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 May 2011 CFITrainer.Net Podcast.
This podcast follows the IAAI ATC in Las Vegas. If you were able to attend, then you know what a valuable event the Annual Training Conference is for your fire investigation career. While we there, other than seeing great training going on and a lot of networking of your peers, we, as the production team, used the time to work on two new productions for the IAAI. We completed video interviews of participants from around the country for the IAAI informational program that’s going to be available online and on DVD, and we also worked on producing an orientation video for people planning on attending the evidence collection technician practicum. Next year’s ATC is in Dover, Delaware. Keep on the look-out for the new information about the Dover ATC so you can plan on it for next year. The date for the Dover ATC is April 22nd-27th, 2012.
Last year, we began a series focusing on understanding the potential short- and long-term health implications of working at fire scenes. Our first installment, broadcast in April 2010, dealt with acute health problems that can occur at the fire scene. The second installment, broadcast in May 2010, discussed the possible health ramifications of long-term exposure to hazardous substances and conditions present at the fire scene. Both of these podcasts are available to you on the main CFITrainer.Net podcast page. In this episode, our roundtable discusses proactive measures you can take to protect and monitor your health throughout your career. Our roundtable is moderated by Robert Schaal, past President of IAAI, and the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the ATF’s New Orleans Field Division.
Let’s go to Bobby and the Roundtable participants&helip;
ROBERT SCHAAL: This is Bob Schaal. With me today is Barry Lindley with DuPont Chemical Emergency Response Solutions, Russ Melton, an attorney with Meagher & Geer, the Catastrophic Loss Unit, and Mike Donahue, Fire Investigation Training Manager at the National Fire Academy. Barry, as fire investigators, what are we talking about when we’re talking about monitoring our health? What do we mean by that?
BARRY LINDLEY: Well we have two different things that we need to consider. We need to consider acute health effects, things that are going to happen immediately such as exposure to things like carbon monoxide or hydrogen cyanide or acrolein or any number of chemicals, and then we have our chronic health effects we have to look at because some of the byproducts from several fires are either carcinogens, mutagens or other of the nice, long-term health effect materials. So we have to worry about monitoring our health for both of those.
ROBERT SCHAAL: Mike, in your previous job performance you were a fire investigator and you’ve devoted a lot of time to fire investigator safety. What are some of the health concerns that you’ve found fire investigators face?
MIKE DONAHUE: This is Mike. So you have to look at all types of hazards, not just those that might pose an exposure risk because focusing just on that might cause a situation to occur where you are injured by some other mechanism.
ROBERT SCHAAL: Russ, that brings up an interesting point. Often times fire investigators get to the scene after suppression is done and they think that a lot of the risks are alleviated. What type of preventive measures should fire investigators take when they’re doing their origin and cause investigation?
RUSSELL MELTON: Education is number one, followed by communication, followed by communication and communication, but the education is extremely important for the preventative care measures to make an identification of what hazards you are facing and then choose the appropriate PPE or, if necessary, the appropriate engineering controls or, if appropriate, the administrative controls. Those are the preventive care measures that you can take.
ROBERT SCHAAL: I guess one of the things that’s kind of not really well understood is the causal relationship between the health risks and tying it back to the fire scene. How do we go about doing that? Do we do some type of initial screening prior to beginning that type of assignment and then continue to monitor health throughout their career? Are there governing documents that spell that out for the fire investigation community? Barry, can you address that one?
BARRY LINDLEY: There are several documents out there. Unfortunately, not all of them will address that. One of the most important documents to address that is when you talk about a hazmat scene as an IAP, and that’s your action plan on what you’re going to do, and in that IAP it has specific plan for every scene and you need to treat that scene per your plan, and in that you develop health hazards, safety hazards, how to do monitoring, all the different aspects of being a safe responder at that point.
RUSSELL MELTON: I think we’re - this is Russ again - where we were headed on this, the IAP has incorporated the HAS, which is very important, and that’s a good record to keep because before you get into this business, there’s certain certifications you have to have, there’s certain medical surveillance programs that would be internally prior to admission to a hazmat team, and I think it’s above and beyond the OSHA requirements. I believe the OSHA requirements require a medical exam every two years, but I think one of the areas where fire investigators should look at is having an annual medical surveillance at a local clinic. But the real question is, what is the extent and magnitude of that medical surveillance or medical exam, and I was going to flip that back to Mike and Barry because from two different directions - one from industry and one from fire service - as to what the extent of that medical exam should be prior to entry.
