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.
Rod: Welcome to the CFITrainer.Net Podcast. We continue our tech focus this year with the topic of social media. Social media is a source of information that may be of value in investigations in a number of different ways. In the recent downtown fire in Boundbrook, New Jersey that we mentioned in last month's podcast, the person arrested and charged with arson had been identified in part due to his social media posts threatening to start a fire. In a string of car fires in Hollywood in 2012, Twitter became an important source for information of the incipient fires, including eyewitness videos and photos. So much so that the LA County Fire Department, LA Fire Department, LAPD, and LA County Sheriff's Department combined forces into one Twitter handle to solicit tips. Some of the tips gathered in that event were valuable in the investigation.
In 2017, cell phone videos posted to social media led to homicide charges against the Milwaukee woman who was shown on the video spreading gas from a red can into a just broken window of a home. Flames erupted as she removed her arm from the window. An elderly man died in the fire. The woman who was shown on the video pled guilty and was sentenced. On the other side of the coin during the Australian bushfires at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, online bots and trolls spread false arson claims in a deliberate dis-information campaign that exaggerated the role of arson in the ignition of the fires. It's clear that social media can cut a lot of ways, so let's get into it a little more with our guest Mike Parker, who was with the LA County Sheriff's Office and an active leader in the use of social media. Thanks for being with us, Mike.
Mike Parker: How are you today?
Rod: I'm doing well. We appreciate your time. So let's start out by laying the ways that you've seen that social media can enter into an investigation. What are some of the examples of where you've seen it be useful?
Mike Parker: One is that regardless of what actions we take, people are going to be talking on social media about any given event. So whether you have fire service showing up or law enforcement showing up, people are going to talk about it on social media. So monitoring what people are commenting about your particular event is pivotal. There's lots of good information on there. Frequently people will post photos and videos at the onset of a fire that would be difficult otherwise for fire or law enforcement to obtain. So that's just one of many examples of something you can gain from social media.
Rod: Right off the bat, and it's one of the many proactive things we're talking about, is getting yourself out on social media and getting yourself in a position to monitor the different people in your community. As an investigative tool in terms of soliciting information and tips from eyewitness or community members about the fire incident and the property itself, where does the investigator start? What platforms are we talking about? How do we interact with those platforms to glean investigative information?
Mike Parker: Well, typically you want to go with the ones that are the most commonly used. There's a hundred platforms out there, so it can drive you crazy trying to learn all of them. But certainly Facebook's been around for a long time. Twitter, Instagram, and even NextDoor, oftentimes police and fire forget about NextDoor, which is quite prolific in terms of people sharing things. So those are several that are really leading the way. But then there are new ones pop up, relatively new, like TikTok or others that people will share videos on, some of which, some of these systems, what people post expires and deletes itself after 24 hours.
Rod: So you're monitoring, if you're going to do this, you've got to have an organized effort. Can you talk a little bit about how that effort is organized?
Mike Parker: Sure. It's not effective to learn this during the crisis. It doesn't work. So you need to get involved in it now, so before the crisis. You don't have to personally learn it all. And for most fire and police agencies, they don't have the resources to do a lot of what should be done. So I frequently recommend either a statewide effort or an association to aggregate and be empowered to do some of this stuff. To learn about it, develop expertise in it, and then for multiple fire and police agencies to be able to leverage that. But most importantly, it starts somewhere. If you're going to do anything, at least start with something. And while there's a lot of pros and cons regarding Facebook, it is still the most commonly used platform by the public. So on a priority list, I would probably put Twitter first just because it's so fast to learn and also because it's the most popular by the news media. And they're going to really spread things that they find the public doing.
Rod: Okay. When we started, or I should say when I did an introduction to you, I talked about a string of car fires in Hollywood back in 2012. And I know that's reaching back with somebody who had a caseload like you. Can you talk a little bit about how that became organized? Because you brought a lot of different folks together. LA County Fire, LA Fire Department, LAPD and the Sheriff's Department.
