, and the Supervisor of the Arson and Explosives Group in New Orleans.

ROBERT SCHAAL: Hello, I’m Bobby Schaal, the President of the International Association of Arson Investigators. I’m here with Rick Jones of the Forensic Investigation Group in Covington, Louisiana and David Kircher with O’Neill & Associates Fire Investigation in Somerville, New Jersey for the start of our safety series, "It Can Happen To You." We’re going to be talking about a few fire scene related incidents and hopefully stress and improve the safety process. Rick, let’s talk about one of your incidents that we discussed previously, a fire investigation you conducted up in Mississippi.

RICK JONES: Good afternoon Bobby. My name is Rick Jones. I was looking at a fire in the northern portion of Mississippi, which I was not familiar with. I traveled from south Louisiana up to look at this fire. This was a fatality fire in a manufactured home. So the floor had had some water on it and it had already swelled and was pretty weak. I was digging the living room out where the origin of the fire was - the main portion of the fire was located, and the floor gave way and I reached, tried to catch myself and pushed my hand through a window, a glass window, and I cut my hand pretty bad cutting some of the major blood vessels causing a lot of bleeding and this was my right hand. I exited the building because it was bleeding really bad and wrapped my shirt that I had on around it. Trying to figure out how I was going to get my keys out of my pocket and not let go of my hand. I tried waving down a car that was passing and they went right around me and kept going. This was a bald headed guy covered in blood and a fire scene and they didn’t want to stop. Not knowing the area, once I got my keys and got into my vehicle I didn’t know where to go. I hadn’t pre-planned the area, didn’t know where the hospitals were at. I remember going through a small town gas station area, and I was able to get back to there and ask for directions. Without me knowing it the hospital was right across the street from the gas station where I stopped to get directions. But the main thing I think that affected the scene was that I didn’t pre-plan it and have any idea where medical treatment was or how to get any. I didn’t have a GPS at the time and if I would have used my cell phone to call 911, I didn’t have anything but the address to give them and not sure that I would have got 911 in that location.

ROBERT SCHAAL: Well what changes have you made to your scene processing tactics when you’re in unfamiliar areas now? Do you pre-plan out some of these hospital locations or first aid stations or do you carry your own first aid kit and have you established a protocol for staying in contact with your office to make sure they are familiar with where you are when you enter the scene and exit the scene.

RICK JONES: Yes, I do. I have a GPS that I use now that has hospital/first aid stations programmed into it. A lot of times I’ll check and make sure that I have an idea of where something’s at before I get out on the scene if I’m by myself. I’ve been practicing here lately that I try to take someone with me as well as I have a first aid kit with me when I go to the scene, which I did not have when I initially got hurt on this one.

ROBERT SCHAAL: David, let’s jump to you now. We’ve talked about your incident several times over the past few years, and I think your incident goes back to when you were actually in the fire suppression business, but nonetheless, it drives home the fact that fire scenes are very dangerous places and you have to be careful and know what’s going on or there’s the potential to get hurt. Why don’t we talk about the valve cock incident that you experienced a number of years ago?

DAVID KIRCHER: Yeah, Bobby, Dave Kircher. A number of years ago, myself, two other firefighters and a driver responded to a smell of, an odor of natural gas in a house, and when we arrived on the scene, this is back in the days before gas meters and sensors and all those kinds of testing equipment were commonly carried on the rigs and things like that and we actually responded a lot of times to what we called stow alarms without even putting turnout gear on - calls like that. In this particular case, we entered a building that had an odor of natural gas, went down to the basement and determined that as we were venting the house that the natural gas was coming the hot water boiler, and I reached up to turn the cock that was the supply for the boiler, and as I turned it off I said that’s not the right cock and I turned it back on and with that the front door of the boiler blew off and went across the room. I was standing next to the door and the door missed me by an inch. The entire building erupted. According to the driver who was standing out in front of the building, it actually lifted up off the foundation and settled back down on the foundation. My partner - who was standing right behind me - we were looking at each other, or we were trying to look at each other through all the dust and everything else, I was trying to clear my eyes and everything, I turned around and I said to him are you all right? And he turned around to me and said don’t ever do that again. And I’m like, you know what - we’ve been trained a thousand times, every firefighter knows once you turn a switch, once you turn a cock, once you do anything in a natural gas filled environment that you don’t retrace, you don’t do anything backwards, and not even thinking about it. Complacency, whatever you want to call it, didn’t think and that one turn in a fraction of a second could have ended both of our lives. The third firefighter, who was brand new at the time, was standing at stairs and ran out of the building and the chauffeur saw him coming out after the explosion and asked where we were, my partner and I, and he said well they’re still in the bottom of the building in the basement and then he - the driver, who was an older gentleman, threw the other guy back down the stairs, and all we saw of him was tumbling back down the stairs and he said go back down and get him because he ran out of there and got scared, ran out of there and left us there, and because he was relatively new didn’t realize the buddy system and everything else, you don’t leave your partners behind.

ROBERT SCHAAL: What did you carry away from that incident as you moved on from suppression ultimately into the fire investigation arena?

DAVID KIRCHER: A huge common word. THINK - and avoid complacency. Always think about what you’re doing. Don’t forget your training because it could happen in the blink of an eye.

ROBERT SCHAAL: Was that one of your defining moments on why you are actively involved in the IAAI safety committee and trying to develop safety programs and get the word out there?

ROBERT SCHAAL: Well, Rick, let’s jump back to another incident that you had recently, and again, I think it goes back to the importance of doing a preliminary scene assessment to judge the condition of the structure and what type of remediation you might need to do. I think this was a fire you worked down here in Louisiana. Why don’t you go into detail about that a little bit?

