News - Xpera Risk Mitigation and Investigation

Xpera is pleased to announce that David Slipp, Alberta’s Security Manager for ESM, was a recent contributor to Canadian Association of Fire Investigators Journal.

3/29/2017

SAFETY AND SECURITY FOR FIRE LOSS SCENES

BY DAVID SLIPP, ALBERTA SECURITY MANAGER, ESM EMERGENCY SECURITY MANAGEMENT

Security and safety are intrinsically linked. The simple fact is that you cannot have one without the other. Fire loss scenes must be treated as a crime scene until the scene is investigated and released by the Fire Department and/or the assigned Origin and Cause Inspector. It is well documented that arsonist’s often watch, photograph or otherwise record the fire and subsequent response and investigation. Timely deployment of security professionals to a scene can often assist in the identification of such individuals, as well as the securing and preservation of evidence at the scene.

Upon the completion of the initial investigation and release of the scene for entry to personnel other than first responders and investigators, access control and scene preservation is paramount. Specific standard operating procedures or site orders for the security professionals must be initiated immediately; access must be restricted to authorized and suitably trained/equipped personnel. The wearing and issue of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and the safety of those individuals is an integral part of the security service provision of the specialized security companies who provide this service. By their very nature fire loss sites are potentially dangerous and often contain toxic materials and debris. OHS (Occupational Health and Safety) and security must work closely to ensure compliance and avoid stop work orders. Requirements can change frequently and quickly; an extensive Health and Safety manual must be on site and available to the OHS Inspector for their review at all times. Delays due to HSE issues can be extremely costly in both time and expense on such projects.

The security provider should conduct continuous fire watch with regular extensive patrols of the site, reignition is a constant threat to buildings and occupants in these circumstances. The patrols also provide ongoing hazard assessment and identification, such hazards being brought to the immediate attention of the Site Superintendent or designated authorities.

The subsequent insurance claims arising from fire loss, particularly commercial, large residential and multi-occupancy sites can be in the multimillion dollar range. Scenes which have been unsecured and become questionable regarding continuity or potential tampering may be subject to questions by insures regarding the payment of claims and may even end in litigation. Engaging a professional security provider who specializes in securing the scene and provides detailed, accurate access control data is essential to mitigate these risks.

The security provider must maintain continuity of all personnel on site. Best practice dictates that personnel are checked in, their details and authority to enter verified and recorded. The authorized personnel are then provided with a periodic check in and agreed time span for being on site. This communication creates a professional working relationship and encourages trust and engagement between all parties. The personal safety of workers and authorized visitors is paramount and is especially important in large structures with multiple floors and where structural integrity is an issue.

Access control also provides adjusters and insurers with an accurate record for contractor’s time on site for subsequent reconciliation with invoicing. Catastrophic events such as the Fort McMurray wild fires of May 2016 saw a small army of contractors, restoration and construction companies working on multiple sites. (CatIQ) reported that insured damage was estimated to have reached $3.58 billion, making the wildfire the most expensive disaster in Canadian history, surpassing the 1998 ice storms in Quebec ($1.9 billion) and the 2013 Alberta floods ($1.8 billion). In all cases the accurate recording of data was essential to provide continuity for invoicing. The engagement of a professional security provider must be seen as an investment into a multi- faceted solution, rather than simply a cost center for the project.

Slipp, David. Safety and Security in Fire Loss Scenes. Canadian Association of Fire Investigators Journal. Volume 1, 2017



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