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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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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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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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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.

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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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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Legislative Committee

Legislation and Public Information

Tom Pierce, Committee Chair
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

Below you will find several pieces of legislation relating to fire, arson, and explosion investigation in California and on a national level. To find daily updates on any piece of pending California legislation go to http://www.leginfo.ca.gov

Below you will find several pieces of legislation relating tofire, arson, and explosion investigation in California and on a national level. To find daily updates on any piece of pending California legislation go to: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/


New Laws for 2013

Beginning in January, over 800 new laws will become effective in California.  Several of these laws may, or may not affect CCAI membership.  Several of these new laws address public law enforcement and firefighting.  I have selected those which appear to impact public sector fire investigation and law enforcement.  One new law is relative to private sector investigators.

I suggest members read these laws, especially AB 2055.

Assembly Bill 1720 was signed into law by Governor Brown.  As enacted, this Bill amends Section 415.21, Code of Civil Procedures, as to allow Private Investigators access into gated communities.  The intent of this law specifically addresses process service.  Investigations are excluded.

Assembly Bill 2055, as signed by the Governor, amends Section 1524 and 1525 of the Penal Code.  The intent of this new law requires issuance of a Search Warrant whenever a tracking device is utilized.  I believe this law has the most profound impact on our membership.  (This should not come as a surprise).

Two of laws for those agencies with wildland responsibilities.  Assembly Bill 2284 adds Section 12025 to the Fish & Game Code and amends Section 2810 of the Vehicle Code.  While enforcement language is specific, this law allows for law enforcement intervention whenever irrigation materials are observed in a vehicle on forest roads.  CCAI members employed by CalFire, L.A. County Fire or the USFS should review this law to determine enforcement authority.

Senate Bill 1367 amends Section 4370 of the Fish & Game Code.  This new law allows for an archery hunter who has a valid CCW, to carry a weapon while hunting.  Those CCAI members who validate deer tags should be aware of this new law.

While hundreds of new laws have been enacted, the aforementioned seem to have significance with regards to our members.

 
Legislative Update: October 6, 2010
The 2010 California Legislative session has now ended. The Governor had until September 30th to sign or veto any bills that had passed through the various committees and landed on his desk for signature. Of the hundreds of bills introduced by the members of the State Assembly and Senate, many either died in committee, failed votes in the Assembly or Senate, or were pulled by the authors. Bills making it through the process were either vetoed or signed by Governor with effective dates usually on the first day of the following year.

On February 18, 2010, a bill was introduced by Assembly Member Nathan Fletcher, AB 2276, which called for making Arson registration information in accordance with PC 457.1 available to Fire Chiefs of local fire departments and Fire Districts.  The official summary of the bill is from the Legislative Counsel’s Digest.

“LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST

AB 2276, as introduced, Fletcher. Arson.

Existing law requires a convicted arsonist, as specified, to register with certain local officials in the area in which he or she resides, and makes it a misdemeanor to fail to register. Existing law also requires the registering law enforcement agency to forward certain information about the person to the Department of Justice, including a signed statement, and the person's fingerprints and photograph. Under existing law, those statements, photographs, and fingerprints are not open to inspection by the public or by any person other than a regularly employed peace officer or other law enforcement officer. This bill would require the Department of Justice to make all of these statements, photographs, and fingerprints available to all chief fire officials of legally organized fire departments or fire protection districts in the state.”

During the CCAI Board of Directors meeting on March 21, 2010, the Board unanimously voted to support this piece of legislation.  A letter of support was sent to Assembly Member Fletcher. 

In the committee review process, Assembly Member Fletcher provided the following information in an analysis prepared by Melina Nelson of the Committee on Public Safety submitted on April 6, 2010:

“1)Author’s Statement: According to the author, "When registering with local authorities, arsonists' information is ONLY given to the law enforcement and fire agencies overseeing where the arsonist resides.” 

“In many parts of California borders of multiple counties and cities are within a very small geographic area. People move freely from county to county on a regular basis falling under the jurisdiction of multiple law enforcement and fire agencies. It is necessary for law enforcement and fire agencies to have access to this information in order to prevent possible re-offense by registered arsonists.  County and city lines do not stop arsonists from starting fires beyond their area of residence. AB 2276 will give these authorities the ability to keep track of arsonists who are potential threats in their area even if the arsonist does not reside within that jurisdiction."

