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

claims journal,fire investigations,insurance claims,claims,fire investigator,accelerant detection dogs,state farm

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

Experts: Brush Fires Necessary For Environment On Long Island

Posted on Mon, Apr 16, 2012 @ 11:11 AM

MANORVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — With large wildfires scorching the landscape and darkening the sky over parts of Long Island this month, scientists said it’s a recurring problem and residents will have to get used to them.

“This is a fire-dependent ecosystem. It has to burn to survive,” said Richard Amper of the L.I. Pine Barens Society.

Fire ripped through 1,100 acres of Long Island pine barren, damaging homes and businesses even as it cleared away years of accumulated forest ground clutter.

However, in some ways, we were the victims of our own firefighting success. The blaze wouldn’t have been as damaging if we hadn’t been as effective at extinguishing previous fires, experts told CBS 2′s Lou Young.

“Most of the woods here haven’t burned for 60 years and that is why it was so intense,” Amper said.

Asked if we can expect more of the same, “we are certain of it,” he said.

Forestry scientists said it’s best to burn sections of the landscape on purpose before a wildfire can sweep through, but after decades of neglect, more controlled burn that what is currently done is necessary.

“It ranges from three to five burns a year with a total of about 100 acres a year,” said Bill Fonda of the New York State DEC.

Conservationists argue that if the state increases the burns by a factor of 10, they might be getting somewhere – a hard sell in cash-strapped Albany.

“It’s difficult, it’s complicated and it’s expensive, these field treatments, but it’s like an insurance policy. It could be more expensive if you have a wildfire,” said Marilyn Jordan of the Nature Conservancy.

In dry, windy conditions, it is only a matter of time.

The biggest wildfire in New York State history took place on Long Island in 1995. It scorched 6,000 acres before it was brought under control.


Tags: long island, fire, wildfires, environment, fires, brush fires, pine barrons

Hot Stat: Today's Homes Burn Faster Than Ever

Posted on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 @ 08:34 AM
It may sound like a cliche to trot out fire safety tips before the holiday season, but if there's one statistic that bears repeating, it's this: Even with adequate smoke alarms, a house fire today can become uncontrollable in less than three minutes.

That's down from an average 17 minutes in 1975 -- a whopping 82 percent difference.

And the reason for the drastic change, according to a report by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, isn't just the type of house you live in, but what you put inside.

"It's not how old the home is, it's the furnishings," Jack Watts, Director of the Fire Safety Institute, told AOL Real Estate.

A spokesperson for the National Association of State Fire Marshals told AOL Real Estate that the worst culprit in home fires is upholstered furniture, because it often contains highly flammable polyurethane foam. These all-too-common materials provide the fuel for what fire experts call the flashover -- the point at which everything in the room simultaneously bursts into flames. It doesn't help that many of today's homes are built with more open floor plans and modern building materials like wallboard that can lead to faster fires, according to the Wichita Eagle.

The numbers show an alarming trend. In 1977, the first year when data was available, there were 750,000 residential fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. In 2010, there were roughly half that many, thanks in large part to widespread use of smoke detectors. But the incredible speed with which home fires can spread in today's homes represents a major step backward in fire safety.

The Hot Topic of Sprinklers

The next step in home fire safety, a spokesperson for the NASFM said, is to require fire sprinklers in new residential properties. Homebuilders bristle at the idea due to the high cost of installation. The national average cost to install sprinklers is $1.60 per square foot, according to the Wichita Eagle. In a 2,000-square-foot home, that comes out to about $3,200.

Another barrier is public opinion. As we reported last year, when given the choice between granite countertops and fire sprinklers, respondents overwhelmingly chose the countertops, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

(To find out if your state requires fire sprinklers in new construction, check out the Fire Sprinkler Initiative website.)

Worse still, there are only voluntary flammability regulations for upholstered furniture. Implementing a nationwide standard would go a long way in protecting consumers from purchasing dangerously flammable furnishings, the NASFM spokesperson said.

