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.
Welcome to IAAI’s February 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast. Today, we have an extremely important topic that affects all of the 32,000 fire departments in the United States. We’re going to get right to it.
With us today is Steve Austin, the Director of Government Relations for the International Association of Arson Investigators. He’s here to discuss the current status of the funding of the federal Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. This federally-funded grant program is administered by the U.S. Fire Administration. Grants are given under three programs that are designed to assist local fire departments and other organizations to protect citizens and firefighters against the effects of fire. These three programs are the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG), Fire Prevention and Safety Grants, and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants. Here’s what you need to know about how President Obama’s proposed budget cuts and Congress’ potential alteration to those cuts may impact these important fire service grant programs. With me on the phone is Steve Austin.
Q: Steve, thanks for being with us.
STEVE AUSTIN: Hey Rod, it’s my pleasure.
Q: So, you’ve been working with the fire service and fire service grant business for a long time. What have these grant programs meant to the fire service?
STEVE AUSTIN: They’ve meant a lot Rod. Because of the support that they’ve provided to local fire departments and fire associations, non-profit associations, they’ve allowed the fire service to be better equipped, better trained, they have better staffing, and they’ve allowed associations such as the International Association of Arson Investigators to present programs that would not be available without the Fire Grant program. You know, the IAAI has been involved in the fire grant issue since day one - even before day one. We worked very hard with our fellow fire service groups to write the legislation to lobby for its passage - our leader there with us has been the Congressional Fire Services Institute who we work with very closely in helping to educate Congress.
Having said that, the other part, and just as important, is the SAFER grant program. That’s the piece of the equation that allows fire departments to get increased staffing, whether they be career departments and actually use the funds to hire new firefighters or for volunteer departments to get programs started that would recruit and retain firefighters.
Q: So, Steve, what’s the potential effect of having the funding cut or eliminated from the Fire Grants program?
STEVE AUSTIN: The public is greatly impacted here because as we all know, fire prevention activities and fire protection in general is an important element of livability in any community, and fire grants impact that. Some of these programs simply would not exist if there was not Fire Grant funding. It’s unfortunate, but in the economic environment that we live in, we count on that funding to help us do those things, not only to make sure that the fire department is properly equipped and trained, but also that there is a public education component out there, as well as the component that we talk about in CFITrainer, which is, of course, the education to lead to a more professional fire investigation.
Q: Well, you bring up CFITrainer, and I think for our audience that’s pretty important. What are some of the impacts or hard numbers behind CFITrainer’s success?
STEVE AUSTIN: CFITrainer is really on the cutting edge of delivery of educational services. Not everyone can sit down in a classroom with the instructors that we provide at CFITrainer. It’s just a physical impossibility that we can get everybody in the same room. You’re talking, Rod, about having 35,000 students that are individually registered at CFITrainer. How would you get 35,000 students in a room to learn about courtroom procedures or proper evidence collection or the myriad of other programs that CFITrainer has provided over the years. It’s just physically impossible. So it just can’t happen without a managed learning system like CFITrainer.
In the more practical sense, even though there is a great bang for the buck here - I mean, there’s over - the last time I checked there were over 400,000 hours of training provided to our students at no cost, and when we look at the production budget for this, that figures out to less than $10 per student hour, which would be just impossible to deliver a quality program such as CFITrainer to a student at that amount of dollars. So, not only are students getting this excellent training, but the government is getting a lot of value for the money they’re investing in CFITrainer.
Q: Steve, can you talk about who’s fighting for the money in Washington for the fire services?
STEVE AUSTIN: The IAAI is considered one of the major - seven major fire service groups in Washington. It has been for the last 30, 35 years, and along with our brother in the first service organizations, which include, but not limited to, the Firefighters Union, the IFF, the NFPA, the International Association of Fire Chiefs and others, we work very closely together to make sure that as the fire service we deliver a consistent and clear message to Congress about what our priorities are, and we focus that message through the Congressional Fire Services Institute, which its mission is to educate Congress. They’ve done a wonderful job at CFSI to help bring the groups together and make sure that we’re on the same page.
Q: I’m glad to hear that you’re out there fighting for it Steve. So what can members of the fire service do to express their opinions about the importance of the Fire Grant Programs?
