NFPA 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations

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2014 NFPA 921

Prior Years Prior Editions of NFPA 921

Investigate origin and cause with greater accuracy using the 2014 NFPA 921.

If your job involves investigating fires and explosions, then you need NFPA 921: Guide For Fire & Explosion Investigations. This document is the premier source for rendering accurate opinions on origin and cause investigations along with incident responsibility and prevention.

The NFPA 921 describes in detail the scientific method to apply in fire and explosion investigations. Public and private professionals have long seen NFPA 921 as a valuable resource in the field and in training. It's also becoming increasingly relevant in U.S. federal and state courts, where the document is used to evaluate the reliability of fire investigations in both civil and criminal trials. Complying with NFPA 921 can bolster a fire investigator's opinion; not complying may result in being excluded from testifying.

The 2014 edition marks the first time that NFPA 921 includes color images.

This enhancement allows us to communicate and demonstrate key concepts and examples more clearly. As a result, readers will gain a better understanding of the principles of fire and explosion investigation.

NFPA 921 also offers essential guidance on:

  • Using the scientific method in origin and cause investigations
  • Documenting an investigation so that all relevant facts are gathered for future use in court
  • Handling fire-related evidence so that it's admissible in court
  • Understanding many of the terms related to explosion and fire investigations

Make sure you have the most up-to-date information on investigating fires and explosions. Order your copy of NFPA 921 today. (Softbound, Approx. 372 pp., 2014)