“2)Background: According to background information provided by the author, The 2009 Station Fire which burned over 160,000 acres or 250 square miles, burned for over 50 days, destroyed over 200 structures and killed two firefighters is one example of the hundreds of fires started each year by arsonist in California.  The Station Fire cost the state over $30 million, and is expected to carry a price tag of over $40 million in clean up.”

"In 2009 California had over 5,000 fires throughout the state. In Cal Fire regulated area alone on average 323 fires were started by arsonists each year.”

"California's Arson Registry: In 1985, California established an arson registry in which all convicted arsonist must register with certain local official in the area in which the arsonist resides.  An adult arsonist must register for life, while youth are removed at 25 or when their records are sealed.  As of September 2009 3,700 people around the state were on the registry.”

"When registering with local authorities, arsonists' information is given to the law enforcement and fire agencies overseeing where the arsonist resides.  DOJ is sent all information throughout the state and places for the California's Arson Registry.”

"Problem:  In many parts of California, borders of multiple counties and cities are within a very small geographic area. People move freely from county to county on a regular basis falling under the jurisdiction of multiple buy xanax online enforcement and fire agencies.”

"It is necessary for law enforcement and fire agencies to have access to this information in order to prevent possible re-offense by registered arsonists.  County and city lines do not stop arsonists from starting fires beyond their area of residence.  AB 2276 will give these authorities the ability to keep track of arsonists who are potential threats in their area even if the arsonist does click here reside within that jurisdiction."

“3)Chief Fire Officials Should Have Access to the Arson Registry: In investigating possible incidences of arson, the chief fire official is an essential part of the investigation.  The information included in the arson registry, including a picture of the registered individual, and his or her fingerprint and location, will likely prove to be a valuable tool to chief fire officials in these investigations.  Additionally, because the information in the registry is already collected and accessible to law enforcement officers, there is very little additional cost.”

In an analysis prepared by Geoff Long of the House Appropriations Committee submitted on April 21, 2010, several points and concerns were raised in the report. 

“FISCAL EFFECT  

1) As the bill does not clearly define "chief fire officials," or specify the method of providing this information, the costs of this measure could range from minor local costs to establish electronic case-by-case request protocols, to several million  dollars in nonreimbursable local costs to support provide dedicated data lines for local fire officials. (Currently law enforcement accesses the information via a secure law enforcement website, which includes access to the state sex offender registry.)

2) One-time costs in the range of $150,000 (GF) to DOJ to establish system protocols.   

COMMENTS:  

1) Rationale. The author contends providing arson registry information to firefighters in addition to law visit us officers would enhance arson prevention efforts.    

2) Current law requires any person convicted of arson or attempted arson, as specified, to register with the local chief of police or sheriff. Registration is for life, unless the offender was a minor adjudicated as a ward of the court, in which case registration is required until age 25. Failure to register is a misdemeanor. Only peace officers may access registration information. There are about 3,700 registered arsonists. 

3)Concerns. The author's office has agreed to address a series of concerns while the bill is on the Suspense File.

a) The problem addressed by this bill is not clear. How will the expansion of access to arson registry information help prevent arson? Current law provides access to this information to peace officer arson investigators of fire departments. It is not clear how or why this is not sufficient.

b) DOJ's CA Sex and Arson Registry (CSAR), formerly the Violent Crime and Information Network, (VCIN)), includes both the arson and sex offender registries, which makes providing access to non-peace officers problematic.

c) The universe of "all chief fire officials" who could access the arson registry should be clarified. 

d) The method of providing information needs to be clarified, particularly as this is the cost driver.

e) The expanded access proposed by this bill should be cross-referenced in subdivision (j).”

On May 28, 2010, this bill was held under submission in the Appropriations Committee and is no longer being considered. According to Assembly Member Fletcher’s Office, a key element of this bill not moving forward was the financial impact of implementation.    

Information concerning this bill, or the status of any piece of legislation introduced in either the Assembly or the Senate can be found at: www.leginfo.ca.gov

Below is a summary of recent bills supported by CCAI.

