This book has been written with the forensic engineering practitioner in mind. It may also be used as a textbook in the curriculum of a forensic engineering program. The use of numerous examples and end-of-chapter problems is designed to introduce the student or reader into the diverse environment that encompasses forensic engineering. The book also includes a solutions manual for all the end-of-chapter problems to be utilized by the course instructor. As the book title implies, this textbook is an introduction to the many facets of forensic engineering. As such, most of the material is somewhat introductory in nature. The breadth of the forensic engineering field makes it impossible to provide an in-depth coverage in one text of all the various subjects. It is assumed that the reader has a grasp of the fundamental topics as covered in the various areas of study. However, some areas of study deal with fairly complex subjects such as the current flow in conductors. The various references at the end of the book are designed to guide the student toward further study. The reader will notice that simple plug-and-chug type of problems have generally not been included because it is assumed that the reader has a fairly advanced level of proficiency with mathematical equations. If the book is used as a textbook, there is ample material for a two-semester course of study. The topics that may be covered in a semester course are left up to the instructor or the reader. The forensic practitioner may also only be interested in some topics and not others.
Forensic engineering may be divided into four major categories: structures, the environment, accidents/incidents, and failures. In many instances, these four major categories may be intertwined. A component failure may cause an accident involving vehicles or fires. Similarly, the structural components of the environment may cause a pedestrian to fall or cause water infiltration to induce mold growth and pose serious health problems. The environment may also affect the stability of structures.
The first of these categories involves structures. When we think of structures, what first comes to mind is a building, small or large, a bridge, a roadway, or maybe a crane or derrick. However, structures may, in fact, be smaller subcomponents of a large structure or they may include the rolling mill process of a factory that produces sheet aluminum. The structure may involve the drivetrain of an automobile or a recreational vehicle that has experienced a fire. The environment is generally regarded as the climatic conditions that affect the structure, the failure, or the accident/incident. Environmental factors such as rain can significantly affect a structure or component. For example, if a house has been built in a low-lying area that is subject to flooding, it is often necessary to determine whether the structure was built in the 10-year or 100-year flood plain. Flood plains are determined by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), which may be a city, county, state, or federal agency such as the State Fire Marshal. When significant property damage occurs or when there is loss of life resulting from a fire, fire marshals are often involved, and in those cases, the forensic engineer must coordinate his or her activities accordingly. In many instances, the forensic engineer works in concert with a regulatory agency such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) in a case involving a workplace accident, or the Mining Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) in the case of a mining accident or failure