the investigative process, there are five logical points for the investigator
to take a time out and mentally review the activities completed to date.
This pause allows the investigator to ensure that nothing has been forgotten
and that the plan is in place to proceed to the next step. The logical
"time out for review" points are:
to responding to the call
the preliminary scene assessment, but before the scene is processed
the scene is processed and before releasing it back to the owner
the follow-up investigation has been completed
VR includes very detailed information on all the steps in this process
that should be reviewed by the investigator. To distill these steps into
a handy "checklist" format will assist the investigator in "self-checking"
actions at the logical review points described above.
checklist assists the investigator in evaluating preparedness for the
a fire investigation plan been created with participation from all stakeholders?
the details of every scene will be different, the basic approach to the
fire investigation should be consistent and follow a pre-determined plan.
When there is an established plan and clearly defined roles, it will be
simpler to evaluate the available investigative resources and plug them
into the protocol.
create a plan, first identify and bring together all agencies with an
interest in the fire investigation. Define the mission and the task at
hand and build relationships among these entities. Work as a team to define
the roles of all agencies involved in fire response and the duties of
the personnel from those agencies. The team should then define the standard
operating procedure for response to the fire call and rehearse this response
from 911 call through arrest. Write up the process and distribute to all
team members. Continue to communicate and refine the process. Consider
whether this group should be made a permanent task force.
the responsibilities and duties of each member of the investigative team
been defined and assigned?
the personnel requirements for the fire scene and match them to your existing
plan and available resources. Roles to be filled include:
- Team Leadership
and Cause Determination
all team members understand their roles and responsibilities in advance
of the fire call.
prevention efforts been initiated and continued in the community?
to the traditional fire prevention days at community events, visiting
schools to teach children the principles of escaping a fire, and advocating
for smoke alarms and sprinklers, there are many things that can be done
to prevent and control fires. First, gather resources and commitment from
government, fire service, law enforcement, EMS, civic groups, schools,
and citizens. A community board with members from all these organizations
may be a good idea for your town. Then, identify and document the size
and scope of the fire problem. Using police reports and fire incident
reports, chart the scope of the fire problem in your community. Create
a pin map to assist you in identifying hot zones. Then, create a plan
of action to address these areas. Measures to abate a fire problem can
potential arson targets
up or demolishing abandoned buildings
with owners of potential targets and formulating a prevention plan
tasks to accomplish the goals are parceled out among participating agencies
for additional resources that may be required at the fire scene been identified
and their participation ensured?
scene is different. Some may require no additional assistance; others
may require multiple outside resources and staging areas for special operations.
Consider the requirements of the scene and determine who must be brought
in. You will want to have a list of these specialists "on call"
so no item is wasted at the scene. This requires seeking them out before
the fire call and getting them on board to respond. Possible additional
facilities (generators, tents, etc.)
electric, water and other utilities
and electrical engineering
fire investigators been properly trained and are they continuing to keep
up with developments in the field?
in fire investigation is crucial and can be obtained through ATF, state
and local fire academies, community colleges, professional organizations,
and independent schools/classes. Membership in professional organizations
is encouraged and subscription to professional journals and publications
will assist investigators in staying up to date with an evolving discipline.
Attendance at conferences and training classes should be initiated by
the investigator and facilitated by the department. Investigators should
also maintain a reference library with materials such as interFIRE VR,
NFPA 921, journals and textbooks.
investigators been properly equipped to do their job?
should have, at minimum, a "trunk-size" toolkit. InterFIRE VR
includes a specific list of items for this kit. In general, include OSHA-approved
safety gear, excavation tools, documentation equipment, and evidence collection
equipment. Departments may also want to consider a larger response vehicle
that can carry more gear or a full truck that includes larger pieces of
equipment and a witness interview area. InterFIRE VR has suggestions for
equipping these three levels of toolkits.
call out to a fire scene has been received, have equipment stocks been
double-checked, necessary notification and standby calls made, and an
open frame of mind set?
call comes in, double-check that all necessary equipment is packed. Make
any notification calls or calls to get resources standing by. Then, take
a moment to clear your mind and mentally prepare to approach the scene.
Review the fire investigation plan and prioritize the first actions you
will take upon arrival. Approach the scene with an open mind and be prepared.