MIKE DONAHUE: This is Mike. I think what we need to do is focus on - the physical exam and the medical surveillance program needs to be focused around as if you were a member of a hazmat team. OSHA has some very, very specific standards such HazWOpER 29CFR1910.120 that outlines for a medical surveillance program for a hazmat team member, someone who wears a respirator more 30 times a year, there are some specific requirements, and it’s not just the physical you would have for an administrative position, for example, where you would go into a normal physician, you know, check your eyesight, check your hearing. I mean, these individuals might be working in teams, as Barry and others have mentioned a while ago, where hazardous chemicals are present such as formaldehyde and hydrogen cyanide, and certainly you’d want your medical screening to be such that those types of hazards and those risks are taken into account. So, for example, some diagnostic - maybe some prediagnostic screening for certain types of cancers such as bladder cancer, heavy metal exposure, there’s - and significant blood profiles to make sure that whether it’s exposure to some things such as led or something else that might be in these environments, it really, really is a rigorous program and it starts at the top of the organization. They have to have a commitment and the understanding that the risks and hazards that fire investigators might be facing at a scene are real, and based on that they developed a program that includes standard operating procedures, strict policies and issuance of personal protective equipment, mandatory medical surveillance that is - and I agree - annually has to be done. You have to establish a baseline exam and have it done every single year so that if someone is exposed to something, goes for a follow-up, they have something to go back and compare it to to see whether or not there is or isn’t a problem.
ROBERT SCHAAL: What type of PPE can investigators use on the scene? Should they be issued? And what kind of routine monitoring equipment do they have to help them further identify the risks that may not be identified in the general assessment.
MIKE DONAHUE: This is Mike Donahue. I’ll take a stab at that. It all starts out with an assessment of the hazards in their workplace, which is not their office, it’s not the fire station, it’s not the police station, it’s the fire scene, and there’s enough data out there from all the studies that have been done. We obviously can’t characterize every single compound that might be at a scene, but we certainly know when something burns there’s going to be a common set of chemicals or off gases that are produced. So based on that we can then take that data and say, okay, if I’m an investigator going to work in this environment for any given period of time, I might be exposed to this list of common hazards. Based on the analysis of the common hazards, the organization goes back and says, okay, now that I know this person might be exposed to these hazards, what’s the proper personal protective equipment that provides an adequate minimum baseline level of protection. You start with a basic head-to-toe ensemble of safety equipment at any scene regardless. It starts from head protection, eye protection, gloves, foot protection, steel toe, steel shank shoes, boots, everything, and then based on that you determine the appropriate level of respiratory protection. Most folks today seem to opt for either the half-faced air purifying respirator or the full-face air purifying respirator. But these are negative pressure devices, they’re not positive pressure devices such as self-contained breathing apparatus, so if you were going to an immediately dangerous to life and health environment obviously those devices could not be used. That determination is, again, based on an assessment at the scene at the time by the investigator, or if they’re working with a fire department that might have a safety officer assigned who might be doing some monitoring at the scene, they can help make that determination because if the agency has not issued, trained and certified and fit tested, for example, that individual on the various types of personal - or, I should say, respiratory protection, then even though the scene might require a positive pressure device, obviously they would not be able to use it because they have not been trained and certified and equipped to do so.
ROBERT SCHAAL: Barry, what type of monitoring equipment would you recommend investigators use? And I’m sure there’s a wide range of complexities, but are there any easy-to-use monitoring equipment that are kind of like a must have for first investigators?
BARRY LINDLEY: There are some good, quick monitoring devices out there. Of course, standard four gas monitor with explosibility, oxygen, carbon monoxide and then maybe another fourth toxic of some type is a good way to get some IDLH conditions around oxygen and carbon monoxide levels. Then you can use a photoionization detector, or abbreviated PID, which is a very general instrument for organics, that it will pick up most of the toxics so you can use it as a toxic sensor in a quick manner.
RUSSELL MELTON: Bobby, this is Russ again. One of the issues I look at most frequently in our business is that when you have a large commercial loss, these resources are readily available, but it’s when you are doing the residential loss, there may be only one or two people - the CSI and the causation engineer, and perhaps a might be the adjustor on the case or the handler. As a consequence, that education comes back again because you don’t have all the resources. As a consequence, I like the idea of a checklist, and, of course, a checklist should really be - the physical hazards have to be determined before you go in and you have to have, I’d say at a minimum, level A, level B, to make an analysis, to make the determination as to what the chemical hazards are. And then from there, you can make a determination as to how the actual C&O is going to be conducted.
ROBERT SCHAAL: As you do this slide assessment or the safety checklist, is it recommended that you document these known hazards and known exposures and then retain that information either in your file or something else?
RUSSELL MELTON: This is Russ. Yes to all those questions because it’s not - you do have the potential for contaminants outside the perimeter, which might be a third party action, you have the potential, obviously, where it occurred, the site itself, the onsite contamination, and the people that might be exposed to that would obviously be the workers, the investigators, the engineers, and anyone of them, at a later date, may bring a claim for exposure, and if you do not have those records you could be in serious trouble trying to prove the negative. As a consequence, you do need to get the data and save the data, and remember this though, is that even though there are no hits, you get nothing. Sometimes having no readings is probably more important than the occasional sporadic trigger, and I think Barry can address that.
