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Foam - 101.2

Foam – 101.2

In this series we shall be looking closer at the “FOAM” standards for firefighting and the vapor suppression of hazardous materials. This concept is critical as the understanding of “What is Foam” needs to be ingrained in the modern firefighter/hazardous material worker in order for the correct usage to be deployed. The key for responders is to be able to ascertain and recognize when this product is not improving the overall incident. Additionally, the responder MUST know what actions to take to correct this problem before it deteriorates to the point where injury results or conditions change to endanger the entire site and its responders. With this stated, let us look closer into “What is Foam?”

Foam is a proprietary mixture of solution that when correctly used and deployed, has the ability to suppress vapors and extinguish fire. Since these bubbles are an aggregate or “mixture” made from Foam solution, (water and Foam concentrate) this mixture becomes physically “lighter” than water thus causing it to float across a contaminant surface. This is important, because once this mixture begins to settle out the bubbles return to their former liquid state becoming homogenous with the water or contaminant and no longer “float” upon the surface. This is the key to extinguishment and vapor suppression. Without the ability to float on these surfaces, extinguishment and vapor suppression is no longer intact.

There are basically two (2) types of Foam used for fire suppression and hazardous material mitigation. These are class “A” and class “B”. Class “B” is the correct choice for flammable liquids and hazardous material spills. Class “A” is used exclusively for combustibles where you want the water molecule to “soak-in” better to be used as cooling rather than being turned into steam before the fire surface cools enough below its burning temperature. This is a critical difference between uses. Since these two differ in how they function, Emergency Personnel must make the correct choice for the incident they are attempting to mitigate. The correct choice for each hazard results in mitigation. The wrong choice results in wasted resources and failure. Choose wisely.

Lastly; three dimensional fires, or fires that involved less than “pooled” materials within a two dimensional surface require the use of a mixture of extinguishment practices to successfully mitigate. In the case of any non-combustible or synthetic materials such as vehicle construction and its fuel, the accepted practice would be to attack the fire or vapors with class “B” Foam Bubbles and once smothered to extinguishment, carefully wade through this pool (while being covered with additional class “B” Foam bubbles) to the vehicle and extinguish the three dimensional fire with ABC or CO2 extinguishers. While this practice is dangerous, it can be accomplished safely with the proper Foam support to your personnel. In the case of a structure involving combustible construction, repeat the Foam bubble operation for the pooled fuel and substitute a class “A” Foam line for the building extinguishment. Taking care to NEVER mix the class Foam with the class “B” Foam blanket. This will only dilute your blanket and make personnel protection less safe.

Finally; not enough can be said for making your Foam bubbles properly. We shall discuss this concept in further articles but the key is proper “aspiration” of the Foam solution into what is termed finished Foam. This single mechanical technique can mean the difference between success and failure.

Join us next month for Foam 102.0 – Tetrahedrons and Terminology

                           Haz Mat Mike  


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