NFPA® 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations 2014 Edition

Chapter 1 Administration
1.1 Scope
1.2 Purpose
1.3 Application
1.4 Units of Measure
1.5 Measurement Uncertainty
Chapter 2 Referenced Publications
2.1 General
2.2 NFPA Publications
2.3 Other Publications
2.4 References for Extracts in Advisory Sections
Chapter 3 Definitions
3.1 General
3.2 NFPA Official Definitions
3.3 General Definitions
Chapter 4 Basic Methodology
4.1 Nature of Fire Investigations
4.2 Systematic Approach
4.3 Relating Fire Investigation to the Scientific Method
4.4 Basic Method of a Fire Investigation
4.5 Level of Certainty
4.6 Review Procedure
4.7 Reporting Procedure
Chapter 5 Basic Fire Science
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Fire Chemistry
5.3 Products of Combustion
5.4 Fluid Flows
5.5 Heat Transfer
5.6 Fuel Load, Fuel Packages, and Properties of Flames
5.7 Ignition
5.8 Flame Spread
5.9 Fire Spread in a Compartment
5.10 Compartment Fire Development
5.11 Fire Spread Between Compartments
5.12 Paths of Smoke Spread in Buildings
Chapter 6 Fire Patterns
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Fire Effects
6.3 Fire Patterns
6.4 Fire Pattern Analysis
Chapter 7 Building Systems
7.1 Introduction
7.2 Features of Design, Construction, and Structural Elements in Evaluating Fire Development
7.3 Types of Construction
7.4 Construction Assemblies
7.5 Construction Materials
7.6 Impact of Passive Fire Protection Systems on Investigation
7.7 Design and Installation Parameters of the System
7.8 Documentation and Data Collection
7.9 Analysis
Chapter 8 Fire Protection Systems
8.1 Introduction
8.2 Fire Alarm Systems
8.3 Water-Based Fire Suppression Systems
8.4 Non-Water-Based Fire Suppression Systems
8.5 Documentation of Fire Protection Systems
8.6 Spoliation Issues
Chapter 9 Electricity and Fire
9.1 Introduction
9.2 Basic Electricity
9.3 Building Electrical Systems
9.4 Service Equipment
9.5 Grounding
9.6 Overcurrent Protection
9.7 Branch Circuits
9.8 Outlets and Devices
9.9 Ignition by Electrical Energy
9.10 Interpreting Damage to Electrical Systems
9.11 Identification of Arc Melting of Electrical Conductors
9.12 Static Electricity
Chapter 10 Building Fuel Gas Systems
10.1 Introduction
10.2 Fuel Gases
10.3 Natural Gas Systems
10.4 LP-Gas Systems
10.5 Common Fuel Gas System Components
10.6 Common Piping in Buildings
10.7 Common Appliance and Equipment Requirements
10.8 Common Fuel Gas Utilization Equipment
10.9 Investigating Fuel Gas Systems Incidents
Chapter 11 Fire-Related Human Behavior
11.1 Introduction
11.2 History of Research
11.3 General Considerations of Human Responses to Fires
11.4 Factors Related to Fire Initiation
11.5 Children and Fire
11.6 Incendiary Fires
11.7 Human Factors Related to Fire Spread
11.8 Recognition and Response to Fires
Chapter 12 Legal Considerations
12.1 Introduction
12.2 Constitutional Considerations
12.3 Legal Considerations During the Investigation
12.4 Pretrial Legal Considerations
12.5 Trials
Chapter 13 Safety
13.1 General
13.2 General Fire Scene Safety
13.3 Fire Scene Hazards
13.4 Safety Plans
13.5 Chemical and Contaminant Exposure
13.6 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
13.7 Emergency Action Plans
13.8 Post-Scene Safety Activities
13.9 Safety in Off-Scene Investigation Activities
13.10 Special Hazards
Chapter 14 Sources of Information
14.1 General
14.2 Legal Considerations
14.3 Forms of Information
14.4 Interviews
14.5 Governmental Sources of Information
14.6 Private Sources of Information
14.7 Conclusion
Chapter 15 Planning the Investigation
15.1 Introduction
15.2 Basic Incident Information
15.3 Organizing the Investigation Functions
15.4 Pre-Investigation Team Meeting
15.5 Specialized Personnel and Technical Consultants
15.6 Case Management
Chapter 16 Documentation of the Investigation
16.1 Introduction
16.2 Photography
16.3 Note Taking
16.4 Diagrams and Drawings
16.5 Reports
Chapter 17 Physical Evidence
17.1 General
17.2 Physical Evidence
17.3 Preservation of the Fire Scene and Physical Evidence
17.4 Contamination of Physical Evidence
17.5 Methods of Collection
17.6 Evidence Containers
17.7 Identification of Physical Evidence
17.8 Transportation and Storage of Physical Evidence
17.9 Chain of Custody of Physical Evidence
17.10 Examination and Testing of Physical Evidence
17.11 Evidence Disposition
Chapter 18 Origin Determination
18.1 Introduction
18.2 Overall Methodology
18.3 Data Collection for Origin Determination