STEVE AUSTIN: Well they all need to be contacting their United States Senators and their member of Congress. They don’t need to be experts on all the whys and the wherefores and the amounts of money and the budget process, all they need to do is to stop in and visit in the local, a member of Congress’ office or call on the telephone or call the Senator’s office, the local district offices and say we really would like to have our Senator, our Representative support the Fire Act and support SAFER. I will tell you that that is recorded - who you are, where you’ve called and why you’ve called and that member of Congress will see those numbers and know that there are people in his district or her district or that Senator in that state will know that there are people interested in preserving and strengthening fire and SAFER.
Thanks, Steve. As you’ve told us, it’s very important that the fire service and the people involved stay on top of this issue.
We close with some brief news from the IAAI Training Calendar. On March 15th in Dallas, Texas, "Ethical Investigation of Insurance Claims" will use video scenarios to present and discuss ethical issues that arise in the investigation of fire losses. On March 24th in San Diego, IAAI will hold its popular class, "Effective Investigation and Testimony." This class focuses on how to protect an investigation from legal challenges and effectively present methodology and evidence at trial. For more information on and registration for these courses, visit firearson.com.
That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. Don’t forget to visit cfsi.org to follow what is happening with the Fire Grants program. We’ll see you again next month.
This program provides a primer on accreditation, certification, and certificates for fire investigation training.
A fire occurred on the night of Feb. 20, 2003, in The Station nightclub at 211 Cowesett Avenue, West Warwick, Rhode Island.
Arc Mapping, or Arc Fault Circuit Analysis, uses the electrical system to help reconstruct a scene, providing investigators with a means of determining the area of a fire’s origin.
This module introduces basic electrical concepts, including: terminology, atomic theory and electricity, Ohm’s Law, Joule’s Law, AC and DC power.
A fire occurred on the evening of June 18, 2007, in the Sofa Super Store in Charleston, SC that resulted in the deaths of nine fire fighters.
This module looks at the many ways fire investigators enter and grow in the profession through academia, the fire service, law enforcement, insurance, and engineering.
This module will present a description of the IAAI organization.
This module takes a closer look at four of the most commonly-reported accidental fire causes according to "NFPA Fact Sheet.
This program brings three highly experienced fire investigators and an attorney with experience as a prosecutor and civil litigator together for a round table discussion.
The program discusses the basics of digital photography for fire investigators as well as software and editing procedures for digital images intended as evidence.
This self-paced program is an introduction to discovery in civil proceedings such as fire loss claims and product defect lawsuits.
This self-paced program is an introduction to discovery in criminal proceedings.
This module covers the foundation of DNA evidence: defining, recognizing, collecting, and testing.
This program provides a practical overview of how to perform the baseline documentation tasks that occur at every scene.
This module will discuss the techniques and strategies for conducting a proper science-based fire scene investigation and effectively presenting an investigator’s findings in court as an expert witness.
This module presents critical electrical safety practices that every fire investigator should implement at every scene, every time.
In this program, we will look at emerging technologies that fire investigators are integrating into their daily investigative work with great success.
This self-paced program examines the fire investigator's ethical duties beyond the fire scene.
As social media has emerged as a powerful force in interpersonal communications, fire investigators are being confronted with new questions...
Should you work for a private lab as a consultant if you are on an Arson Task Force? How about accepting discounts from the local hardware store as a “thanks” for a job well done on a fire they had last year?
This module takes investigators into the forensic laboratory and shows them what happens to the different types of fire scene evidence that are typically submitted for testing.
This module teaches the foundational knowledge of explosion dynamics, which is a necessary precursor to investigating an explosion scene.
This module addresses the foundations of fire chemistry and places it within the context of fire scene investigations.
The program is designed to introduce a new Palm/Pocket PC application called CFI Calculator to users and provide examples of how it can be used by fire investigators in the field.
This module examines these concepts to help all professionals tasked with determining fire origin and cause better understand fire flow dynamics so they can apply that knowledge to both to fire investigation and to fire attack.
This module provides a road map for fire officers to integrate and navigate their fire investigation duty with all their other responsibilities and describes where to obtain specific training in fire investigation.
The evaluation of hazards and the assessment of the relative risks associated with the investigation of fires and explosions are critical factors in the management of any investigation.
This module will describe the most commonly encountered fire protection systems.
This module presents best practices in preparing for and conducting the informational interview with witnesses in the fire investigation case.
This module provides instruction on the fundamentals of residential building construction with an eye toward how building construction affects fire development.
This module teaches first responders, including fire, police and EMS, how to make critical observations.
This program discusses how to access insurance information, understand insurance documents, ask key questions of witnesses, and apply the information learned.