RICK JONES: This happened this year. It was very unusual for Louisiana. We had a snow day and we had several inches of snow on the ground. This was a home, a two story, and the upper portion roof structure was burned off having the second floor exposed to the snow. Had several inches of snow within the fire debris. I was walking on the second floor, taking photographs, documenting the scene when the floor beneath me gave loose and I fell through the floor rafters dangling above the first floor. I had someone with me that day that was able to come and rescue me and pull me back up out of the floor. It would easily have been an 8 or 10 foot fall, you know, if I wouldn’t have fortunately straddled a gas pipe that was running through the floor in this area that I fell through as well as something caused some damage to my shins and to the inner portion of my leg, I again received a pretty bad cut on the inner portion of my leg and had to have a few stitches to fix that.

ROBERT SCHAAL: Do you feel that your experience from the first Mississippi incident better prepared you to handle this? I mean, you went through some different protocols, you had a backup investigator there with you, you did a little more pre-planning on what you were going to do if there was scene accident. Do you think the first experience helped you in the second incident?

RICK JONES: I do. We had an idea that if something happens, how he was going to handle it, he wasn’t going to come running up to where I had fell through a floor or whatever because then he would end up on top of me or fall through it as well and that wouldn’t help. So we had an idea of what we were going to do if it ever happened and we have some boards on our vehicle now that we try to lay across the floor joists to get to one another if something like this was to happen. And it did, and he went immediately, got a board, was able to find the floor joists and lay it across for me to be able to brace myself back up on the board and pull myself back up out of the floor and used the board that we had laid down to get back out of it.

ROBERT SCHAAL: So the pre-planning really kind of helped you minimize the consequences on that fire, and I think that’s what NFTA921 is trying to do in Chapter 12, the safety chapter, stressing the importance of pre-planning and safety briefings and analyzing the scene, and I know Ron Hopkins recently had a working task group that extensively revised Chapter 12 trying to improve the available information regarding scene safety to people, and it’s in the proposal process right now and we look forward to seeing that language in the new addition of 921 coming out in the near future. Safety is a real problem on fire scenes, and as much as we try and get the word out there, I think what Dave talked about and what you talked about, people just overlook it. They get complacent, they get that macho, hero type syndrome where they don’t think it can happen to them, but these safety problems are real and they can happen to you. So I appreciate you guys coming on to discuss these with us. I hope people understand that the risks associated fire scene investigation are real and take the precautions, and I look forward to presenting more of these it can happen to you scenarios so people really take this safety message to heart and I look forward to the continued efforts of the IAAI developing safety related training and safety related programs.

We can take away the following safety reminders from today’s roundtable:

  • Pre-planning is of crucial importance. Always know how to summon help to the scene and where the nearest hospital is.


  • Set and abide by a set of protocols for operating safely at the scene, especially if you’ll be working a scene alone. Be sure that your office knows where you are and that you set up a series of check-in calls and a procedure for your office to follow if you fail to make one of your check-ins.


  • Create and follow a protocol for what will happen if there is an injury emergency while you’re at the scene. Consider what you will do in case of a collapse, falling through a floor, a severe cut or puncture wound, an explosion, or being overcome by gases.


  • Update and keep current your personal protective equipment.


  • Utilize ventilation equipment at the scene to prevent explosive atmospheres from developing.


  • Refrain from changing the condition of mechanical devices, such as switches and valves.


  • Stop and THINK before taking every action. Remember your training.

Finally, we close with news from IAAI.

Time is running out to register for the IAAI Annual Training Conference from May 16 thru 21st this year in Orlando, Florida. To learn more about this year’s seminars, FIT credential coursework, and Orlando area attractions, watch the ATC video preview available at cfitrainer.net/OrlandoATC or you can go to www.firearson.com

That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. We’ll see you again next month.

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February 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - February '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features our interview with a commercial kitchen’s fire expert about what you need to know when you work a commercial kitchen fire.
January 2010 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - January '10 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features a look at preliminary research on corrosion caused by Chinese drywall, a new database focused on fires in historic buildings, a warning on blown-in insulation, and the launch of the new firearson.com web site.

2009

December 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features cooking fires, highlights of the International Code Council’s Annual Meeting on code requirements, including requiring residential sprinkler systems, and an easy way to keep up with recalls from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
November 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - November '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features chimney fires, including recent news on surgical flash fires, a proposed national arsonist registry, lightning research and an innovation in personal protective equipment.
October 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - October '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast is devoted to Fire Prevention Week.
September 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - September '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features the relationship between climate conditions and fire risk, new research on formulating fireproof walls and the latest in IAAI news.
August 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - August '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month takes a look at the dangerous combination of summer heat and oily rags, the rise in vacant home fires, and preview research underway on Australia’s devastating "Black Saturday" brush fires.
July 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - July '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month features a look at outdoor grill fires, a fatal fire at a homeless camp in Southern NJ, new NIST research on human behavior during building fires, and IAAI news.
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May 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - May '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This podcast is dedicated to National Arson Awareness Week.
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March 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - March '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month focuses on the rise of the hybrid vehicle and what its unique engineering means for the investigation of vehicle fires, the rash of devastating arson fires in Coatesville, Pennsylvania from December 2008 to February 2009, and news from IAAI.
January 2009 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - January '09 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast focuses on the deepening financial crisis in the US and arson for profit fires, how going green may pose a fire hazard and see how rope lighting may be a source of ignition, and IAAI’s Expert Witness Courtroom Testimony course.

2008

December 2008 CFITrainer.Net Podcast - December '08 IAAI & CFITrainer Fire Investigator Podcasts. This month’s podcast features Christmas tree fires, changes to critical fire investigation publications, the weak economy’s impact on home fires, wind’s effect on structure fires, and ATC 2009.
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