Not all of us are called to be arson investigators, but we all should be familiar with arson indicators. The way we proceed with our job can impact these investigations–unknowingly destroying the evidence required to prove the fire was not unintentionally set, for example. Proving a fire is arson requires that the investigator prove that the fire was not set unintentionally— often a daunting task. The objective of this week’s drill is to familiarize members with the indicators of and the SOPs for investigating arson.
You’ll need an overhead projector or a VCR and an arson investigation checklist. Howard A. Chatterton includes a checklist in his Volunteer Training Drills-A Year of Weekly Drills, but you should tailor yours to your municipality’s SOPs.
The drill requires coordination with the agency having jurisdiction over fire investigations. Arrange for a representative of that agency to make a presentation that includes SOPs for fire investigation, focusing on the indicators of suspicious incidents. Ask that the representative be prepared to discuss recent incidents and to demonstrate some of the equipment used in the investigation.
Be sure to meet with the investigator to determine any special needs he might have. Review with the investigator your checklist or the one Chatterton provides. Use it as an aid when conducting the drill. Using a recent structure fire as an example, have firefighters answer as many of the questions on the checklist as possible.
Once you have your checklist ready, place a copy in a plastic protective sheet in the preplan book. Have officers of first-arriving units use it as a reference immediately after a fire incident to identify any indicators of arson that might exist.
At the drill’s conclusion, discuss what went right, what went wrong, and what should be done differently the next time.
If you have a similar drill idea and wish to share it, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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