Few professional fields have seen the sweeping changes, which have affected the realms of fire investigation and fire claims investigation by insurers. Managing change creates a great deal of stress for those who are unwilling--or unable--to embrace what¹s coming their way. Our court systems continue to impose greater responsibility and accountability for the work we do daily. Think of where we were just ten years ago. Consider what has evolved in terms of evidence collection and preservation, spoliation, note taking, report writing, NFPA 921, qualifications of an expert, courtroom testimony, malicious prosecutions, punitive damages, etc. Now, consider this against the backdrop of today¹s ³Information Technology. Think of fax machines, e-mail, digital photos, CAD drawings, wireless technology, wide area networks and all the other trappings of the Information Age.
We have to accept what we can’t change in life and we need to consider strategies to try and deal with all of these changes. The key strategy, in my view, is that we must fully embrace the path of continuous learning. The IAAI has always supported this point of view and we have all benefited from that vision.
With the current trend of budget cutbacks under prevailing economic conditions, you have to prioritize your training and education budget to seek the training, which will give you the most for your money. This article will discuss just such a training program, a very cost-effective school that has been running over twenty years to widespread accolades.
In the early 1980’s, many U.S. states were enacting Arson Immunity Laws. Legislators recognized that most insurance-fraud arson cases were built on circumstantial evidence. They knew that this cowardly crime was typically committed under a cover of darkness through a carefully crafted scheme. To fight the crime, legislators recognized that it was essential for public authorities to have access to information in the files of insurance companies. Insurers also realized they must employ the best investigative techniques available to do their job right.
“Partnership” is a buzzword we have often heard in the past few years. However, in the early 1980’s the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (A.T.F.) showed great vision in forming a true partnership with the International Association of Arson Investigators (I.A.A.I.) to develop a training course that would benefit both law enforcement and the insurance community. This 5-day training program has been offered through the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (F.L.E.T.C.) in Glynco, Georgia. F.L.E.T.C. is the training home for 70 federal law enforcement agencies at its 1500 acre campus. This IAAI-ATF class is the only non-law enforcement personnel class allowed on the F.L.E.T.C. training facility. A selection committee carefully screens students for this program.
It remains critical for the program to fully embrace the adult-based learning cycle as the foundation for accomplishing its teaching goals. This five-day course is completely interactive, so that classroom theory is taken through the cycle with a ³practical application. This is highlighted by time spent at the ATF Burn Cells/Explosives Range and through an intense practical exercise that drives home effective ‘Case Management’ strategies.
ATF provides instructors and technical support to the program. This is complimented by IAAI members who are world-class teachers including Joe Toscano, Dave Campbell, Ken Goodnight and lawyer Sandy Burnette.
This program runs in the third week of October each year. The recent class was truly international with students from Canada, Trinidad, Malaysia and Israel. Some of the comments from the students included:
- “Very high caliber of instructors. Very well prepared with current materials.”
- “The speakers were excellent. Very knowledgeable and engaging.”
- “Instructors were well prepared, professional, experienced, passionate and representative of all the constituent student backgrounds.”
- “The practical exercise was very effective in proving the value of an organized, systematic investigation.”
- “Dave Campbell was amazing.”
- “I would recommend this course to others within my company and the industry.”
- The materials provided, the visual aides employed and the training methodology were high quality and well suited to the student’s needs.
We all live in fear of someone alleging that we acted in ³bad faith² on an investigation. But we need to focus upon the responsibility to act in good faith by doing a proper investigation, which will lead to the truth. This course is a major step in the right direction toward achieving that goal.