May 2024

NAFE Ann Arbor Social Cards

Session Announcements

Come to Ann Arbor for a great Saturday technical session with various topics. See how the best forensic engineers apply their knowledge in multi-disciplinary situations, and bring home some ideas about how to approach impossible one-of-a-kind investigations. The Sunday educational session will leave you thinking about managing those everyday overlooked risks to you and your forensic practice.

While you are in town, you might want to enjoy the famous Ann Arbor Art Fest which runs concurrently in the downtown area

Register Today Before Early Bird Pricing Ends!


Forensic Engineering Analysis of Roadway Geometry and Traffic Control  Failure Analysis of Polymeric Composite Materials

Investigating the Effects of Imperfections on an Aluminum Stepladder using Finite Element Analysis  Investigation of Electrical Fire Using SEM/EDAX to Identify the Characteristic and Fire Pattern to Determine the Real Cause of Fire

Forensic Analysis of an Elevated Pool Vault  Diamond Decision Process – Managing Cost and Risk of Metallurgical Forensic Cases

Icove Session saturday  Michael Stall Saturday

Sunday Sessions

Innovative Uses of Generative Artificial Intelligence (GenAI) Tools in Fire Investigations   Ethical Standards and Review

Diamond Decision Process – Managing Cost and Risk of Metallurgical Forensic Cases  Diamond Decision Process – Managing Cost and Risk of Metallurgical Forensic Cases

Wet Arson; Staged Water Losses and the Evolving Face of Insurance Fraud


More Sessions To Be Announced! Register Now!

Ann Arbor 2024 - Sunday Educational Sessions

NAFE Summer 2024 will be in Ann Arbor, Michigan.


The 2024 Summer Conference of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers in Ann Arbor will begin Friday, July 19 at 8:30 a.m. local/Eastern time with the NAFE Board meeting, which is open to all current members in good standing. The conference proceedings will end at 5 pm on Sunday, July 21, 2024. 

Event Details And Registration >>>


- Sunday Sessions - 


Diamond Decision Process – Managing Cost and Risk of Metallurgical Forensic Cases

Jon D. Tirpak, Metallurgical PE, Fellow ASM International

When reviewing cost curves for litigation or subrogation AND new product development, it is noted that for both processes, although designed for different domains, are remarkably similar. For both processes information is “purchased” along the way. For forensic cases, information is revealed from an incident to trial.  For new product development, information is revealed from ideation to commercialization.  Both processes could incur considerable expense and risk. To manage expense, risk, and outcome, Sabattis, LLC has developed and deployed the Diamond Decision Process to collaborate with and guide clients through a case from incident to trial. During this presentation, attendees will gain insight into both processes and will see the application of select tools from a metallurgical engineer’s perspective as applied to these processes.
This serves as a benchmark to compare and contrast the forensic analysis processes of the attendees with Sabattis, LLC’s Diamond Decision Process (DDP). Invoking a process approach, attendees can continually improve their service offerings while improving labor and cost estimates. The secrets of metallurgy will be revealed. 


Investigating the Claims of Blasting and Construction Vibration Damages

Gregory L. Boso, P.E., DFE, M.NSPE, M.NAFE, M.ASCE

The presentation will discuss various unusual blasting and construction vibration damage claims, including well water, air over-pressure, landslide, and related claims, with recommendations on how blasters and companies can reduce and protect against potential liability. Historical research conducted by the US Bureau of Mines and other agencies will be discussed providing background for practices and laws today.  The presentation will also focus on recommendations for documenting and responding to unusual complaints and include specific examples from claims / cases, including examples of how to address the atypical claim from a scientific and common-sense approach. 
After completing this session, the participant will be able to:

  • Understand treatises and references of historical research for blasting and construction vibrations;
  • Analyze situations / claims that may arise from blasting or construction vibrations;
  • Discuss various options for address the atypical blasting claim;
  • Describe a reasonable protocol for documenting and responding to complaints to adequately address complaints and analyze conditions giving rise to claims; and
  • Review lessons learned from actual cases and claims with engineering-based and common-sense approaches to defending unique claims, and potential modifications to standard operating procedures based on similar situations, including modifications to operations to help alleviate concerns from nearby homeowners.