Mike Parker: Sure. That's one of those ugly types of situations where the arsonist ... It's clearly arson fires that's happening repeatedly night after night. And it's difficult to capture the suspect. In this case, there were carport fires occurring, where apartment buildings that have adjoined car ports that have three sides to them, so it's open air on the other side. Somebody was going along and lightened the cars on fire, which of course would then light the apartment building on fire and he's doing it in the middle of the night. So fortunately, fortunately, no one was killed. But there were dozens and dozens of these fires. And they were occurring in Hollywood and the Los Angeles Police Department area and in West Hollywood, in the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department patrol area. So you had City Fire and County Fire involved as well. So this person was getting away with it night after night. And we were all chasing these fires, trying to keep people from getting killed.
So what we did was we created a unified command, so to speak, virtually. So we created a Twitter and Facebook account that was agreed upon by LA City Fire, LA County Fire, LA Sheriff, LAPD and ATF, and used it to both share and solicit information about these arson fires. And it was very effective. Frankly, the most difficult thing about it was not using social media, it was getting all the approvals from the different agencies and the trust that they would allow me to message on behalf of five agencies. So we have this now unified ... well we already had a unified command, we didn't have unified messaging. And through the Facebook and Twitter accounts, we were able to unify our messaging, which was important. Because otherwise you have five different agencies releasing information at different points in time, gathering information from five different ways. That's not necessarily ... it's definitely not efficient. But it's not typical that you can get all the agencies to agree, because you have your own protocols.
Rod: So what was the key in your situation?
Mike Parker: I had relationships with public information officers from each of the agencies or with very high ranking people with each agency. So trust was pivotal that we would not release information prematurely and so on. So it was done before the crisis. That was what was pivotal, is that we had those relationships before the crisis.
Rod: Yeah. Once again, like we hear in many of the messages that are given to us by experts, exchanging business cards for the first time during an event isn't a good idea. So a big part of your message that I've heard is, is the preparation and setting up all of the structure in advance and getting yourself ready to go. I also feel or understand how there is content coming in both directions. You know, you're getting content from people on social media, or throughout investigations within social media. And you're getting messages out to people with social media. So how do you verify and corroborate the information on an incident that you get from social media? How do you make sure it's valid? Do you need to follow up with actual in person interviews and documentation?
Mike Parker: Well, that's a great point. Because unfortunately there's people out there that will intentionally lie and create falsehoods, fake news, whatever you want to call it, for whatever thrill they get out of that and divert resources from where they need to be. People with more social media expertise can oftentimes do a quick look at some of the sources and rule out or really reduce the credibility of a source much, more so than you could with a standard phone call. And what I mean by that is, for example, let's say the person who is reporting information to you via social media has an account that clearly was created just a few days before, they've only messaged twice. That's not going to give you a lot of credibility. That's not going to give a lot of credibility to that person. Because they clearly just created the account.
But sometimes people who are legitimate will create a new account because they don't want to give up who they are. Well, we don't want people sharing investigatory information openly on social media anyway. So typically what we're going to do is any kind of tip that comes in via social media, we're going to respond to that person and say, "Hey, could you call us or could you email us?" Or whatever comfort zone they need to be able to communicate with us. So that what they're saying isn't publicly viewable, which means the news media could see it, broadcast it, contact the person and so on. And there are steps that you take to preserve what they share on social media, whether you're conversing with them. Or what's more commonly, they're just blurting out for the world to see their photos, videos or comments about what they've seen. And there's investigatory steps that you take to preserve that information. And what goes right along with that is simultaneously verifying its legitimacy.
Rod: Can you speak to those preservation techniques?
Mike Parker: Sure. It takes a little while to get into the details, but I would say that five key things is, one is access and assess. Two is preliminary basic preservation. Three is authentication. Four is verification. And then five is secure, preserve and document evidence.
Rod: As it is with so many other types of evidence, huh?
