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By Charles C. Roberts, Jr. Ph. D., P.E.

Event data recorders are typically electronic devices that store information received from sensors connected to the device.  An event data recorder is often referred to as a “black box,” a familiar recording device found on many large passenger aircraft. Event data recorders are now being designed into many other products to aid in diagnosing problems that may arise with usage of the product.  Automobiles, electronic panels, alarm systems and some appliances are equipped with event data recorders.  When a loss occurs, it is becoming more likely that some evidentiary information concerning the loss will be recorded on some device.  Typical recorded data may be the time a heat sensor activated in a fire alarm panel, the number of loads handled by a clothes dryer, or the speed of an automobile prior to a collision.  The following three examples illustrate the type of data retained in “black boxes” and their significance.  It should be noted that this article deals with numerical data retained and not visual data retained from the prolific surveillance camera.

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Abstract

Grilling has become part of many celebrations and regular meals. Unfortunately, grilling also causes fires and burns. National estimates of reported fires derived from the U.S. Fire Administration’s National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) and NFPA’s annual fire department experience survey show that in 2009-2013, grills, hibachis or barbecues were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires per year, including an average of 3,900 structure fires and 5,100 outside or unclassified fires. These 8,900 fires caused annual averages of 10 civilian deaths, 160 reported civilian injuries, and $118 million in direct property damage. Almost all of the losses resulted from structure fires. Five out of six grills involved in reported fires were fueled by gas. The leading causes of grill fires were a failure to clean, having the grill too close to something that could catch fire and leaving the grill unattended. Leaks or breaks were primarily a problem with gas grills. In 2014, 8,700 thermal burns involving grills were seen in hospital emergency departments. Roughly three out of five thermal burns were non-fire burns, typically caused by contact with the grill or its contents. Children under five accounted for one-third of the contact burns involving grills.

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Order granting Motion for Spoliation sanctions and dismissing for failure to follow NFPA 921. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a good discussion of the basics and how poor housekeeping led to a very bad result.  Submitted by Michael Durr, Experienced Tennessee Subrogation & Recovery Attorney, on LinkedIn for discussion.  Click here to join the discussion.

BACKGROUND

The facts of this case are generally undisputed and have been set forth in detail, for the most part, in the Court’s prior Order on Defendant’s Motion for Spoliation Sanctions. (Dkt. No. 35.) In sum, Plaintiff Bear River claims that the speed control deactivation switch (SCDS) in the 1994 Ford F-150 pickup truck owned by its insureds, Jeff and Julie Schoepf, was defective and caused a fire that spread from the truck to the Schoepf’s house.1 Bear River’s claim is based on an investigation conducted by Bear River’s expert, Tad Norris, a fire investigator with IC Specialty Services, who was assigned to inspect the scene and determine the origin of the fire.  On behalf of Bear River, Mr. Norris inspected the scene and decided what evidence should be preserved without Ford’s presence, consent or input. As part of that investigation, Mr. Norris removed the SCDS’ hexport and electrical housing and claims that he sent both to another expert, Jeff Morrill, who requested an examination of the hexport. Mr. Morrill acknowledged receipt of the hexport, but claims he never received the electrical housing. Following Norris’ inspection and investigation, the scene of the fire was destroyed. Additionally, Plaintiff lost the hexport before it could be inspected and tested by Ford, and Plaintiff lost the electrical housing before inspection and/or testing by anyone.

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Selecting Among Engineer Experts (aka, What Kind of Expert Do I need for This Loss?) JH Nolt June 29, 2017
Do you want your Proctologist doing your Neuro-surgery? They are both licensed MDs aren't they?
Do you want your Wills and Trusts Attorney working on your Subrogation case? They are both licensed Attorneys aren't they?
Do you want your Workman's Comp adjuster handling your Large Property Liability loss? Adjusters are all licensed adjusters aren't they?
Similar concerns exist amont the various engineering disciplines and licenses. They are all forensic engineers aren't they?
In a word - No, No, No and No.

While there are over 10,000 different types of experts, in California there are eighteen types of licensed engineers.  

The three main types are:
  • Civil
  • Electrical
  • Mechanical

 

The others are:

  • Agricultural Engineer
  • Chemical Engineer
  • Control System Engineer
  • Corrosion Engineer
  • Fire Protection Engineer
  • Industrial Engineer
  • Manufacturing Engineer
  • Metallurgical Engineer
  • Nuclear Engineer
  • Petroleum Engineer
  • Quality Engineer
  • Safety Engineer
  • Soils (Gotechnical) Engineer
  • Structural Engineer
  • Traffic Engineer

 

 

 

 

 

To obtain any of these licenses, there are specific education, experience, expertise, examination and professional peer recommendation requirements that are reviewed and approved (or rejected) by technical peers before the license is granted.