Wet Arson; Staged Water Losses and the Evolving Face of Insurance Fraud

Nicholas W. Siewert, Partner, McCoy Leavitt Laskey LLC

With the near-universal investigation of fire claims by private investigators, advancements in investigatory technology, and education of claims handlers, the success of arson for profit is diminishing. As a result, fraudsters have sought new schemes to bilk insurers, including staged water losses. Staged water losses are uniquely overlooked and uninvestigated due to a combination of structural claims handling factors and a general lack of knowledge. Like the education and information campaigns surrounding fire for-profit, attorneys and forensic engineers should lead the charge in educating insurers and claims handlers. This includes pushing to change internal claims handling procedures, the availability and role of forensic engineers in the investigatory process, and the impact upon subsequent litigation or claim denial.

Ethical Standards and Review - An Interactive Seminar

Sam G. Sudler, III, PE, IntPE, DFE, CFEI, CVFI

The Ethical Challenges a Forensic Engineer Faces go beyond the uncomplicated right or wrong scenarios that can be addressed as easily as choosing between what is Black o White. Instead, today’s Forensic Engineer must navigate Ethical Challenges that are many shades of grey that do not have straight forward answers. This interactive seminar will show you how to [properly evaluate those challenging situations using the National Society of Professional Engineers (NSPE) Code of Ethics to address Ethical hurdles with an Attorney, who has a different set of Ethical obligations, to a potential manufacturing client that may put the Forensic Engineer in  position that is perceived to have a conflict of interest, or performing Forensic investigations without a P.E. license in a state and a report with a stamp from your home state. The challenging scenarios will come from Ethical dilemmas raised to the Academy by members as well as Real-World cases that were addressed by the NSPE Board of Ethical Review (BER) over the past few decades. Join the Academy in these interactive and real-world challenges that will assist both the novice Forensic Engineer as well as the veteran Forensic Practitioners that have been engaged in this work for half a century.


Beneficial Ownership Interest Reporting Requirements

Rebecca Bowman, Esq., PE, DFE

Preventing Construction Defects: Establishing a Risk Management Program When Your Client is Tired of Being a Defendant

Liberty L. Janson, PE, NAFE, Senior Consultant at Curtainwall Design Consulting (CDC)

After being named in numerous construction defect cases across the country, Façade System Manufacturer decided it was time to change its approach to project planning, actual installation, and claims response. To ensure their program addressed the full scope of their risk, they engaged a forensic engineer to identify the core errors, improve installation standards, and advise on initial claims. The established program initially reduced costs per claim and ultimately reduced total claims and exposure. Ms. Janson will present the development and implementation of this specific internal risk management program, as well as general ways forensic engineering knowledge is used to prevent future construction defects.

Ann Arbor 2024 - Saturday Technical Sessions

NAFE Summer 2024 will be in Ann Arbor, Michigan.








The 2024 Summer Conference of the National Academy of Forensic Engineers in Ann Arbor will begin Friday, July 19 at 8:30 a.m. local/Eastern time with the NAFE Board meeting, which is open to all current members in good standing. The conference proceedings will end at 5 pm on Sunday, July 21, 2024. 

Event details and registration >>>


- Saturday Sessions - 

8:00 AM - Forensic Engineering Analysis of Roadway Geometry and Traffic Control

Tim McClure, PE, PhD, Joshua Golomb, PE, & Jerry Ogden, PhD, PE (NAFE #561F)

When evaluating evidence for causative factors contributing to a motor vehicle collision event, consideration of roadway geometric, or traffic control, contributions should be examined. Roadway geometry, clear zone, safety features, visibility obstructions, or traffic control devices and placement may influence driver behaviors. Are the roadways involved designed and signed properly? The geometric design and traffic control requirements for special circumstances, such as a highway construction zone, mixed-use paths, railway crossings, or low traffic volume, may also present the potential for roadway issues. An evaluation of these potential contributing factors can open a Pandora's box of opportunities for errors when an improper engineering analysis follows. This paper explores the topics that guide a proper engineering analysis of roadway geometry and traffic control as they relate to determining which design standards, policies, or guidelines apply as well as the proper application of the semantics in these documents. Additionally, this paper addresses recommendations contained in research concepts or reports versus requirements for designer, constructor, or DOT. The discussion includes examples from past cases addressing the topics presented, providing a systematic approach to evaluating permanent or temporary roadway geometric or traffic control design for factors contributing to a collision event.


