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All across the United States, Canada, and beyond, deeply controversial “smart meters” for electricity have been catching on fire and even exploding, sparking a major scandal that in at least one Canadian province has forced authorities to start removing all of the more than 100,000 devices. In Oregon, utility officials also announced that tens of thousands of smart meters were being replaced following numerous reports of fires. With the manufacturer saying the problems are systemic in the industry, experts predict more disasters to come as governments continue foisting the “smart grid” on the world in the face of growing opposition.

With the latest news of fires and explosions, it now seems to critics and politicians that in the frantic rush to impose the "smart" electric meters in defiance of public resistance, serious safety concerns were pushed aside — along with growing fears about the health and privacy implications surrounding the technology. With the latest news about the potentially deadly consequences, officials across the continent are scrambling for answers, and taxpayers are likely to be stuck with a massive bill.


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Opinions on this subject will vary.

Description

This recall involves Giggles International Animated Sing-Along Monkey toys. The monkey is made of brown and beige plush material and is about 9 inches tall. The toy is designed to hold a song book titled "5 Little Monkeys" and to sing the song when activated. A red music note is on the bottom of the monkey's right foot and the face of a child with its hands covering its eyes are on the bottom of the money's left foot. Recalled sing-along monkeys were manufactured between 6/7/2014 and 7/5/2014 and have batch code GP1410028.  The manufacture date in the M/D/YYYY format and batch code are printed on the bottom of a white fabric label attached near the base of the monkey's tail. The monkey toys came in a tan colored box with words "Animated Sing-Along Monkey," "Sing along with me!" and "I play peek-a-boo with you!" on the front. The age advisory "For ages 3+" and the warning that batteries are included are also on the front of the box.


See the full details at CPSC.

Description

The recall involves PowerPact J-frame molded case circuit breakers with thermal-magnetic trip units.  The circuit breakers are made of black plastic and have a three-position breaker handle that indicates whether the breaker is off, on or tripped.  The recalled circuit breakers are rated for 150 to 250 amps, have interruption ratings of D, G, J, L and R.  They were manufactured in two pole and three pole configurations with either lug-in/lug-out or plug-in (I-Line) style connectors.

Brand name “Schneider Electric” or “Square D” is on a yellow sticker above the breaker handle and on the top of a label on the side of the circuit breaker.  A label on the front of the circuit breaker to the left of the breaker handle has the catalog number at the top.  The number also appears on a label on the side of the breaker.  Schneider Electric catalog numbers begin with “NJ” and Square D catalog numbers begin with “J.”

A label on the front of the circuit breaker to the right of the breaker handle has the date code in the lower right corner.  Recalled circuit breakers were manufactured from March 26, 2014 through September 26, 2014 and have date codes 14131 through 14395. The date codes are in the YYWWD format (example: 14131 = year 2014, week 13, day of the work week 1/ Monday).

See the full details at CPSC.

In the new issue of NFPA Journal®, President Jim Shannon said the Association will focus on the leading causes of home fires, including cooking. "We also need to continue to push hard for home fire sprinklers. That's still a large priority for NFPA, and we plan to work very aggressively in 2014 on our residential sprinkler initiative," he said.

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Fire Protection Research Foundation report: "Development of Standardized Cooking Fires for Evaluation of Prevention Technologies: Data Analysis"
Authors: Joshua Dinaburg, Daniel Gottuk – Hughes Associates, Inc.

July 2014 report

Beginning in 2010, the Foundation began a program to review the potential effectiveness of various technologies potentially capable of preventing cooking range top fires. A workshop conducted as part of that project considered the emergence of commercial products on the market and identified the need to develop standardized tests and criteria to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of such devices. This report summarizes and analyzes the results of two live fire test series conducted to form the basis for such a test protocol.

Download the report. (PDF, 5 MB) Download the executive summary. (PDF, 20 KB) October 2013 report

Cooking-equipment related fires are a leading cause of U.S. fire loss. Beginning in the mid 1980’s, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Consumer Product Safety Commission, and home appliance industry undertook a comprehensive review of strategies to mitigate death, injury and property loss from cooking fires. All strategies were engineering strategies defined by a condition to be detected (e.g., overheat of pan or food in pan, absence of person actively engaged in cooking process, early-stage fire on stovetop) and an action to be taken (e.g., shut off cooking heat, sound alarm, suppress fire). As part of this study, a comprehensive review of existing technologies was done.