Assembly Bill #27 – This bill would increase the amount of damage required for a person to be guilty of aggravated arson from 5,650,000 to 6,500,000 and would extend the repeal date for the provisions relating to property damage until January 1, 2014.  Approved by the Governor on August 5, 2009 and filed with the Secretary of State on August 6, 2009.

Assembly Bill #1385 – This bill would expand the definition of Peace Officer to include peace officers defined in PC 830.37 for the purposes of using an emergency vehicle that will allow the use of a steady or flashing blue warning light visible from the front, sides, or rear of the vehicle. Passed by the State Assembly on September 9, 2009 and vetoed by the Governor on October 11, 2009

Assembly Bill #388 – This bill would require, subject to exceptions, that vendors of firefighting uniforms verify that a person purchasing a uniform identifying a firefighting agency is an employee of the agency identified on the uniform.  Approved by the Governor on August 5, 2009 and filed with the Secretary of State on August 6, 2009.

Assembly Bill #937 - This bill would impose registration requirements parallel to those applicable in arson cases on violators of certain laws regulating the possession and use of destructive devices.  On May 28, 2009, this bill was held under submission in committee.

Senate Bill #169 – This bill would authorize the head of a local agency that employs peace officers to issue identification in the form of a badge, insignia, emblem, device, label, certificate, card, or writing that clearly states the person’s position as an honorably retired peace officer from that agency, as specified. The bill would also authorize the head of a local agency to revoke identification granted pursuant to those provisions in the event of misuse or abuse. Approved by the Governor on October 11, 2009 and filed with the Secretary of State on October 11, 2009.  

In March of 2009, The CCAI Board of Directors agreed to urge Senator Ron Calderon, author of SB 839 to propose legislation that would make the possession of an agricultural and wildlife firework unlawful without first securing a permit from the State Fire Marshal. Additionally, we agreed to urge Senator Calderon to include language making it unlawful to possess with the intent to use, or intend to use, the same type of firework contrary to its intended use.  This language was in the original text of SB 839 that went into law on January 1, 2008 but was omitted prior to passage.  A letter to this effect was sent to Senator Calderon in March of 2009.

 
Legislative Update: April 5, 2010

The California Legislative session is now in full swing. Many bills have been introduced on numerous topics by nearly every Sate Senator and Assembly Member.

On February 18, 2010, a bill was introduced bill by Assembly Member Nathan Fletcher, AB 2276, that calls for making Arson registration information in accordance with PC 457.1 now available to Fire Chiefs of local fire departments and Fire Districts.

During the CCAI Board of Directors meeting on March 21, 2010, the Board unanimously voted to support this piece of legislation. A letter of support has been sent to Assembly Member Fletcher. A summary of the bill follows:

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Legislative Update: June 10, 2009

The 2009 California Legislative session is in full swing with numerous pending bills up for consideration. As these bills move through the committee process, they may be amended or revised many times. In some cases, the final version of the bill may exclude some of the main points of the original proposal in order to secure passage.

At the recent CCAI Board of Directors Meeting in March 2009, the Board voted to support the following pieces of pending legislation:.

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Senate Bill #169
This bill would authorize the head of a local agency that employs peace officers to issue identification in the form of a badge, insignia, emblem, device, label, certificate, card, or writing that clearly states the person's position as an honorably retired peace officer from that agency, as specified. The bill would also authorize the head of a local agency to revoke identification granted pursuant to those provisions in the event of misuse or abuse.
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Assembly Bill #27

Introduced by Assembly Member Jefferies

December 1, 2008

The following is from

www.leginfo.gov:

"An act to amend Section 451.5 of the Penal Code."

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Assembly Bill #937

Introduced by Assembly Member Smyth

February 26, 2009

The following is from

www.leginfo.gov:

An act to add Section 12314 to the Penal Code, relating to destructive devices.

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Assembly Bill #1385

Introduced by Assembly Member Miller

February 27, 2009

The following is from

www.leginfo.gov

An act to amend Section 25258 of the Vehicle Code, relating to vehicles

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Senate Bill #169

Introduced by Senator Benoit

February 14, 2009

"An act to amend Section 538d of the Penal Code, relating to crime."

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Pomona, California 91768
Phone:  (909) 865-5004
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This is the official website of the California Conference of Arson Investigators.

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