Mike Parker: Yeah. And what often is the case too, is that people will post something and then within an hour or two they'll delete it. And there's lots of reason for that. But oftentimes, especially in communities, that have more difficulty with crime or gangs, is that somebody will reach out to them and one of their friends will say, "Hey, you should take that down because otherwise the cops are going to show up and start asking you questions and you don't want that." So their friends start telling them, "Hey, you better delete that." And that's why as soon as you see it, immediately, if nothing else, at least do a screen capture. If you don't have that knowledge on how to do that on a computer screen or whatever you're looking at, take a picture of the screen. So if nothing else, you could use that to then potentially seek a search warrant later, if it was deleted and you ultimately determined that it's potentially really relevant to your case.
Rod: So let's say you're tasked with determining the responsibility of a crime or a fire. How do you go about searching social media, identify persons of interest?
Mike Parker: There are two key ways to find information about any given incident or event. One is a keyword search and two is geo-tagging. So one, keyword search. That's what you do every time you search Google. You take a couple key words like maybe you say you're thinking about, "Well I want to go out to a restaurant. What restaurants are close to me?" And you search restaurant and then the city that you're in. And it comes back with all kinds of restaurant names. Okay? That's a keyword search.
Two is with geo-tagging. As you know, when you turn on your GPS, your phone's location is now identified via satellite, knows exactly where you are. And that then enables you to do what people use it for the most, which is mapping and navigating. Well, when you turn on your geo-tag and you turn it on for a photo or video, that also identifies your exact location where that photo or video was taken. So that, using certain tools, you can find out, "Oh, what geo-tagged information was shared in the vicinity of the fire in the hour or two before, during, and after that period of time?" You can imagine how meaningful that information could be.
Rod: I bet. It's interesting how tempting these privacy issues are when you're ... just as a user. You know, when I go in and I look at, "Ah, do I really want everybody to know where I am at every given moment when I'm on vacation or when I'm doing something?" And the answer usually is I don't care. So I just let it tell the location. For a long, long time that geo-tagging is turned on. I'm guessing that that's the situation with most people.
Mike Parker: Yes. There's a lot more awareness today, especially people, for example, if they have their geo-tag on while they're on vacation and they're in Hawaii, if they're lucky. If they're in Hawaii on vacation, then what they've now telegraphed to anybody that follows the social media is, "I'm not home." great time to burglarize my home. That is a very real situation that occurs pretty regularly. At the same time, people often will leave their geo-tagging on because they're using the mapping and navigating feature and they forget about it. But that's the geo-tagging geo-location for your phone itself. But you can separately turn off or on the geo-tagging on your photographs or videos. So, from a personal safety standpoint, I highly recommend leaving it turned off unless you're going to use it for a purpose like navigating and then immediately turn it back off again.
Rod: Okay. What about if you have a person of interest and you want to review their social media history?
Mike Parker: Sure. Well, there are certainly legal statutes that address that and privacy issues with civil libertarians. And frankly, common sense is that for us to start reviewing, tracking, looking into an individual's social media use for law enforcement purposes as opposed to just your personal life, is that you need to have some kind of probable cause to be looking into that person's individual social media usage. The courts very much frown on us just going around and snooping into people just because. So there needs to be some probable cause. Obviously if someone is a person of interest to you it's because you have that probable cause. You have some type of reasonable suspicion that this person has some kind of involvement.
But oftentimes it can happen where this could very well be a witness. It's not that you think that this person did it, but you have a neighbor tell you, "Well I didn't see what happened but I know Bill was over there the other day and I think he knows the guy that lives there." So then you say, "Okay, well if we look into Bill's social media, he may have posted something about it." We've certainly found plenty, especially video, in the last year or two video has really increased regarding these types of incidents.
Rod: Yeah, so I'm thinking now taking it a step further, you've got this cause and then you need to go further. And I'm thinking about interacting with service providers to get access to information that might not be publicly available. How does that go? How does that happen?
Mike Parker: One example to that point I think is how many people now have Ring doorbell videos, if you're familiar with those, or similar brands. Or they have other kinds of video surveillance on their home or business. And it's on a loop, typically and depending upon how much they invested in their system, it might delete within 24 hours. So you want to, absolutely, I would consider an investigator incompetent to not look throughout the entire neighborhood that could, by any possibility, have videotaped any part of the scene or even a distance away from the scene. Because you could have it where somebody two blocks away has a video camera that's pointed at the street and have gotten the vehicle of the suspect as he's driving away. And some of the people that hear about that, like somebody that I know that there was a fire across the street from their home and they thought it was interesting and they used their home surveillance video and they just posted the video of the fire onto their personal Facebook page.