In 2010, the Foundation conducted a study supported by NIST to develop this action plan. The study focused particularly on prevention technologies suitable for use on or with home cooking appliances. and consisted of a literature and technology review; the development of an enhanced technology evaluation methodology based on an in-depth review of cooking fire statistics; and the evaluation of currently available technologies using this methodology. The project culminated with a one day workshop of 35 leaders from the kitchen appliance, fire service, and user communities who met to review the above findings and identify gaps in information. The highest priority action item identified at that workshop toward implementation of commercially available cooking fire mitigation technologies was: "Develop standard fire scenarios and create test methods and performance criteria which can feed into standards development"

This report presents the results of a follow on project sponsored by NIST to gather data towards this goal.

Download the report. (PDF, 2 MB)

SUMMARY:

Kia Motors America (Kia) is recalling certain model year 2014 Kia Forte vehicles manufactured December 5, 2012, to April 17, 2014. In the affected vehicles, the cooling fan resistor may overheat and melt.

See full details at NHTSA

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Outfitting Your Smartphone for Fire Investigations

by:

Cathleen E. Corbitt-Dipierro

Stonehouse Media Incorporated

www.interfire.org

Smartphones are quickly taking over the US cellular phone hardware market — iPhone, Droid, Blackberry, Palm, just to name a few brands.  With their advanced computing capability, smartphones are enabling users to perform more and more tasks on their phone than just the simple calling and texting.  This computing power is harnessed by “apps,” which are application software programs used on smartphones.


For the fire investigator, the smartphone can become a handy tool in your daily work, but only if you know how to outfit it.  This article highlights some of the core apps that fire investigators can use every day to assist in managing their investigative and administrative work.  One caution before we begin: the investigator should be aware that any investigative information kept on your smartphone is not secure and also may be discoverable in a future legal proceeding.  For that reason, we’ve confined the discussion of apps in this article to those where case-based investigative information is not stored or shared.  At all times, exercise the utmost caution with investigative information.


Weather
There are a variety of weather apps available, from simple forecasts, to detailed Doppler radar, to live lightning strike data.  Weather apps can help you in many ways:


  • Figuring weather information into your investigative plan.  For example, sunset times will tell you if you might need to call for supplementary lighting and watching the radar of incoming inclement weather will provide critical data, so you can deploy investigative assets accordingly.
  • Employing weather data in your investigative fact-finding process, such as corroborating a witness’ statement that it was dark at a certain time or ascertaining whether a lighting strike might have been the cause of a fire.
  • Understand what special scene security and processing measures need to be taken, such as covering ventilation holes in the roof if rain is approaching or whether high humidity will prevent your evidence samples from air drying promptly.


Most weather apps have auto location based on the GPS signal from your phone, meaning that the app knows where you are and provides the weather data for that location.  You can also lookup weather for a different area and program a favorites list for different locations you travel to repeatedly.

Mapping
Mapping applications, many of which are GPS-based, have both administrative and investigative value.  Using the GPS in the phone and the mapping app, you are able to:

  • Enter the address of the call you are going to and immediately get customized directions.
  • Plan a route from one location to another for a given day and receive a custom route.
  • Use the phone as a mobile GPS to get walking directions from one address to another, which can assist in tracing witness routes, finding the vantage point a witness had, or understanding the spatial relationship between addresses.
  • Obtain an overhead map showing all the roads into a certain area or to a certain address, which can help you understand witness statements, potential access points to a property, and arrival and departure routes for vehicles.


Mapping can also be used in other apps that help you find traffic, tides, mass transit, or parking information.

Remember that any information gleaned from one of these apps should be verified with another source. Roads change, streets are temporarily closed, and other events occur that may make the situation on the ground not the same as it is in a published map.


