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Foam 102.2 - Tetrahedrons and Terminology

The idea of the Foam Tetrahedron is an important one. With the fire triangle we have a certain “point” at which, the success of the implementation of basic principles will either function or there will be an interruption of the conjoined triangle shape causing the system to fail and result in continued burning. In the Foam tetrahedron, we are dealing with entire sides or faces of a three dimensional shape. This means there are underlining elements within that point that ALL must be implemented to continue the shape and eliminate combustion or vaporization.

1] Foam Concentrate – There are a couple of elements critical to the Foam concentrate decision. One is choice, the type of Foam concentrate you choose must be consistent with the hazard you are attempting to mitigate. Mixing concentrate will give you inconsistent results in your finished Foam Blanket. This will give your finished blanket inconsistent spots where possible re-ignition or vaporization can occur. If this results, burn-back can occur undoing all your hard work, endanger on-site personnel, and place you back at the beginning with a pool fire or toxic vapors being omitted affecting the contaminated site in negative ways. Second, is volume, not having sufficient resources on-site will cause momentary dilution, a weakening in the protective consistency of your finished Foam blanket with the above results. Having sufficient supplies of Foam concentrate BEFORE you begin your attack is critical to the desired endpoint. Start moving supplies BEFORE application begins. This will require fast moving manpower, loading, and transportation to your site from your storage location. If this is not logistically possible with your organization, a pre-loaded vehicle may be the only option. Third, do not minimize the logistical issues associated with the actual attack. All the while progress is being made; there must be a large effort to deal with the removal and transportation of empty Foam concentrate containers. You will be amazed at how fast these pile up. Removal of this “waste” clears the response area and allows your efforts to continue unimpeded. Fourth, do not forget the volume of Foam concentrate that will be needed for vapor security “after” the incident has been stabilized. Any breakage in the finished foam blanket can spark vapor migration and subsequent burn-back.

2] Water – In some areas, water volume and supply can be just as much a challenge as Foam Concentrate volume. Be sure that whatever your water supply is, that it remains consistent and un-interrupted throughout the incident. Solution interruption can be just as detrimental and dangerous to the site and personnel as Foam concentrate shortages. If water sources need mechanical transportation to your site, be sure that these resources are activated as soon as possible and continue throughout the incident to eliminate unforeseen shortages. Multiple tankers from neighboring communities may have to cooperate to keep a steady supply of water to your site. Do not forget loading and driving times for multiple tankers into the equation for ample supply at your incident.

3] Air Aspiration – Depending on the incident type, remember that properly air aspirated Finished Foam is going to make the most of all the previous mentioned supplies. The less aspiration, the more volume of finished Foam can be applied. This reduces volume supplies and increases the need-for-speed of re-supply. If your capabilities/supplies become overwhelmed, the aforementioned failures will result.

4] Mechanical Agitation – Induction devices are simple tools and as a result often get neglected for maintenance and operational use. During the 2009 Hazel Park, MI tanker fire on I-75 at Nine mile road, (of which we operated the response for over five (5) hours) our biggest challenge was the proper operation of the mechanical induction device. In this case, the unit we were using at the response had a leaky suction hose causing us multiple vacuum problems throughout the day and into the evening. Don’t let this happen to you! Change your hoses often and test the function of these devices on a monthly basis. You will be glad when “the-big-one” happens. Some of these devices still require lubrication due to the caustic nature of Foam solutions. Be sure to contact your Foam Eductor supplier and obtain the proper lubrication schedule to work into your testing operations. When these devices fail in the field, the only option is replacement. Repairs must be done in the shop to restore defective eduction tools, not at the site.

Terminology is detailed in my first article Foam 102 Tetrahedrons and Terminology in the Haz Mat Mike archives, see these descriptions. What is of great importance for the responder is that this terminology gets repeated as often as your training directives for Foam Educator Training. In order to avoid confusion and accidents, Terminology definitions must be repeated over-and-over. So that there is a solid understanding on-site at an emergency, terminology must be second nature. The only way to accomplish this in training is by repetition.

One of the best ways to accomplish this “understanding” amongst emergency responders that I have found is by open discussion. Highlight the point that “complete” understanding by ALL Team members is the true path to success. There must be NO variances; everyone must be on the same page of total understanding when a challenge arises. If your communication breaks down due to a misunderstanding of terminology, the entire operation is at risk of failure. One popular technique is to the list of terms for a quiz in return for a session prize. Often a unique coffee cup is chosen. Be sure that you award only one per training session, and that they differ each training session. This will make the prize more coveted amongst your members.

Keeping your Team fit with knowledge and understanding is just as important as keeping your equipment fit with maintenance and practice. Next month we shall explore in detail Foam Properties.

                       Haz Mat Mike   


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