This module offers a basic introduction about how some selected major appliances operate.
This program introduces the fire investigator to the issues related to the collection, handling and use of evidence related to a fire investigation.
This program takes you inside the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) archives of some of the most interesting and instructive test burns and fire model simulations they have ever conducted.
The program provides foundational background on the scope of the youth-set fire problem, the importance of rigorous fire investigation in addressing this problem, and the role of key agencies in the response to a youth-set fire.
This module provides a thorough understanding of the ways an investigation changes when a fire-related death occurs.
This self-paced program will help you understand what to expect at a fire where an LODD has occurred, what your role is, how to interact with others, and how to handle special circumstances at the scene.
This program will introduce the fire investigator to the basic methodologies use to investigate vehicle fires.
This module presents the role natural gas can play in fire ignition, fuel load, and spread; the elements of investigating a fire in a residence where natural gas is present; and the potential role the gas utility or the municipality can play an investigation.
This self-paced program covers fundamental legal aspects of investigating youth-set fires, including the juvenile justice system, legalities of interviews and interrogations, arson statutes, search and seizure, and confidentiality.
This program discusses the latest developments in expert testimony under the Daubert standard, including the MagneTek case recently decided in the United States Circuit Court of Appeals.
This module focuses on how to manage investigations that have “complicating” factors.
This module uses the Motive, Means, and Opportunity case study to demonstrate how responsibility is determined in an arson case.
This program covers the general anatomy of a motor vehicle and a description of typical components of the engine, electrical, ignition, and fuel systems.
This self-paced program is the second part of a two-part basic introduction to motor vehicle systems. This program describes the function and major components of the transmission, exhaust, brake, and accessory systems.
This module educates the investigator about NFPA 1033’s importance, its requirements, and how those requirements impact the fire investigator’s professional development.
This module reviews the major changes included in the documents including the use of color photos in NFPA 921 and additional material that supports the expanded required knowledge list in NFPA 1033 Section 1.3.7.
The program illustrates for the fire investigator, how non-traditional fire scene evidence can be helpful during an investigation.
This module introduces the postflashover topic, describes ventilation-controlled fire flow, illustrates how the damage left by a postflashover can be significantly different than if that fire was extinguished preflashover.
This module lays the groundwork for understanding marine fires by covering four basic concepts that the investigator must understand before investigating a marine fire.
In this module, you will learn more about how cancer develops, what occupational exposure risks to carcinogens exist at fire scenes, and how to better protect yourself against those exposures.
The use of the process of elimination in the determination of a fire cause is a topic that has generated significant discussion and controversy in the fire investigation profession.
This module teaches the basics of the electrical power generation, distribution, and transmission system.
This module presents the basics of natural gas and its uses and system components in a residence.
This module explains the principles of search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment, as contained in the amendment and according to subsequent case law, and applies them to typical fire scene scenarios.
One of the legal proceedings that may require the fire investigator to testify is a deposition. Depositions are often related to civil proceedings, but more and more jurisdictions are using them in criminal cases.
Deposing attorneys employ a variety of tactics to learn about the expert witness giving testimony, to try to unsettle that witness to see how he/she handles such pressure, and to probe for weaknesses to exploit.
This module provides introductory information on the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard – 29 CFR 1910.120.
The program examines the importance of assessing the impact of ventilation on a fire.
This module demonstrates the investigative potential of information stored on electronic devices.
This module explains the relationship between NFPA 1033 and NFPA 921
The basics of the scientific method are deceptively simple: observe, hypothesize, test, and conclude.
This module addresses the foundations of thermometry, including the definition of temperature, the scales used to measure temperature and much more.
This program presents the results of flame experiments conducted with a candle.
This self-paced program explains to non-investigators the role of the fire investigator, what the fire investigator does, how the fire investigator is trained, what qualifications the fire investigator must meet.
This module will untangle the meanings of "undetermined," straighten out how to use the term correctly, talk about how not to use it, and describe how to properly report fires where "undetermined" is the cause or classification.
This module will advise fire investigators on how to approach the fact-finding procedures necessary and validate a hypothesis.
This module provides an overview on how structures can become vacant and eventually abandoned.
This self-paced program provides a basic framework for structuring the management of fire cases and fire investigators.
This module illustrates how wildland fires spread, explains how to interpret burn patterns unique to these types of fires.
This module presents the key elements of the initial origin and cause report and methods of clearly presenting findings in a professional manner.