Mike Parker: But they only posted a fragment of it. So investigators were then able to find, they found that person's post. Then they contacted that person and said, "Hey, could we get the entire video?" Because the guy only posted, you know, 20 seconds. So they got the entire video that showed everything that happened for 20 minutes before. It showed the firefighters knocking down the fire, everything that happened afterwards. And we know that arsonists will often be in the vicinity watching the fire or fire services coming back and forth, that they've got obviously some issues regarding fire. So hanging around watching the fire, it's very interesting to see who's there.
Rod: Yeah, I bet.
Mike Parker: Potentially very relevant to your case. In addition to whether it's the suspect or not, it could be eyewitnesses who had an angle on what occurred, but they weren't the camera angle, they were a completely different angle.
Rod: So a lot can be learned there.
Mike Parker: Absolutely.
Rod: You touched on it a little bit, but I'm wondering if maybe you want to go a little bit further related to the legal hurt or ... Excuse me, the legal hurdles to accessing information on social media. Do you want to address some of that?
Mike Parker: Sure. Probably what's going to come up most often is the rights of a person who has filmed something but they don't want to give you the film. And typically it's with a cell phone. They videoed something and you're asking them for the video. And I'll tell you, I asked this in a room full of investigators and police officers and fire investigators. And say, "Okay, well let's say you found something with your cell phone. Are you willing to give the police officer or arson investigator, give him your cell phone? And he and that investigator says, 'Yeah, we'll give it back to you in a day or two.'?" Maybe one out of a thousand cops would even be willing to do that and they want to put the guy in jail. So what I find best, is number one, is use your cell phone to video what is on their cell phone. So at least you have something, right?
Mike Parker: Next is that what you should already have in place is a system where someone using a cell phone could upload their video virtually to a Dropbox of some kind. So your agency should already have this, should already have it in place, where members of the community can share evidentiary video or any kind of video. And I keep saying video rather than photos because photos, typically somebody could email you that. But if they've got video that's not easily ... you can't just send an email with video attached. So you need to have that upload capacity system, and many companies offer that. That, that person could up ... And the level of cooperation from the witnesses from that is very, very high. I mean, it's probably 99%. some of the ones that'll hold back, it's because they want to see if they can sell it to the news media first.
Rod: Anything else I missed?
Mike Parker: No, you've done a fine job. You can tell that we could go on for hours.
Rod: We could. I think people got enough from this. We often get feedback and it's good. And the feedback is also that they don't really want heavy duty, long, intense podcasts. They want to get some information and learn about where else to go and very often hear case studies. And to those of you listening, that's ... We're going to keep working on that. And this year we've got more of a technology theme. So Mike, I'm really grateful for your time. This is a really rich area for investigators that's continually gaining prominence, as more and more cases involve facts gathered from social media. So thanks for joining us today to open the conversation and give us a lot to think about.
Mike Parker: Well, thank you and thank you everybody who's listening and devoting their life to making life safer for everybody else. Thank you.
Rod: Be well, Mike. Be safe out there.
Mike Parker: Take care, bye.
Rod: Moving onto the news at the IAAI, it's almost time for the IAAI's ITC 2020 in Las Vegas. It'll take place this year, April 26th through May 1st. We have a special guest joining us to preview the conference, his name is Trace lawless. He's chair of the IAAI Training and Education Committee. Welcome to the podcast, Trace.
Trace Lawless: Good morning Rod, thank you.
Rod: We're glad you're here. So you're in Las Vegas prepping for this year's ITC. What's got you most fired up?
Trace Lawless: Oh yes, we arrived out here yesterday, the site selection group along with training. And we're really excited to be over at the new venue, Planet Hollywood this year, right down on the strip. Getting things ready to kick this event off on April 26th.