9:00AM - Forty Years of Advances in Failure Analysis of Polymeric Composite Materials

Geoffrey Clarkson, PE (NAFE #1143A) & Daniel Couture, PEng (NAFE #951S)

Use of polymeric composite materials is increasing in prevalence for applications ranging from fixed infrastructure installations to industrial chemical processes to electricity generation in addition to aero-nautical applications. Engineers have been able to codify design principles and manufacturing practices to be accessible to practitioners with general engineering education. In almost all cases, when polymeric com- posites enter service, none of the design codes, approaches, or construction standards apply, and they can- not be used to determine Fitness For Service. When failures occur, approaches that are normally followed in investigation yield inconclusive results, which often creates a conclusion that: “There was an undetected manufacturing defect.” All polymeric composites are non-crystalline, non-linear viscoelastic materials, and their mechanical properties change continuously while in service. This paper will describe how damage occurs to these materials, how it can be detected, and a methodology to approach these failures.


10:15 AM - Forensic Deformation Analysis of Clevis Failure

Wade Lanning, PhD, & Michael Stichter, PhD, PE (NAFE#1162M)

Photographic evidence can be a sufficient basis for a forensic failure analysis, especially when characteristic features of the failure mode are readily observed in photographs: deformation, fracture, etc. In this case, the failed component – a farm clevis or round pin shackle – was part of equipment used to attempt to recover a vehicle mired in the mud at an above-ground mine site. The shackle failed, and the shackle pin became a projectile that penetrated the cab and injured the driver. The subject clevis was not available for physical inspection or testing. However, photographs of the subject clevis were available. Application of solid mechanics principles made it possible to determine the sequence of deformation steps that occurred during the failure. Additionally, comparing the deformation behavior documented in photographs of the subject clevis and to exemplars allowed a determination of the strength of the subject clevis. Thus, investigators were able to use photographs to determine whether the shackle failed below its working load limit (WLL) or if a citation issued by the Mine Safety and Health Administration for using the subject clevis over its WLL was merited.


11:15 AM - Improving the Effectiveness of Forensic Engineering Reports

Michael Stall, PE (NAFE #955M) 

Forensic engineers must be able to clearly communicate their evaluations, understandings and findings in effective and compelling forensic engineering reports. The typical FE is technically competent but is not necessarily an effective or compelling writer. Effective use of photography in terms of content, scale, exposure, focus, and clarity is very important, and examples of effective and questionable photographic uses are provided. Compelling use of the written word is part technical writing and part convincing prose, which is a skill that can be learned. Document formatting and layout are important aspects of establishing a relationship with the reader, and examples of formatting mistakes and improvements are provided. This paper gives examples from FE reports that fail to be convincing or compelling and provides suggestions for improvement. An important aspect of this paper focuses on providing instructions on how to best utilize photography, captions, illustrations, and text in order to clearly and effectively tell a persuasive story that people will want to read and that will clearly communicate the opinions and conclusions of the forensic engineer.


1:15 PM - Forensic Analysis of an Elevated Pool Vault

Brian Eubanks, PE (NAFE #962S) & Garrett Ryan, PE (NAFE #1125M)

Distress observed in the plaster lining and gunite/shotcrete of a pool structure located within a podium slab on the third floor of an eight-story student housing building located in central Texas was determined to be causally related to the gunite/shotcrete mix that combined high alkali Portland cement with siliceous aggregates sufficient to generate alkali-silica reaction (ASR). Upon demolition of the pool structure, design deficiencies were subsequently identified in the recessed concrete vault that supported the pool structure, including inaccurate structural design and analysis with finite element modeling software, inconsistencies in the thickness of the floor slab, omission of a shear key at the abutment/connection of the floor slab and the vault walls, and an inadequate amount of bonded, non-prestressed reinforcement in the floor slab, which culminated in the demolition and reconstruction of the vault. This paper will explore the different parties involved in the design and construction of the project, the errors that resulted in deficient conditions, and the positions maintained by the different forensic engineering consultants representing the various parties.


