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TWGFEX Survey of Forensic Science Laboratories (Forensic Science Communications, January 2000)

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Forensic Science Communications (masthead graphic)
January 2000   Volume 2   Number 1

Survey of Forensic Science Laboratories
by the Technical Working Group for Fire and Explosions (TWGFEX)

Survey Text

Instructions: The following survey contains questions related to your job responsibilities, education, training, laboratory standards and protocol, and information resources. It should take about 20 minutes to complete. Most items can be answered by both fire debris and explosives analysts, although some items, where indicated, will be applicable to, and should only be answered by, one group. This survey does ask for your name and laboratory. Providing this information is optional and requested only to ensure that in the event a second mailing of the survey is done, those who have already completed the survey will not receive a second copy. All information you provide on your survey will be treated with the utmost confidentiality. Thank you for your participation.

Demographic Considerations

Name: _____________________________________________(optional)

Laboratory: __________________________________________(optional)

1. Age: ______

2. Sex: ___ Male ___ Female

3. State in which your laboratory is located: _________________________

4. Current Position (all that apply)

  Fire Debris Explosives Debris
   Analyst    
   Analyst Supervisor    
   Laboratory Manager    
   Sworn public safety officer    
   Civilian    
   Other    

5. Laboratory type:

_____ a. Private

_____ b. Local

_____ c. State

_____ d. Federal

6. Education (indicate level of education most applicable to current position):

High School _____

2 year degree _____

4 year degree _____ BA________ BS________ Field_______

Master's degree _____ MA________ MS________ Field______

Ph.D. _____ Field_______________

Other ___________________

7. Years of experience in your field

_____ Fire debris

_____ Explosives debris

8. What percentage of your workload is devoted to

_____ Fire debris analysis

_____ Explosives debris analysis

9. Do you feel a supervisor must have experience in the areas of fire or explosive debris analysis to manage cases in these categories?

_____ Yes

_____ No

10. In your opinion, what are the minimum number of years of experience in explosives or fire debris analysis needed to hold a supervisory position?

_____ a. 0 - 2 years

_____ b. 2 - 5 years

_____ c. 5 - 10 years

_____ d. more than 10 years

11. In your opinion, what is the minimum number of years of work experience needed for a non-explosives or non-fire debris related individual to supervise analysts?

_____ a. 0 - 2 years

_____ b. 2 - 5 years

_____ c. 5 - 10 years

_____ d. more than 10 years

12. Does your supervisor have experience in explosives or fire debris analysis?

_____ a. Yes

_____ b. No

13. Is your laboratory accredited?

_____ a. No

_____ b. Yes

If yes, by whom?____________________________

14. If your laboratory is not accredited, is your laboratory currently seeking accreditation?

_____ a. No

_____ b. Yes

If yes, by whom?____________________________

15. Do you personally have American Board of Criminalistics (ABC) certification?

_____ a. No

_____ b. Yes   If yes, Diplomate _____ or Fellow ______

If a Fellow, what field _________________________

16. How much do you believe ABC certification would promote professional development in your laboratory?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all

          very much

17. Please list memberships in any professional organizations to which you belong:

a. __________________________________

b. __________________________________

c. __________________________________

d. __________________________________


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Job Description

18. Please indicate which of the following investigative activities you perform as:

    Fire Debris Analyst Explosives Analyst Times per year
   Crime scene investigation      
   Rendering situations safe      
   Incendiary devices      
   Intact explosives analysis      
   Residue analysis      
   Component evaluation      
   Ignitable residue analysis      
   Crime scene reconstruction      
   Fire modeling      
   Executing search warrants      

19. Indicate which of the following laboratory procedures you perform and how many times per year you perform each.

   Procedure Number of times
per year
     Intact low explosives  
     Intact high explosives   
     Intact improvised explosives  
     Post-blast low explosives  
     Post-blast high explosives  
     Post-blast improvised explosives  
     Post-blast improvised explosive device
   components
 
