Forensic Engineers and Consultants

Category Archive: Tips and Advice

Are 10 Minutes Worth the Risk?

Before retiring as a S.C. State Trooper, and to this day, people routinely ask me, “How fast can I go before I get a speeding ticket?” Let me start by saying one mile per hour over the speed limit can subject you to a speeding ticket. While different officers have different standards, it is easier to talk your way into a ticket than to talk your way out of one. So, much like the number of licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, the world may never know an exact answer to how fast you can go over the posted limit without a citation. A better question is ‘What is the benefit of exceeding the posted limit?’ Read More

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Piecing it Together…Traced Evidence

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In the field of forensic investigations of traffic collisions, it can be repeated over and over that little things matter. It’s the details that align the facts to describe the event and answer the questions about the crash. Sometimes those details are simple, and they are often overlooked. The damage sustained by a vehicle involved in an accident tells a reconstructionist a lot. Your collision reconstruction could benefit from mapping the damage profiles of the involved vehicle(s) to assist in answering questions about the incident. Read More

Figure 1: A typical Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Receptacle.

Testing…testing… Is this thing on?

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Many people just take for granted that something is just going to work, and in many cases assume that it will work forever.  One such device that does not get enough attention is the Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI).   Simply put, a GFCI is a protective device that compares the current flowing on the hot and neutral wires of the circuit and will “trip” to disconnect power to the circuit if a small imbalance of current is detected.  The imbalance of current is an indication of a dangerous alternate path for the current to flow from a damaged line cord or a fault inside an appliance and constitutes a shock hazard to a person. Read More

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Water Damage from Leaking Shower Stalls

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Have you ever had to have a leaking shower pan for a tiled shower stall replaced, only to have a recurrence a few years later? If so, it is likely that it was not properly built and/or repaired. In most installations, the shower stall is constructed with an underlying one-piece flexible membrane of PVC that is attached to the wall studs before the backer board and wall tile is installed. No nails or screws should penetrate the membrane below the level of the curb of the shower stall. The only opening in the membrane below the curb must be the hole for the shower drain to connect to the house plumbing. The shower drain is designed to allow water on top of the membrane to flow into the drain via weep holes for that purpose. Read More

Black box inside car

Event Data Recorders and Collision Investigation

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Event Data Recorders (EDRs) were first introduced by General Motors (GM) in 1974.   That data was only available to GM; however, since 1994 more and more vehicle EDR’s have recorded data that can be gathered.  The data captured can be imaged and is being used by vehicle manufacturers, law enforcement officers, and collision reconstructionists to better understand what is happening in a collision.  In accident investigation, EDRs have the potential to provide independent measurements of crash data that would elsewise be estimated by Read More

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Should I Trust My Nail Gun?

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Can you imagine framing a house with the tools of our forefathers, using hand saws and hammers, rather than power saws and pneumatic nail guns? Power tools have made the job much easier and faster, that even the amateur is well equipped for this kind of work. Read More

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Graphitic Corrosion – Difficult to determine before a failure!

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Graphitic corrosion is a process that may happen in equipment made of iron, particularly grey cast iron, but also ductile cast iron. Graphitic corrosion can lead to unexpected catastrophic failure of the affected part because the cast iron can lose its strength without a visible warning such as a change in size, shape, or appearance. Read More

NFPA-921

New 2017 Edition of NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations

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Over the course of its 25-year history, NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations has changed the practice of fire investigation for the better.  Without a doubt, NFPA 921 has appropriately driven a more rigorous approach to fire investigation that seeks to avoid cognitive bias and reliance on techniques that, when rigorously examined, are little more than pseudoscience.  One need look no further than the Cameron Todd Willingham matter, wherein a Texas man was executed in part based on a flawed fire investigation, to understand the importance of conducting a proper fire investigation. Read More

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Post-Fire Inspection of Steel, Concrete, Masonry and Wood – Tips for an Insurance Adjuster, Part 2

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This is the second part of a 3-Part series to help insurance adjusters during a claim inspection to make a post-fire assessment of a building’s structural framing system.  Part 2 investigates and assesses the future use of common post fire structural framing elements such as steel, concrete, masonry and wood.  These more common structural elements take on different and specific characteristics when they are exposed to a fire.  It’s important for the adjuster to make reasonable, cost saving assessments on what remains, what is to be repaired, what gets demolished and what gets replaced. Read More

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Are You Prepared for Emergencies? Your Generator Set Should Be!

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Emergency generators are often called into service during catastrophic events like hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or fires, but also during more mundane events like thunderstorms and other things that may temporarily interrupt the public power grid. Can you rely on your generator to perform at those critical times? Read More

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