New! Tales from the Field, July 2015

This is a monthly segment that appears in Donan’s eNews. This feature will put some fun and entertainment into forensics. We hope you enjoy! If you do not currently receive our monthly eNews, sign up here!

What I learned about life from forensic investigation…

SinkPlumbing components always know when the insured is out of town and will wait until then to fail.

The house you need to visit is always the one:  without its address on the mailbox; down a long unmarked driveway; hidden behind another building or trees; with a street number that does not follow the normal sequence; or consists of some other feature that makes it difficult to find.

The backup on the interstate is never seen until just after you have passed the last exit ramp.

Learn to love crawlspaces.  They are warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and seldom will you be followed in by the insured.

There is nothing more satisfying for an engineer than when he or she has that “ah-ha!” moment that occurs when all the pieces of the forensic puzzle fall into place, no matter how trivial the solution.

Insureds seem to come in two types:  those who can provide precise and detailed step-by-step directions to their house and those who don’t seem to know where they live.

Russell Zeckner, P.E., CFEI, Louisville, KY


Photograph 17_smallerYou can grow some pretty good looking fungi on basement carpet with the right conditions.

Jen Cook, P.E., Lexington, KY



People don’t always remember things accurately, but buildings usually don’t lie.  Time flies whether we want it to or not, and people’s recollection of timeframes gets foggy, whether intentional or unintentional.  The look on people’s faces when you ask a simple question like how long they have owned the house is sometimes very interesting.  Other times, the answer doesn’t match the evidence on site.  An owner might say that an air conditioner is only a couple years old, when the date stamp says its 10 years old.  Or they might say the stain is new, but the stain has been painted over several times.  The story the building tells is very important in forensic investigations.  Let the building tell its story.

Craig DeWitt, P.E., Charlotte, NC


Clients base credibility on the project manager’s expertise, individual knowledge, and integrity.

Steve Weddington, IAAI-CFI, CFEI, CVFI, Lexington, KY


DogAs soon as you arrive onsite, check the lawn for large paw prints and ‘land mines’.  If you find them, immediately get back in your vehicle and call the homeowner to make sure their dogs are locked up. Never presume the log chain and spiked collar on the pit bull will be enough to restrain them, and don’t assume that the fence enclosing them is too high to be jumped.

John Hill, IAAI-CFI, CFEI, CVFI, Midwest Regional Fire Manager


Buy a surge protector, but understand surge protectors don’t always work.

Insurance fraud is not a viable means of income.

If a unit is in an attic, there’s only about a 50% chance there’s a ladder.

Everything is relative: 40-hour-weeks feel like vacation after you’ve worked 80-hour-weeks all summer.

People love throwing out good things.

There’s not much damage that can’t be repaired with new parts instead of replacing an entire unit.

People don’t understand their dogs, or how to control them.

– Silas Rathbun, Forensic Technician, Lexington, KY


Never select the short cut option on a GPS as it may take you down an ATV trail.

If there is more than a 30% chance of rain, there is a 100% chance it will rain during your site study.

In Tennessee not all streets have odd houses on one side and even on the other.  Sometimes, for about a half mile, they are both on the same side then they go back to normal.

Chris Bowman, Regional Manager, HVAC Forensics


SNAKE SKINNever assume you’re alone in a crawlspace.

Michael Pruitt, P.E., Oklahoma City, OK



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