     Ignitable liquid analysis  
     Ignitable liquid residue (debris) analysis  
     Intact incendiary device component analysis  
     Post-ignition incendiary device component
   analysis
 


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Education and Training

20. Rate how important you believe each of the following courses are as part of the educational background of explosives and fire debris analysts:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all
important

          very
important

Explosives Analysts:

_____ General chemistry

_____ Organic chemistry

_____ Advanced organic chemistry

_____ Analytical chemistry

_____ Inorganic chemistry

_____ Physical chemistry

_____ Introductory physics

_____ Advanced physics

_____ Instrumental analysis

_____ Advanced mathematics

_____ Other _________________

Fire Debris Analysts:

_____ General chemistry

_____ Organic chemistry

_____ Advanced organic chemistry

_____ Analytical chemistry

_____ Inorganic chemistry

_____ Physical chemistry

_____ Introductory physics

_____ Advanced physics

_____ Instrumental analysis

_____ Advanced mathematics

_____ Other _________________

21. In your opinion, what is the minimum on-the-job training needed for a new explosives or fire debris analyst with no forensic experience (4-year degree, but no practical experience)?

_____ a. 0 - 2 months

_____ b. between 2 and 6 months

_____ c. 6 months - 1 year

_____ d. 1 - 2 years

_____ e. more than 2 years

22. In your opinion, what is the minimum on-the-job training needed for a new explosives or fire debris analyst who has instrumental or other forensic skills?

_____ a. None

_____ b. less than one month

_____ c. between one and six months

_____ d. six months to one year

_____ e. one to two years

_____ f. greater than two years

23. Whom do you believe is qualified to peer review new fire debris or explosives analysts? (check all that apply)

_____ a. a senior explosives or fire debris analyst

_____ b. laboratory supervisor

_____ c. an analyst with instrumentation/microscopy skills

_____ d. outside consultant in explosives or fire debris analysis

_____ e. analyst from another discipline

_____ f. other ______________

24. How important is training or coursework in the following areas for explosives and fire debris analysts?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all important
or not essential
      very important or
absolutely essential

General Training: (for both fire debris and explosives analysts)

___ Laboratory safety procedures

___ Rules of evidence

___ Understanding the judicial system

___ Legal terminology and definitions

___ Courtroom procedures

___ General crime scene investigation

___ Recognition of physical evidence

___ Preservation of physical evidence

Fire Debris Analysts Only

___ Fire scene investigation

___ Analytical examination of fire debris

___ Analytical examination of ignitable liquids

___ Chemistry used in the petroleum industry

___ Fire chemistry

___ Fire dynamics

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all important
or not essential
      very important or
absolutely essential

Explosives Analysts Only

____ History of explosives

____ Different types of explosives

____ Terminology and vocabulary of explosives

____ Manufacturing of explosives

____ Composition of low explosive materials

____ Composition of high explosive materials

____ Construction of commercial pyrotechnic devices

____ Construction of improvised devices

____ Construction of military devices (e.g. simulators, rockets, hand grenades)

____ Analytical examination of high and low explosive materials and residue

____ Range procedures

____ Recognition of improvised device components

25. How important is it that explosives and fire debris analysts in training attend a school in each of the following forensic areas:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all
important

          very
important

_____ a. Crime scene search

_____ b. Instrumental analysis

_____ c. Chemical analysis

_____ d. Sample cleanup processes

_____ e. Explosives workshops

_____ f. Pyrotechnic devices

_____ g. Explosives microscopy

_____ h. Regional workshops on explosives analysis

26. How interested would you or other experienced analysts be in attending a school in each of the following courses of study?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all
interested

