Fire and Explosion Guideline OK’d

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 @ 01:09 PM gHale

The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science approved the National Fire Protection Association Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations for inclusion on the OSAC Registry, which serves as a trusted repository of high-quality, science-based standards and guidelines for forensic practice.

This is the first guideline to go in the OSAC Registry, where it joins the first standard, which listed earlier this year.

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OSAC, which is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), is working to strengthen forensic science by facilitating the development of discipline-specific, science-based standards and guidelines for a broad array of forensic disciplines.

To be posted to the OSAC Registry, standards and guidelines must end up developed using a consensus-based process that includes public comment and must pass a review of technical merit by forensic practitioners, academic researchers, statisticians and measurement scientists.

NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations, 2014 Edition applies to the investigation of all types of fire and explosion incidents, both accidental and intentional, from residential and motor vehicle fires to multi-story high-rise fires and industrial plant explosions.

“NFPA 921 is regarded as the standard of care in the fire and explosion investigation community and in the courts,” said Craig Beyler, the chair of OSAC’s Fire & Explosion Investigation Subcommittee, who shepherded the guide through the OSAC approval process. “It sets a high bar for science-based investigation and analysis of fire and explosion incidents.”

NFPA 921 addresses all aspects of fire and explosion investigation, including methodology, evidence collection and failure analysis. The document sees use in the field, in training and in court, and it serves as a guide for rendering accurate opinions on origin, cause, responsibility and prevention. Fire investigators who work for public agencies, insurance companies and litigation firms all rely on this document in their daily work.

Mark Stolorow, director of OSAC affairs at NIST, said OSAC scrutinizes existing standards and guidelines from a range of standards developing organizations for their technical merit and due process.

OSAC does not have authority to enforce standards. However, by endorsing standards, OSAC promotes their adoption by forensic science service providers and by accrediting bodies that audit participating agencies for compliance.