Rod: Anything specific about any of the classes or something that you really grabbed onto this year personally?
Trace Lawless: Yeah, the training group for ITC did an excellent job this year getting everything together. You know, we're going to start off that Monday morning with a case study presented by George Harms and Chad Campanell. It's a Molly Delgado case, which was a double homicide case that they're going to present before the whole conference group on Monday morning. And then we'll follow that up with over 100 hours of training throughout the entire week.
Rod: That's a new way to start things out, isn't it?
Trace Lawless: A little bit. We changed it up a little bit last year. Tried to take a different approach. We listened to our participants in their surveys and comments and came back that they liked the case studies and things directly related to fire investigation. So, that's what we do.
Rod: Great to listen. So how does the IAAI get all these renowned instructors and interesting topics year after year? How does that process work?
Trace Lawless: Well, we start about a year in advance. So in March of 2019 we opened up presentation proposals and those all come into a committee. I think this year we wound up with right at 120 total proposals that came into us. And I have a subgroup that works all year long on reviewing and talking with individuals and looking at their presentations and making sure all the content in the presentations are in compliance with the current 921 and 1033 additions to the NFPA. And that we can back up the presentation fundamentally and scientifically.
Rod: Sounds good. Why don't you tell us a little bit about the fire claims and investigation two day program. You've got a partnership with ICAC or ICAC.
Trace Lawless: That's correct. We've been going for several years with ICAC, the International Committee for Arson Control. We've absorbed their conference and ours. We do it as a partnership. It's turned out very well, so we'll continue doing the insurance track. During that, I believe about a month ago you, on the podcast, CFI Trainer highlighted the case study for framing and fraud spoofing and masking technologies. And technology is just a huge training and educational field within the fire investigation arena today. We'll also follow that up with recognizing some burn patterns to defraud the origin and cause investigator. Douglas Keller has a very good presentation on that and I think it'll be well-received. So we really enjoy our interaction and working relationship with ICAC.
Rod: Yeah, the insurance industry has always been a strong partner since I've been involved with everything going on in fire investigation. And well, that makes a whole lot of sense. Why should investigators .... Talk to the investigators. Why should investigators as professionals go to the IAAITC and what do they get out of it?
Trace Lawless: Well, it's the largest event that's held. This year we'll be well over 700 investigators participating in the conference. Outside of the training, which is top caliber first-class within the industry, it's the opportunity to network, share ideas, look at the future and have conversations amongst other peers within the industry. Because this is a peer-driven industry. As I mentioned before, NFPA 921, 1033, they're peer reviewed documents. And it is very important that we communicate and have that open communication to keep the industry moving in the right direction as far as education, science and law. In addition to that, I mean, it's an opportunity, as we set up the ITC this year at the new venue at Planet Hollywood, we have special events planned each evening for that networking to occur. From the hospitality side of it and the networking side of it, it's that general communication and find out what's happening all over the world. Because we'll have representatives from all over the world here at the conference, the end of April.
Rod: You know, it's always been a really nice size group. Whether it's 500, 600, 700, 800 it's a size group where you can go to these classes and hear something and hear about a case study. And then afterwards I see a lot of people just walk right up and are able to have a conversation. They might wait a few minutes, but they end up having a conversation with the instructors. And often that moves on to the restaurant or the bar and there's a lot of learning, huh?
Trace Lawless: Always, it's continued throughout the whole week. As I indicated, we have over 100 hours of training. That's the formal training in the classroom. And like you said, after that, it's all the other additional conversations. One person may ask a question and the next thing you know there's 10, 12, 15, 20 people standing around having an open dialogue discussion about that topic. You don't see that anywhere else in the industry.
Rod: Yeah. Let's face it as well, I mean, there's a lot of people in the private industry that are making sure they're known. They get out there and let people know what's up in their world. And it seems to be a great opportunity for finding work for the upcoming year and into their career.
Trace Lawless: Well, yes, that definitely goes on as far as building a client base if you're in the independent insurance side of the house. But like myself, I came out of the municipal sector. When I started attending these conferences years ago, that gave me, as a municipal fire investigator, the connections to the people who have the experience and the resources out there that you can pick up the phone and call somebody and say, "Hey, I met you at ITC. I've got this issue going on now." So the connections and the networking is tremendous.