          very
interested

_____ a. Post-blast crime scene

_____ b. Instrumental analysis of explosives residue

_____ c. Low explosives analysis

_____ d. Advanced explosives workshops

_____ e. Advanced pyrotechnics

_____ f. Explosives microscopy

_____ g. Regional workshops on explosives analysis

27. Rate how interested you would be in taking each of the following types of continuing education courses

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all
interested

          very
interested

_____ a. EOD range time (e.g., training with EOD personnel)

_____ b. Specialized training in electrical circuitry

_____ c. Informational and educational seminars by
commercial explosives manufacturers

_____ d. Refresher course in analytical methodology

_____ e. Refresher course in IED recognition updates

_____ f. Funded training with federal investigative agencies

_____ g. Federally funded training with National Center for Forensic Science

_____ h. Course about collection and preservation of crime scene evidence

_____ i. Course in fire dynamics and behavior

_____ j. Course in petroleum refining

_____ k. Course in computer fire modeling

_____ l. Course in mass spectral interpretation

_____ m. Course in fire scene search

_____ n. Course on Internet resources for fire debris analysis

_____ o. Course on Internet resources for explosives analysts

_____ p. Regional training through professional associations

28. For fire debris analysts only: How important is theoretical and operational understanding of the following instrumentation for fire debris analysis?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all important
or not essential
      very important or
absolutely essential

___ Gas chromatography

___ Gas chromatography – mass spectroscopy

___ High performance liquid chromatography

___ Fourier transform infrared analysis

___ Capillary electrophoresis

29. How many competency samples do you require a fire debris or explosives analyst trainee to examine prior to handling evidentiary samples under supervision?

_____ a. 1 to 5

_____ b. 6 to 10

_____ c. 11 to 15

_____ d. 16 to 20

_____ e. 20 to 30

_____ f. more than 30

30. How important is it that competency testing include each of the following components?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all
important

          very
important

_____ a. Identification of unknown samples

_____ b. Written examination

_____ c. Oral examination

_____ d. Report writing

_____ e. Moot Court

_____ f. Supervised casework

31. When does your laboratory require competency tests?

_____ a. After completion of each topical area

_____ b. At the end of the entire training

_____ c. Throughout training and at the end of the entire training

_____ d. No competency testing


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Analytical Protocols

32. Does your laboratory conduct proficiency testing of each analyst?

_____ a. Yes

_____ b. No

33. How often does your laboratory conduct external explosives and fire debris analysis proficiency tests for each analyst?

_____ a. Never

_____ b. Every six months

_____ c. Once a year

_____ d. Once every two years

_____ e. Once every 2-5 years

34. How often does your laboratory conduct internal explosives and fire debris proficiency tests for each analyst?

_____ a. Never

_____ b. Every six months

_____ c. Once a year

_____ d. Once every two years

_____ e. Once every 2-5 years

35. If proficiency testing is done in your laboratory, which of the following procedures are used in the testing? (check all that apply)

_____ a. Open

_____ b. Single blind

_____ c. Double blind

_____ d. Reanalysis

_____ e. Sample exchange

36. Fire Debris Analysts Only: Please respond to the following statements using the scale provided

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all necessary       absolutely necessary

___ Fire debris analysts should be familiar with the ASTM classification system

___ Fire debris analysts should be familiar with incendiary devices

___ Fire debris analysts should be familiar with pyrolysis products

Questions 37-44: For Fire Debris Analysts Only. Explosives Analysts now proceed to Question 45.