Administrative Management
There are a wide variety of management and productivity apps that can help you organize your daily tasks, including:

  • “To do” list apps, many with the ability to manage multiple custom “to do” lists.
  • Contacts apps to manage all your outside expert and scene management resources, from forensic chemists on call to heavy equipment excavators.
  • Calendar apps to keep track of your appointments, training sessions, meetings, and presentations.
  • Email “on the road,” set to copy yourself, to assist in communicating with your office, including your whereabouts, which is especially important if you are working a scene alone.
  • A business card reader that scans a card placed on the screen of your smartphone and stores it with your contacts.
  • An “hours tracker,” which is especially useful for private sector fire investigators, where you can track your hours working on individual projects using just a few finger taps.
  • A dictation app that you can use to make notes to yourself or to forward to others.


Take a little time to think about the administrative tasks you do every day and then search the available apps for your device to see what’s out there to help you manage and streamline the administrative process.

Incident Management
There are several Incident Command System apps that can help the investigator handle large incidents, including the National Incident Management System (NIMS) components, concepts, and planning forms.  Some of the ICS apps also provide an interactive look at the chain of command structure, which can assist with proper reporting at the scene.

Scene Safety
There are a number of apps available, and more are under development, that assist the investigator in working safely at the scene.  Some examples of currently available scene safety apps include:

  • NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
  • DOT 2008 Emergency Response Guidebook
  • Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders (WISER) from the U.S. National Library of Medicine


These apps can assist in identifying hazards at the scene and provide information on how to respond to the identified hazard.

Locators
There are a number of locator apps available that can help the investigator find businesses nearby. Some locator apps also provide ratings and reviews for these businesses.  A locator app works by using the GPS in the smartphone to determine your location, and then searching a database of nearby businesses that fit the criteria you enter, which is typically a category of business or government, and sometimes augmented with additional search filters, such as distance, price, or number of “stars.” These locator apps can be extremely helpful when you are not familiar with the location and can assist you in both physical comfort and investigative ways.

Some examples of what you can find with locator apps include:

  • The address of the nearest government and public service offices, including firehouses, police stations, courthouses, and federal offices.
  • A restaurant for lunch or coffee.
  • A nearby hotel if the investigation keeps you overnight unexpectedly.
  • A repair shop if you have car or equipment trouble.
  • A list of gas stations nearby, which can help you canvass for where an ignitable liquid might have been obtained.
  • A specific place that a witness told you they were at the time of the fire or the location of their place of work or other important investigative detail.


There are also people locator apps, including offender and sex offender locator apps.

You should be aware that the locator app databases may not be definitive or complete and any information should always be confirmed with another source.

Web Searching

Most smartphones include a web searching capability, which investigators can use to look up information such as deeds and records while still in the field instead of having to go back to the office.  Be aware that some websites have a mobile device version of their site just for smartphones.  These mobile device versions may or may not include all the information available on the “regular” website.  Also, there are some website features that may not work on your smartphone.  Consult your provider for more information.

Utilities
Many apps offer handy utilities that fill a specific need for fire investigators:
  • Flashlight app that uses a brightly lit screen to turn the smartphone into a flashlight.
  • Police scanner apps to help understand emergency response in the area of the incident.
  • Barcode scanner apps that scan the barcode on any product and can, in many cases, identify the product and some of the places it may be sold.
  • Ruler app can provide a quick and dirty measurement of small items — please note that this is not a replacement for a proper scale in an evidence photo.
  • A level app for use at the scene.
  • Compass apps provide cardinal directions — this is especially handy for your diagrams and photo locations.
  • A unit conversion calculator (metric to English and English to metric units).
  • Electrical tools apps provide electrical calculators and tools that may assist in understanding the electrical system at the scene.
  • The CFI Calculator app available from CFITrainer.Net can assist you with basic field calculations for Flame Height, Heat Flux, Flashover and Fire. Growth
  • iTunes, which enables you to listen to podcasts on topics of professional interest, including the CFITrainer.Net Monthly Podcast.


There are thousands of apps and more are being released every day.  Set aside some time to browse through the apps available for your smartphone and think through how they might assist you in the field.  Be sure to keep your apps up to date and periodically look for new apps that have been released and may be beneficial to you.  Put your smartphone to work for you and you can work more efficiently, safely, and thoroughly.

 

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