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Nixon, Ted. NFPA 921: Guide For Fire and Explosion Investigations - Advisory Or Adversary. Ward and Whitmore. July, 1996.

Abstract: This article offers advice on how to read NFPA 921. The article asserts that 921 is a valuable tool for fire investigators and every investigator should read it and understand what is written. The authors' purpose for writing 921 was to offer a scientific method to fire investigation. However, the author believes that there are many variables involved in fire investigation, which prevent a universal standard on the subject. 921's main focus is to provide assistance to investigators and offer the general rules that may or may not apply to the investigator's specific case. One criticism the author makes of NFPA 921 is its use of biased and negative language. The author feels the derogatory comments about the misconceptions of fire investigators are not necessary. Currently, a rewrite is in the working to eliminate the negative language.

The article lists sections of 921 that may seem ambiguous during the first reading. The ambiguity exists because fire investigation is not an exact science. One example the article discusses is the section on oxidizing agents. 921 explains an experiment the NFPA conducted concerning oxidizing agents. However, at the end of the section, the authors state that their conclusions hold true for only the variables they used. In practice, the conclusions may not be true because of other variables not tested in the experiment. While statements like these may seem useless, the intention of the authors of 921 was to provide a guideline for fire investigators. The article goes on to discuss other vague areas in 921.

For more information, contact:
Ward and Whitemore Universal Fire Consultants
P.O. Box 14044
Cincinnati, OH 45250-0044

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