37. In fire debris analyses, how often do you use each of the following sample preparation techniques?

0

1 2 3 4

5

never use this
technique

very seldom

frequently

_____ a. Solvent extraction

_____ b. Passive headspace (Activated charcoal strips)

_____ c. Dynamic headspace (Activated charcoal tubes)

_____ d. Steam or vacuum distillation

_____ e. Simple headspace

_____ f. Solid phase microextraction

38. In fire debris analyses, how often do you use the following instrumental analysis techniques?

0

1 2 3 4

5

never use this
technique

very seldom

frequently

_____ a. GC/FID

_____ b. GC/MS

_____ c. FTIR

_____ d. Other ________________________________

39. In fire debris analyses, how often do you use the following methodologies for ignitable liquid identification?

0

1 2 3 4

5

never use this

very seldom

frequently

_____ a. Pattern recognition by FID alone

_____ b. Pattern recognition by TIC alone

_____ c. Pattern recognition by mass chromatography (EIC)

_____ d. Target compound analysis

_____ e. Individual component identification

_____ f. Other ______________________

40. In fire debris analyses, how often do you use the following QA/QC tests?

0

1 2 3 4

5

never use this

very seldom

frequently

_____ a. ASTM 1387 test mix or similar mixture

_____ b. Internal Standards (e.g., 3-phenyltoluene)

_____ c. Solvent Blanks

_____ d. Apparatus Blanks (e.g., strips, glassware)

_____ e. Recovery Checks (e.g., simulated case extractions)

_____ f. Peer Review

_____ g. Other _____________________

41. In fire debris analyses, do you use the ASTM E-30 Committee on Forensic Science Standards (found in ASTM Volume 14.02) and ASTM guides to fire debris analysis?

_____ a. Yes

_____ b. No

If you answered yes to question 41 then please answer the following set of questions. If you answered no to item 41, please proceed directly to question 46.

42. How closely do you adhere to the following ASTM standards and guides?

1 2 3 4 5

not at all

   

explicitly

_____ a. ASTM-E 1387-95 (Standard Test Method for Ignitable Liquid Residues in Extracts from Fire Debris Samples by Gas Chromatography)

_____ b. ASTM-E 1618-94 (Standard Test Method for Ignitable Liquid Extracts by Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry)

_____ c. ASTM-E 1385-95 (Standard Practice for Separation and Concentration of Ignitable Liquid Residues from Fire Debris Samples by Steam Distillation)

_____ d. ASTM-E 1412-95 (Standard Practice for Separation and Concentration of Ignitable Liquid Residues from Fire Debris Samples by Passive Headspace Concentration)

_____ e. ASTM-E 1413-95 (Standard Practice for Separation and Concentration of Liquid Residues from Fire Debris Samples by Dynamic Headspace Concentration)

_____ f. ASTM-E 1388-95 (Standard Practice for Sampling of Vapors from Fire Debris Samples)

_____ g. ASTM-E 1386-95 (Standard Practice for Separation and Concentration of Ignitable Liquid Residues from Fire Debris Samples by Solvent Extraction)

_____ h. ASTM-E 1492-92 (Standard Practice for Receiving, Documenting, Storing and Retrieving Evidence in a Forensic Science Laboratory)

_____ i. ASTM-E 1459-92 (Physical Evidence Labeling and Related Documentation)

43. How well does the classification scheme in ASTM-E 1387 describe results you are obtaining in your lab?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all well      

very well

44. How well does the classification scheme in ASTM-E 1618 describe results you are obtaining in your lab?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all well      

very well

45. For Explosives Analysts Only: In explosives analyses, how often do you use each of the following analytical techniques?

0

1 2 3 4

5

6

7

never

rarely

 

very often

Chemical tests:

_____ a. Microchemical analysis

_____ a1. PLM

_____ a2. Stereomicroscopy

_____ b. Spot tests

_____ c. TLC

_____ d. Ignition Analysis

_____ e. Field Explosives Screening

Instrumental Analyses:

_____ a. IR

_____ b. SEM – EDX

_____ c. SEM – WDX

_____ d. ICP

_____ e. XRF

_____ f. GC/MS

_____ g. HPLC

_____ h. CE

_____ i. IC

_____ j. GC/TEA

_____ k. HPLC/TEA

_____ l. GC/FID

_____ m. GC/ECD

_____ n. IMS

_____ o. NMR

0

1 2 3 4

5

6

7

never

rarely

 

very often

_____ p. HPLC/MS

_____ q. Raman spectrometry

_____ r. ICP

_____ s. FTIR

_____ t. Other _______________________________


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General Information (for both fire debris and explosives experts)

46. What extent of funding does your laboratory provide for continuing education and training in the field of explosives and fire debris analysis?