Rod: You know, before we end this, I think there's one thing that's really important. And that is how hard it is for some people to take the time or get the funds to get out to ITC. If you were able to talk to the bosses of a lot of these people, what would you say? What's the argument that you'd give to the people who want to attend?
Trace Lawless: Well, the first conversation we always have is your employees need to be educated. That's the industry today, is education, certification, designations. And they have to show that continuing throughout their career. So when we talk about hosting a large conference like this in Las Vegas, it turns some management heads and say, "Well, it's Las Vegas. You're going on vacation." Believe me, it's not a vacation for anyone attending this conference. And we try to educate the supervisors or managers of that. We show them what we put together and the level of education and how it ties directly back to the standards and the guides that we use within the fire investigation profession.
So it always starts on the educational side. And for the value, I don't think it can be beat anywhere in this industry as far as the value. Because you not only get the educational, you get the networking, but we've got a lot of things built within the conference to make sure that the participant is comfortable, well-taken-care-of and at a reasonable place in a safe location. This hotel is absolutely beautiful. It's a very friendly hotel. A lot of people are always concerned, "Well, you're going to a casino." Truly you don't ever have to go to the casino floor here to be in the conference area. We've done that, we have a designated tower that all of our block of rooms are in. And that room block is filling up fast. We've almost maxed it out and that's always a good thing for us. But we can expand that and welcome as many guests that want to attend the 2020 conference.
Rod: Anything else I'm missing?
Trace Lawless: No, I would just like to throw out there that make sure you get online and register. We're about seven weeks out now from the event kicking off, maybe even a little less than that. Time all runs together when I'm going from the East Coast to the West Coast and everywhere else in the world. But make sure you go online, check out what we're offering at the ITC in 2020, reserve your room blocks here at the Planet Hollywood. There's many things included with that room block. So yeah, you can go out there and search and find a cheaper price in another hotel, or possibly here at Planet Hollywood, but you're not going to get the amenities that the IAAI have contracted that every guest of ours gets when they stay at the hotel. And stay for the whole week because we've got a special incentive for all week attendees that will be announced on Sunday at the registration. And we're looking forward to a very exciting, highly educational conference.
Rod: You know, Trace, I always hear education is motivating. So any of those people who can figure out a way to get out there, they can tell their bosses when they come back they're going to be better prepared. And I just believe in the training and education I see when I go out to these. For more information on the IAAI's ITC and to register for this year's conference in spectacular Las Vegas, go to IAAIITC.com or go to FireArson.com And click on the big banner there that's for this year's ITC. Thanks again, Trace.
Trace Lawless: Thank you, Rod.
Rod: For more info on the IAAI's ITC and to register for this year's conference in spectacular Las Vegas, go to IAAIITC.com or go to Fire Arson and click on the icon there or the logo. There's a highlighted area just for ITC. Again, that's IAAIITC.com, or you can go to FireArson.com and click on the link there that's set up for the ITC this year.
Rod: This podcast and CFITrainer.net are made possible by funding from the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program administered by FEMA and the US Department of Homeland Security. We also get support from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and voluntary online donations from CFITrainer.net users and podcast listeners. Thanks for joining us today on the podcast. Stay safe and we'll see you next time for the IAAI and CFITrainer.net, I'm Rod Ammon.
Kausch, Katie. Bound Brook man charged with arson in massive downtown fire. NJ.com. 14 Jan 2020.
Stevens, Matt and Richard Winton. Social media sites are crucial in arson probe. Los Angeles Times. 2 Jan 2012.
Knaus, Christopher. Bots and trolls spread false arson claims in Australian fires 'disinformation campaign.' The Guardian. 7 Jan 2020.
Delong, Katie and Angelica Sanchez. "I'm the one that did it:" Homicide charges filed after fatal arson caught on camera. Fox6now.com. 21 June 2017
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.
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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.
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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...
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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.
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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.