The following pages try to help you understand the differences amount the engineer types so you make better expert selections at the beginning of your loss investigation.  At the end, website addresses are provided so you can check an engineering expert for proper licensure.

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On May 18, 2017, the United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsyvania, ruled that a plaintiff's electrical engineering expert could not testify regarding the origin of a fire and fur excluded a portion of his testimony regarding the fire cause.

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This article was member submitted and includes a short comment about the article at the bottom.

A phase-out of environmentally damaging chemicals means that most refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners may soon be using flammable refrigerants.

BY JESSE ROMAN

 

Like a suitor spurned over and over in love, the refrigeration and air conditioning industries can’t seem to find a good partner. While the mechanics of these indispensible technologies have been stable for decades, the substances that circulate through them absorbing heat and cooling the air—aptly named refrigerants—keep finding ways to foul things up.

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White Paper-NHTSA

A Case Study of 214 Fatal Crashes Involving Fire.
Carl L. Ragland
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Hsi-Sheng Hsia
Research and Special Programs Administration
United States
Paper Number 9X-S4-O-08
Carl L. Ragland
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Hsi-Sheng HsiaResearch and Special Programs Administration
United States
Paper Number 9X-S4-O-08

ABSTRACT
A detailed case study of 214 fatal tire related 
crashes was conducted to determine whether the death was 
caused by the fire or blunt trauma. The cases were also 
examined to determine the specific crash conditions which 
caused the fire. This analysis was necessary because none 
of the existing fatal crash databases contained sufficient 
details to determine the impact configuration or the cause 
of death. Two hundred and ninety three (293) fatalities 
occurred in these crashes. Sixty-five (65) ofthese fatalities 
resulted from fire, with 30 of these fatalities from 16 rear 
impacts. The speed of impact was determined in eight of 
the 16 cases which caused these 30 burn fatalities. In these 
eight cases, the average rear impact speed was 54 mph with 
speeds ranging from 50 - 60 mph, at 7 1% overlap (7 1 % of 
the rear vehicle width engaged), and collinear at 6:00 
O’clock. By projecting these cases to the national sample, 
the number of rear impact fire related fatalities may be 
estimated between 94 and 191.

Wildfire Origin and Cause Investigation

Part 1

As the spring fire season approaches, fire investigators across the country will be responding to wildfires to conduct origin and cause investigations. In many jurisdictions, investigators are assigned to a type of investigation that is unfamiliar. During the response, the investigator may be thinking that it is no big deal, having already investigated hundreds of structure fires. How hard can a wildfire be? The answer is simple; you must be trained in wildfire investigation to understand the process.

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Part 2

In Part 2 of “Wildfire Origin and Cause Investigation,” we will continue to discuss the main points for the local fire investigator to focus on when conducting a wildfire investigation. Hopefully, last month’s article was an eyeopener for some local investigators to expand their education. The topics we will cover this month will be fire cause determination and fire cause categories/ignition sources. Investigators should become familiar with NFPA 921 and NWCG Wildfire Origin and Cause Determination Handbook.

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Zero-clearance fireplaces a main source of fires

Chief: Almost one-third of High Desert house fires caused by zero-clearance fireplaces

A Helendale house fire earlier this month that caused $50,000 in damages was the latest in a string of residential blazes to be traced to a zero-clearance fireplace, a County Fire official said.

Battalion Chief Warren Peterson blames zero-clearance fireplaces for roughly 30 percent of house fires responded to by San Bernardino County Fire.

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USDC Pennsylvania Permits Vaporizer Fire Case to Proceed to Trial

In MUTUAL BENEFIT INSURANCE COMPANY v. KAZ, INC.,Civil Action No. 1:12-CV-2108 (Feb. 20, 2014) at http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20FDCO%2020140221C81 was a civil action filed by plaintiff Mutual Benefit Insurance Company ("MBIC"), as subrogee of Betty and Allen Miller, alleging strict liability, negligence, and breach of warranty against defendant Kaz, Inc. ("Kaz"). MBIC seeks reimbursement of monies paid pursuant to an insurance policy issued to the Millers, whose house was damaged in a fire. MBIC alleged that Kaz designed, manufactured, distributed, and sold a vaporizer that caused the fire. Presently before the court is Kaz's motion in limine to exclude the testimony of one of MBIC's submitted experts, Randolph Marshall of Marshall Forensic, LLC. For the following reasons, the court denied the motion.

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The Six Motives for Firesetting

At any point during your career as a fire investigator you will be assigned to investigate an incendiary fire. When the investigator arrives on the scene, information about the incident will be coming from a variety of sources, including police, firefighters, witnesses and the occupants or owner. It is critical to sort all of the information and analyze it properly. During the investigation we must use critical thinking and ask many questions such as, why was this fire was deliberately set? Why was the home, business or vehicle the target of an arsonist? What was the motivation of the arsonist?

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