_____ a. full funding

_____ b. partial funding

_____ c. no funding

47. To what extent does your laboratory encourage continuing college-level coursework for each analyst?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all encouraging       very encouraging

48. How interested would you be in taking college-level, continuing education courses via distance learning (on-line) technology?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all interested       very interested

49. How important would each of the following resources be to you as an explosives or fire debris analyst?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all important       very important

_____ a. Listing of people working in the field¾private and government

_____ b. Creation of a secure Internet link for E-mail and information exchange between professionals in the field of explosives and fire debris analysis

_____ c. Establishment of a collection of sample laboratory reports

_____ d. Creation of a glossary of analytical, explosives, and fire debris-related technology

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all important       very important

_____ e. Creation of information templates for evidence submission

_____ f. Establishment of a collection of methods and protocols for analytical techniques

_____ g. Establishment of databases of reference materials for analytical techniques

_____ h. Creation of a national database for tracking bombing matters

_____ i. Creation of a national database for tracking arson matters

_____ j. Establishment of a national resource database (for lab equipment, expertise, etc.)

_____ k. Establishment of a national explosives formulation database

_____ l. Creation of a bulletin board for communication between explosives analysts

_____ m. Creation of a bulletin board for communication between fire debris analysts

_____ n. Creation of an library of manufacturers' literature

_____ o. Database of explosives analyst training manuals and materials

_____ p. Information center for inter-agency training exercises

50. Do you currently have access to the World Wide Web and Internet resources in your laboratory?

_____ a. Yes

_____ b. No

51. If any or all of the above listed resources (question 49) were made available through a Web site on the Internet or a group of related Web sites, how likely would you be to utilize that information?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all likely       very likely

52. Are you familiar with the Technical Working Group for Fire and Explosives Examination?

a. Yes _____

b. No _____

53. If you answered yes to question 52, how important is it to you to have a technical working group engage in the following activities?

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all

     

very

_____ a. Publishing guidelines for explosives and fire debris analysis

_____ b. Validating guidelines for explosives and fire debris analysis

_____ c. Establishing national quality control standards

_____ d. Assisting explosives and fire debris laboratories in gaining ASCLD approval

_____ e. Maintaining Internet library or databases of explosives and fire debris analysis materials

_____ f. Promoting/offering continuing education courses in explosives and fire debris analysis

_____ g. Tracking and disseminating results of court cases involving explosives and fire debris analysis

_____ h. Promoting international participation in an explosives and fire debris analysis technical working group (TWG)

54. If you answered yes to question 52, please rate how useful you would find each of the following methods for disseminating information from TWG organizations.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7
not at all useful       very useful

_____ a. Mailed information

_____ b. Phone calls

_____ c. Electronic mail

_____ d. Internet Web sites or databases

_____ e. Trade journals or newspapers

_____ f. Conference presentations

_____ g. Special seminars

_____ h. Association newsletters

55. Does your laboratory provide explosives and fire debris literature and publications for you to reference?

_____ a. Yes

_____ b. No

56. Rate each of the following statements as they apply to your laboratory or to you using the scale given below:

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

not at all

     

very

_____ a. How sufficient are the explosives and fire debris publications provided by your laboratory?

_____ b. How interested would your laboratory be in receiving a library of ignitable liquid standards on a regular basis?

_____ c. How interested would your laboratory be in receiving a library of pyrolysis standards on a regular basis?

______ d. How important do you feel it would be to have national standards for report writing?

_____ e. How important would it be to have a specific protocol for wording of both positive and negative samples?

_____ f. How important would it be to have a national database for chromatographic data for ignitable liquids?

_____ g. How important would it be to have a national source for ignitable liquid standards?

______ h. How interested are you in participating in the fire and explosives debris analysis technical working group?

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FORENSIC SCIENCE COMMUNICATIONS     JANUARY 2000   VOLUME 2   NUMBER 1

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