18.4 Analyze the Data
18.5 Developing an Origin Hypothesis
18.6 Testing of Origin Hypotheses
18.7 Selecting the Final Hypothesis
18.8 Origin Insufficiently Defined
Chapter 19 Fire Cause Determination
19.1 Introduction
19.2 Overall Methodology
19.3 Data Collection for Fire Cause Determination
19.4 Analyze the Data
19.5 Developing a Cause Hypothesis
19.6 Testing the Cause Hypothesis
19.7 Selecting the Final Hypothesis
Chapter 20 Classification of Fire Cause
20.1 Classification of the Cause
Chapter 21 Analyzing the Incident for Cause and Responsibility
21.1 General
21.2 The Cause of the Fire or Explosion
21.3 The Cause of Damage to Property Resulting from the Incident
21.4 The Cause of Bodily Injury or Loss of Life
21.5 Determining Responsibility
Chapter 22 Failure Analysis and Analytical Tools
22.1 Introduction
22.2 Time Lines
22.3 Systems Analysis
22.4 Mathematical Modeling
22.5 Fire Testing
22.6 Data Required for Modeling and Testing
Chapter 23 Explosions
23.1 General
23.2 Types of Explosions
23.3 Characterization of Explosion Damage
23.4 Effects of Explosions
23.5 Factors Controlling Explosion Effects
23.6 Seated Explosions
23.7 Nonseated Explosions
23.8 Gas/Vapor Combustion Explosions
23.9 Dust Explosions
23.10 Backdraft (Smoke Explosions)
23.11 Outdoor Vapor Cloud Explosions
23.12 Explosives
23.13 Investigation of Explosive Incidents
23.14 Investigating the Explosion Scene
23.15 Analyze Origin (Epicenter)
23.16 Analyze Fuel Source
23.17 Analyze Ignition Source
23.18 Analyze to Establish Cause
Chapter 24 Incendiary Fires
24.1 Introduction
24.2 Incendiary Fire Indicators
24.3 Potential Indicators Not Directly Related to Combustion
24.4 Other Evidentiary Factors
Chapter 25 Fire and Explosion Deaths and Injuries
25.1 General
25.2 Mechanisms of Death and Injury
25.3 Consumption of the Body by Fire
25.4 Postmortem Changes
25.5 Investigating Fire Scenes with Fatalities
25.6 Investigating Fire Scenes with Injuries
25.7 Explosion Deaths and Injuries
25.8 Post Scene Investigation of Injuries
25.9 Fire Death Pathological and Toxicological Examination
25.10 Analysis of Data
Chapter 26 Appliances
26.1 Scope
26.2 Appliance Scene Recording
26.3 Origin Analysis Involving Appliances
26.4 Cause Analysis Involving Appliances
26.5 Appliance Components
26.6 Common Residential Appliances
Chapter 27 Motor Vehicle Fires
27.1 Introduction
27.2 Vehicle Investigation Safety
27.3 Fuels in Vehicle Fires
27.4 Ignition Sources
27.5 System Identification and Function
27.6 Body Systems
27.7 Motor Vehicle Fire Scenes.
27.8 Motor Vehicle Examinations
27.9 Total Burns
27.10 Special Considerations for Incendiary Vehicle Fires
27.11 Vehicle Ignition Components
27.12 Vehicles in Structures
27.13 Recreational Vehicles.
27.14 Heavy Equipment
27.15 Agricultural Equipment and Implements Introduction
27.16 Hybrid Vehicles
27.17 Towing Considerations
27.18 Hydrogen-Fueled Vehicles
Chapter 28 Wildfire Investigations
28.1 Introduction
28.2 Wildfire Fuels
28.3 Weather
28.4 Topography
28.5 Fire Shape
28.6 Indicators
28.7 Origin Investigation
28.8 Fire Cause Determination
28.9 Evidence
28.10 Special Safety Considerations
28.11 Sources of Information
Chapter 29 Management of Complex Investigations
29.1 Scope
29.2 Basic Information and Documents
29.3 Communications Among Interested Parties
29.4 Understandings and Agreements
29.5 Management of the Investigation
29.6 Evidence
29.7 Logistics
29.8 Site and Scene Safety
Chapter 30 Marine Fire Investigations
30.1 Introduction
30.2 Powerboat and Sailboat Terminology
30.3 Boat Investigation Safety
30.4 System Identification and Function
30.5 Exterior
30.6 Interior
30.7 Propulsion Systems
30.8 Ignition Sources
30.9 Documenting Boat Fire Scenes
30.10 Boat Examination
30.11 Boats in Structures
30.12 Legal Considerations
Annex A Explanatory Material
Annex B Bibliography
Annex C Informational References
Annex D Photograph Credits

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Sample (NFPA 10, 2010)* Wheeled fire extinguishers shall be considered for hazard protection where fulfillment of the following requirementsis necessary: in areas in which a fire risk assessment has shown the following:

(4) (1) High hazard areas are present.

(5) (2) Limited available personnel Limited available personnel are present, thereby requiring an extinguisher that has the following features:

(1) (a) High agent flow rates

(2) (b) Increased agent stream range

(3) (c) Increased agent capacity