BARRY LINDLEY: Yes, and Russ makes a very good point. In fact, if you look at the laws that OSHA puts out, those medical records become legal binding documents for years. You know, when you look at the industrial site, we have to keep those for 30 years after the folks have gotten off the hazmat team, so you want to make sure that you do a good job of documentation because it is your safety for that purpose. It’s not only the safety of the others, but it’s your safety that you’re playing with if you don’t do - keep all your records and things, how do you know what you’ve been exposed to?
MIKE DONAHUE: Russ makes an excellent point, documentation of this is key because it serves a couple other important purposes. For example, I think a lot of folks in the profession today probably don’t feel very well when they leave a scene. They just - that’s normally the way they feel, they expect to feel that way. Hey, they worked at a fire scene, they know there’s probably some things that are in the scene that may not be very good for them to be working in and around, but they just blow it off and they go home and they do this day in and day out until at some point, you know, maybe it catches up with them, maybe it doesn’t. So at some point in time they want to file a claim or they want to go back and try and show that based on the work that they did over a certain period of time they were exposed to some hazards that caused some kind of medical condition at this point and it would be very simple to - using a checklist or using some kind of document, whether an exposure form or whatever, you know, start keeping track of those scenes, especially those scenes where you know there were hazardous chemicals present and it can be very well, and easily, documented so that if you do have to come up with a document or show proof that hey, I was at that scene, I worked it for this amount of time, here’s the part of the scene that I worked in, so that it might be very, very helpful down the road should that instance occur.
RUSSELL MELTON: That’s what I like about the IAP. We used to call the principal portion of that, the HAS, the health and safety plan, but that’s only one leg of this. But what are you doing as far as the clinics you choose prior to and the clinics you choose on your annual basis? And then there’s the other side, what about specialists? I’d like to kind of throw that out because I believe that you take it a step further and you take it to pulmonology and urology, and those are two areas I think are extremely important. Any comments on that Bobby?
ROBERT SCHAAL: I think the health and screening practice is critical, and I think there’s a misunderstanding throughout the profession on the various roles that everyone plays. I think what you all have been kind of discussing a little big is obviously the OSHA standards that are out there, and if a state is not an OSHA state, they have to have a plan that meets or exceeds that level, but these plans lay out responsibilities of both the employer and the employee and I think that gets lost in the wash somewhere, and how do we break down those barriers, Russ?
RUSSELL MELTON: You work with your employer on developing a form that you actually take to the clinic, the industrial clinic that’s doing the medical surveillance and you make sure that they are the blood tests, you make sure that they are the x-rays, and then you have on the side, once a year perhaps, an examination by a urologist and perhaps the x-rays read and reviewed by someone in pulmonology because it’s critical. Those are the two primary areas that I see we have problems in our industry.
MIKE DONAHUE: This is Mike, and I think another good point to make too is that I worked on a project some years ago specifically on the OSHA standards and what employers were responsible for doing versus what employees were responsible for doing, and what I tell folks is look, the best document you can get a hold of is not the regulation or standard itself, but most of the major OSHA standards, either federal or state, that impact fire investigators are going to have some what’s called a compliance guide, and these compliance guides are what the compliance officers use, typically use, to go out and do a workplace inspection. So it tells them, using a checklist format, the basic tenets of that regulation, and if they’re going into a workplace to do that inspection, what are the key things they need to look for in terms of compliance and non-compliance, and almost all these documents, you can go in and spells out what the employer is responsible for doing versus what the employee is responsible for doing.
ROBERT SCHAAL: I think, as all three of you have stressed education, I think that’s one of the reasons that, Barry, you through DuPont Chemical Emergency Responsive Solutions, came to the IAAI, and Russ Melton through the Institute of Forensic Investigators, and we partnered to deliver the hazmat course hoping that we would bring some good foundational knowledge to the fire investigation community, and I know you just had the first offering. Do you think that’s going to be a step in the right direction?
RUSSELL MELTON: Well probably I can address that quickly. We had a lot of comments. It’s a very intensive week. One individual mentioned that - and I quote him, "This past week was an investment in the longevity of my life as it relates to safety and preserving my life and others on how to approach events of this nature. It’s just not another piece of paper to hang on the wall." I think another one that is - the quote is, "Instructors worked well together and provided me information that will change the way I work fire scenes forever." I liked that one. But I think that gives you an idea, yes, it’s a lot of work and it’s hard to get the education, the knowledge, but it’s for your own safety and the safety of others.
ROBERT SCHAAL: Well I thank you all for participating today, and hopefully we can continue to expand the knowledge and improve fire safety - safety in the fire investigation field because these risks are real and it can happen to you, and again, I thank you all for participating today.
Thanks to all of our participants in this month’s roundtable. For your family, your colleagues, and yourself, make taking care of your health a priority.
Finally, a few notes from the IAAI. Just another reminder, next year’s ATC is in Dover Delaware at Dover Downs April 22nd-27th.
We’d also like you to keep checking in at the IAAI’s website at firearson.com. There’s information there about training around the country that’s coming near you&helip;
That concludes this IAAI CFITrainer.Net podcast. Don’t forget to check out the links on this podcast’s page for more information on our roundtable topic. 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.