All of us have or will have written a fire investigation report during our career, whether a short report, long report, using a template, or writing the report from your documentation and visual examination.
Many of my acquaintances have shared over the years, we use BATS, NFIRS Fire Incident Reporting Software, Blaze Stack, 921 Docs, SCOUT, and Fire with files integrates with the NFIRS reporting system or similar programs.
No report may ever be truly bulletproof however, preparation, along with a systematic approach, a scientific methodology, complete documentation, and referencing documents followed should assist in a clear understanding of the facts you are conveying to the attorneys and the court.
Many times, the attorney or attorneys are examining your documentation to see if there is an area where they could make a valid challenge in one or more areas of your report.
The question is, does your expert report explain how you documented the scene systematically and scientifically while including all pertinent and necessary information?
Your report and testimony will need to be relevant and reliable to be admissible in many courts, especially in federal court, or state or commonwealth courts that follow the federal rules of evidence.
Today there is no room for error, as an investigator, we must be ready to meet the challenges of writing and defending the expert report with all the facts clearly explained so your audience can evaluate the information whether in court, depositions, appeals courts, civil trials, etc.
We are being held to a higher standard of care today than in previous years and decades. We are being evaluated and graded on our performance.
We must be able to effectively and efficiently present the facts of the case and our conclusions in a truthful, accurate format to withstand any viable challenge or questions which arise from opposing individuals who were not there during the investigation.
I realize that many of you use the above-mentioned packages, or may be required to write a short report or long report as directed by the administration or company that you work for. You may even say why I need to include the information discussed in the documents of our industry. Simply because many times the legal counsel on the other side may ask or will want to know.
The purpose and design of this tried and proven method can minimize your time in deposition or trial when you provide all the pertinent answers in your final report. It will cover all areas of interest to the opposing side and possibly the court will be interested to examine whether you covered all needed information as discussed in NFPA® 921 and NFPA® 1033 along with the best-accepted practices of our industry.