Property Damage & Disaster Restoration Blog: Long Island & New York City

Claims Journal: Accelerant Detection Dogs in Fire Investigations

Posted on Wed, Aug 08, 2012 @ 11:28 AM

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By Denise Johnson | August 6, 2012

Article Taken from: The Claims Journal

An accelerant detection dog should be considered for all large loss residential and commercial structure fires, vehicle fires, incendiary fires and any undetermined fires, according to Michael Koster, fire investigator and owner of Calif. – based Reliant Investigations.

Reliant’s dogs and fire investigators are put through a five week intensive course offered through the Maine State Police K-9 Training Center in Vassalboro, Maine. The facility, located on 200 acres of land, contains a canine agility/confidence course as well as classrooms and a training building.

The dogs are trained according to Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning. The dogs are trained on a daily basis to recognize odors. Once the dog recognizes the odor it is fed.

“Training has to be daily. These dogs are hand-fed five to seven times a day every day,” Koster said during a presentation on the subject at the Combined Claims Conference in Long Beach, Calif.

Over the course of a year that comes out to about 40,000 repetitions, he said. The dogs are never fed at the same time of day and the amount of food varies. After the first year, the dogs are fed three to five times daily to maintain their skills.

“These dogs have to initially be reviewed on a monthly basis for the first year of their training,” Koster said.

After that, they are reviewed on an annual basis.

“It’s very crucial that the dog is tested, trained and evaluated annually both for the criminal and civil side,” the fire investigator said.

To test the dogs on a daily basis, his investigators use 50 percent evaporated gas. This is based on an ATF study which found the amount of residual gas left over after a building fire was approximately 45 percent.

A small amount of gas is poured into a can twice a day and, according to Koster, the dog will follow the can, sniffing the gas, until it is rewarded with food.

“Friday,” a black Labrador Retriever, and Bryan Phillips, recently completed the 200 hour canine-accelerant detection school sponsored by State Farm and certified by the Maine Criminal Justice Academy.

Accelerant detection dogs work approximately five to seven years and they don’t suffer health consequences from the toxic fumes because of their relatively short lifespan.

The dogs are trained to weave in and out of the scent cone until they arrive at the source. Part of the training includes having the dogs identify the source, pass it and return to it.

When a dog finds the source, there is no barking or scratching to alert the investigator. Instead the dog will point to it with its nose. This is to avoid tampering with the scene.

“Always work with passive alerts, never aggressive alerts,” Koster said of the alert system used by accelerant detection dogs.

Koster’s dogs are tested, certified and trained through two different entities. He said t’s very important that a fire investigator validates its accelerant detection dogs.

A major benefit to using an accelerant detection dog on a fire scene is the cost savings.

The dogs are considered more accurate than some devices used today. In addition, because of the increased accuracy, the fire investigator spends less time out on a scene. Lastly, expenses for ruling out samples taken from a scene can be reduced.

Tags: fire, fire scene, fire scene investigations, fire investigator, accelerant detection dog, state farm, fire investigation

NFL & Port Jeff Sports Donate Helmets to Long Island Football League

Posted on Mon, Aug 06, 2012 @ 12:29 PM

Most people think the story of the NFL is one of the rich getting richer, and the rest getting less. 

While that may be true in most cases, the news that the league is donating over four dozen Schutt helmets to a financially challenged football league on Long Island, left many local football fans feeling good about its new-found charity work in the area. 

The Bellport youth football league, an organization that has been ravaged by budget cuts, was in desperate need of new helmets and equipment as they headed into their 14th season, and the NFL came through in the clutch by donating 50 brand new Schutt models to families that have fallen on tough economic times. 

Fan's Take 

Bellport, a small community in Suffolk County, NY, has a population of less than 3,000, and they have long been known as an "under-served" community with high crime and unemployment rates. 

Youth league football is perhaps the top way to keep young Bellport children and teens off the streets and out of trouble, but the lack of new equipment made the on-the-field dangers just as extreme. 

Hats off to the NFL for doing something positive for the young kids here on Long Island. In the wake of Junior Seau's suicide and the increased awareness of the long-term health consequences of concussions, many parents here on Long Island are worried about signing their children up for football. 

The new, safer helmets donated by the NFL will certainly help put those concerns to rest. The only problem I saw with this situation was the fact that the NFL is only donating 50 helmets even though the league has 150 kids. Essentially, that would have left 100 kids with old helmets, and just 50 with brand new ones. That wouldn't have been fair at all. 

Luckily, Port Jeff Sports stepped up to the plate by providing 100 brand new Rawlings Momentum helmets, discounted to $50 apiece, which created the opportunity for every child in the league to have a new helmet.


13,000 New Helmets 

Jerry O'Hara, who coaches one of the teams for 11-year-olds on which his son, Sean, plays, said, "This is phenomenal because there's a lot of needy families and times are hard." 

The NFL lockout of 2011 left many football fans with a bad taste in their mouths, as owners and players both came away from the situation looking greedy, but the league working to take steps to promote safety while contributing funds to youth league football, is a great march in the right direction. 

According to a statement issued by the NFL, and as reported by, the goal is to have 13,000 hand-me-down helmets, 10 years or older, traded in for new ones this year. "This program is part of our focus on player safety at all levels of the game," NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in the statement. 

I give some serious props to the NFL for helping out the children of Long Island who want to pursue football, and for lending a helping hand to the local families that have fallen on hard times. 

Eric Holden, a lifelong New York Jets fan and supporter of the NFL, has been covering Long Island high school sports since 2009.

Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.

Tags: port jeff sports, long island, donate, nfl, long island youth football, bellport

Travelers Insurance and Present: My Friends' Weather

Posted on Thu, Aug 02, 2012 @ 09:40 AM

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See friends and family who may be affected by Breaking Now weather news, so you can be first to warn them and stay in touch. It's easy to sign up through Facebook. Learn more below.

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Once you have signed up with your Facebook account, Breaking Now weather alerts will include your friends and family who live in the affected area.

These people will only show for you, and only when you are logged into Facebook.

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Have a Facebook account? It's a snap to sign up for My Friends' Weather.

1. Go to the My Friends' Weather app page on Facebook and log in. On that page, click the link that says "Visit Website."

2. Then click "Allow" on the permissions box that pops up. The next time a Breaking Now Alert is active, the red bar will display any friends who live in the affected area.

You can also sign up when a Breaking Now Alert is active. Click the "See Friends" link on the bar to sign up.

When you click, you'll be presented with a Facebook permissions box.

We only ask for the information we need for My Friends' Weather.

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Stay in Touch with Friends

Once you have signed up, you can share the Breaking Now news with friends - click on a friend in the red bar, or click to see more friends.

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Click a friend to share the Breaking Now Alert directly to the friend's Facebook timeline.

You can add a comment, too. Your message and the Breaking Now Alert will appear on your friend's Facebook timeline, with a link back to for more information.

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If you comment on a friend's weather or notify a friend about a Breaking Now Alert, thatactivity ("notified a friend," for instance) will appear on your timeline, but we do not expose the person you shared to, nor your comment.

Questions? Feedback?

Visit the Help Center for answers to your questions about the Travelers Insurance sponsored My Friends' Weather.

And they would love to hear your feedback on My Friends' Weather, so tell them what you think.


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