Regardless of what state legislators decide, though, it all comes down to vigilance, says Fire Safety Institute Director Watts.

If you'll be using a live Christmas tree this holiday season, make sure to water it regularly and keep an eye on any decorative lighting and candles. And, as always, make sure your house is equipped with working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. For a terrifying glimpse at a Christmas tree "flashover," watch the video above. 

Tags: long island, fire, burn, fire safety, new york, building materials, holiday season, safety

Are You Deep Frying a Turkey This Holiday Season?

Posted on Mon, Nov 15, 2010 @ 10:29 AM

Safety First...

Many people on Long Island deep fry turkeys during the holiday season. However, if you don't take precautions, you may end up with an injury or fire. Deep Fryers can be dangerous because:

  • Many units easily tip over, spilling the five gallons of hot oil within the cooking pot.
  • If the cooking pot is overfilled with oil, the oil may spill out of the unit when the turkey is placed into the cooking pot. Oil may hit the burner/flames causing a fire to engulf the entire unit.
  • Partially frozen turkeys placed into the fryer can cause a spillover effect. This too, may result in an extensive fire.
  • With no thermostat controls, the units also have the potential to overheat the oil to the point of combustion.
  • The sides of the cooking pot, lid and pot handles get dangerously hot, posing severe burn hazards.

Advanced Restoration wants you and your family to have a safe and happy Thanksgiving. Just follow these simple cooking and safety rules:

Deep Fried Turkey Cooking Tips:

  • Follow your fryer’s instructions.
  • Only deep fry smaller turkeys—up to 12 pounds.
  • Use oils with high smoke points such as peanut, canola and safflower. Peanut oil adds flavor, but it can be a concern if guests have peanut allergies.
  • To determine how much oil you’ll need, put the turkey in the basket and place in the pot. Add water until it reaches one to two inches above the turkey. Lift the turkey out, and use a ruler to measure the distance from the water to the top of the fryer. Pour out the water and dry the fryer completely.
  • Remember that it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour to heat the oil, depending on the outside temp. wind and weather.
  • Before frying, pat the turkey dry with paper towels to keep the hot oil from spattering and popping.
  • Slowly lower the turkey into the oil, and maintain an oil temp of 350ºF. Fry turkey for three to four minutes per pound or about 35 to 42 minutes for a 10- to 12-pound turkey.

Safety Tips:

  • Turkey fryers should always be used outdoors a safe distance from buildings and any other material that can burn.
  • Never use turkey fryers on wooden decks or in garages.
  • Make sure the fryers are used on a flat surface to reduce accidental tipping.
  • Never leave the fryer unattended. Most units do not have thermostat controls. If you don't watch the fryer carefully, the oil will continue to heat until it catches fire.
  • Never let children or pets near the fryer when in use. Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pot can remain dangerously hot, hours after use.
  • To avoid oil spillover, do not overfill the fryer.
  • Use well-insulated potholders or oven mitts when touching pot or lid handles. If possible, wear safety goggles to protect your eyes from oil splatter.
  • Make sure the turkey is completely thawed and be careful with marinades. Oil and water don't mix, and water causes oil to spill over, causing a fire or even an explosion hazard.
  • The National Turkey Federation recommends refrigerator thawing and to allow approximately 24 hours for every five pounds of bird thawed in the refrigerator.
  • Keep an all-purpose fire extinguisher nearby. Never use water to extinguish a grease fire. Remember to use your best judgment when attempting to fight a fire. If the fire is manageable, use an all-purpose fire extinguisher. If the fire increases, immediately call 9-1-1 for help.
  • Even after use, never allow children or pets near the turkey fryer. The oil inside the cooking pots remains dangerously hot, hours after use.

Watch a video on how to deep fry a turkey.


Tags: safety tips, fire, turkey, deep fry turkey, cooking tips, deep frying a turkey, precautions

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