Know Your Fire Investigator

Mike Wisekal, MSC, IAAI-CFI, IAAI-FIT, ASC, MIAAI, MIFIREE, DIPLOMA MARINE ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION

Claims success begins with knowing your appointed fire investigator and their credentials.

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Fire claims can be a difficult and long litigation process to manage. It can be made less difficult by knowing your appointed fire investigator and understanding the professional methodology involved in fire investigations. Appointing a qualified, skilled, and experienced fire investigator who can effectively articulate the facts and issues increases the chances of a successful claim and makes the progression of a case more manageable. The question is, how do you know if your chosen fire investigator is qualified and up to expected standards?

Does Your Fire Investigator Meet the NFPA 1033 Standard?

Within the fire investigation industry, NFPA 1033 (Standard for Professional Qualifications for Fire Investigator) is the internationally-recognised standard that defines job performance criteria. Although considered mandatory in the U.S., NFPA 1033 is viewed as a generally accepted standard throughout the international fire investigator community. Jurisdictions around the world may have similar requirements and principles, but this standard is well-perceived as the guiding light.

The value of this standard is that it can be used to vet a prospective investigator. You should want to appoint a fire investigator who can suitably offer:

  • Skills and experience in scene examination/documentation, evidence collection/preservation, witness interviews, post-incident investigation and reporting
  • Experience and/or training with expert testimony
  • Certifications and/or designations
  • Association memberships

Does Your Fire Investigator Have Credentials from an Accrediting Organisation?

It is advisable not to underestimate the importance of a fire investigator’s professional credentials. According to the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), certifications and designations are becoming the expected norm for fire investigators. Having a certification or designation means that the fire investigator has successfully completed an evaluation of their knowledge, skills and abilities against applicable standards set by an accrediting organisation.

It also means the fire investigator has satisfied a certain level of training and experience with working fire scenes, preparing comprehensive reports, and providing expert opinion evidence for the courts in a strong cohesive manner. Investigators usually need to remain in good standing with the accrediting organisation throughout their continued professional development in order to maintain their credentials.

Often, it is a good idea to confirm that a fire investigator’s certifications and designations were issued by an accredited program and, if necessary, verify how they earned their respective certifications and designations. For example, the IAAI offers numerous programs to achieve accredited certifications and professional designations. The Certified Fire Investigator Program (IAAI-CFI) is accredited by the National Board of Fire Service Professional Qualifications (Pro Board) and the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board (FSAB).

Does Your Fire Investigator Utilize the Scientific Method?

Part of being a qualified fire investigator is understanding how to apply the scientific method to a fire scene and the overall fire claim. Within the fire investigation community, the scientific method is generally accepted as good practice, since it provides many advantages as an investigative methodology. It proves its worth when potential challenges surface during the fire claim litigation process.

The scientific method can also help you differentiate facts from assumptions. It allows you to appropriately weigh the relevance and reliability of the investigative findings and opinions offered by the fire investigator and make decisions about the next steps of the fire claim (e.g., accept liability or potential subrogation).

Knowing that your appointed fire investigator has strong credentials means you can have confidence in their methodology and that your case will be effectively managed. Learn more about Jensen Hughes fire investigation services and how our highly qualified fire investigators can assist with your fire claims case management.

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About the author

Mike Wisekal
Mike has been in fire industry since 1997, serving nearly 18 years in the Fire Service.
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