2:15 PM - Investigating the Effects of Imperfections on an Aluminum Stepladder Using Finite Element Analysis

John Thomazin, PE (NAFE #1188M), Bill Webster, & Sai Kosaraju

Ladders, while a useful tool, can also be alarmingly dangerous. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), ladder-related falls cause a staggering number of more than 100 fatalities and thousands of injuries each year. The installation, maintenance, and repair industries bear the brunt of these ladder-related injuries. Ladders have made significant advancements in safety over the years, and the ANSI A14.2 standard governs the safe construction, design, testing, and use of portable metal ladders. The standard outlines construction requirements for ladder rung spacing, connections, and angle of inclination. About 15 different load tests are performed to ensure a ladder meets the standard. However, it's crucial to note that these tests were developed using statistical tolerances and represent pass/fail criteria to determine a ladder’s conformance to the standard. Altering the cross-section of a shape can increase or decrease its stiffness, and imperfections in a structure can affect its collapse. Changing the structure's geometry or cross-sectional area of a member can be an effective means of preventing buckling and fall-related injuries. It's important to know the testing limitations described in A14.2. 3D modeling and nonlinear finite element analysis can detect an imperfection-sensitive ladder and reduce ladder-related injuries and fatalities.


3:30 PM - Analysis of a UTV Axle Fracture

Stephen Batzer, PhD, PE (NAFE #677F)

The analysis of the fracture mechanism of a rear axle shaft of an off-road side-by-side utility vehicle (UTV) is presented. Two minors were recreating; they were riding the UTV within the fenced confines of the family farm. While on a dirt trail at a substantial velocity, the UTV yawed hard to the left, just before the turn in the trail. The leading side passenger’s side tires dug into the soft soil and the UTV overturned for three quarters of a revolution. The belted driver was partially ejected during the overturn and fatally pinned underneath the vehicle’s tubular rollover protective structure. After the event, the vehicle could not be driven as the left rear axle was fractured nearest the inner race of the outboard constant velocity (CV) joint and the wheel hub and disc brake system were damaged. The investigation answered the question regarding, “Did the overturn cause the axle fracture, or, did the axle fracture cause a braking action and initiate the overturn?”


4:30 PM - ChatGPT in Forensic Engineering: A New Era of Efficiency, Clarity, and Accuracy

David J. Icove, PhD, PE (NAFE #899F) & Robert Toth

Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) tools are entering the fire investigation field, promising more efficiency, better access to standards and guides, and reduced time spent on rote tasks. However, these tools have inherent accuracy, ethics, and privacy risks. GenAI refers to algorithms commonly programmed to search and retrieve text, images, and data. An example might include reviewing a draft expert report for inconsistencies in assumptions based on fact scenarios. GenAI can be used to query historical voluminous report files, loss histories, and published court cases for similar fact scenarios. The objective of this paper is to provide NASFM members and attendees with productive examples of GenAI while maintaining proper ethical guidelines: provide real-world examples querying peer-reviewed literature and court cases having similar fact scenarios; demonstrate the ability to query textual data for present-day and historical fire investigations for questions such as “What are the loss histories of nursing home fires” and “Who were all the witnesses in your investigation who smelled gasoline?”

May 2024 - Letter from the Secretary James Drebelbis

Submitted by Executive Director on Thu, 05/23/2024 - 19:01

Date: May 22, 2024

Dear NAFE Members:

Each year the NAFE Board includes a minimum of one and a maximum of two Directors at Large positions. They are nominated only through a petition of the membership. Any Member, Senior Member or Fellow may petition to serve on the Board as a Director at Large. Directors at Large must petition each year. If less than three members petition, the petitioners assume directorships without balloting.

With this email, I am formally soliciting nominations for the 2025 Directors at Large which are due July 9, 2024. There is no set form for the petition except for the following:

  • The petition should state that it is a petition to nominate the candidate for the position of Director at Large, sought for 2025.
  • The petition must be endorser by at least ten voting members of the Academy in good standing (Member, Senior Member or Fellow). Endorsers should sign the original petition with a signature including their name, contact information, NAFE number, and membership grade. Alternatively, endorsers may individually email me with their signature and a copy of the petition.
  • All signed documents from petitioners and endorsers must reach me, as your Secretary, by July 9th: James R. Drebelbis, jim [at]

Additionally, qualified Academy members may run for officer positions that are included in the slate as detailed in the Nominating Committee Report (here). By submitting a petition, in the same manner as above, members in good standing may run for slated positions, prompting a contested election.

All candidates, nominators, endorsers, and those who participate in an election must be current in dues and CPDs.

Upon receipt of your petition, I will confirm that the 10+ signers provided in support of each potential candidate are current voting members of the Academy, and that the candidate and endorsers are of the appropriate grade. At the semiannual meeting on July 19, 2024, I will certify to the membership that unopposed candidates have been elected and/or that an election will be held for contested positions. 

Please watch you email for further information.


James R. Drebelbis

NAFE Secretary