Large-scale testing!

Published:  27 August, 2014

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) in the UK has conducted a bulk foam exercise in order to test new equipment now capable of dealing with a major incident in the area, writes James Bladon, Corporate Communication Manager, AF&RS.

In August the Fire Service College at Moreton-in-Marsh played host to Exercise Orion as AF&RS tested its new foam proportioning units, monitors and revised standard operating procedures.

The exercise marked the culmination of a lengthy research, procurement and training project which sought to significantly enhance the Service’s capability to deal with incidents requiring a major foam attack.

Involving six pumps, three bulk foam units, two High Volume Pumps (HVPs) and more than 60 firefighters, the successful exercise was the first time that all elements of the Service’s new bulk foam plan had been tested together.

The background to the exercise involved a fundamental review of AF&RS’s bulk foam capability. An analysis of risks in the area identified a number of sites which would require a foam response beyond the Service’s own resources provided at that time.

These were focused on the Avonmouth area of Bristol, which is home to petroleum storage depots, top-tier COMAH sites, fuel transportation infrastructure as well as a number of other significant industrial sites.

The work undertaken to analyse the realistic requirements for mounting a major foam attack in Avonmouth also addressed a series of practical issues including:

  • assessment of fire appliance pump performance to confirm that they are capable of pumping at pressures in the region of 10 bar over at least a 65 minute foam attack time without any adverse mechanical effects;
  • the supply of water required to undertake the foam attack, with options developed using both National Resilience HVPs and standard fire service appliances;
  • the effect of the use of salt water on foam production and quality;
  • the foam compound stocks required and methods for transportation and induction;
  • the monitors and pressures required to achieve the necessary throw in order to project the finished foam onto the ignited surface of a fuel tank fire while ensuring that all operations are conducted at a suitable distance outside the bund wall in order to maintain firefighter safety;
  • an analysis of the prevailing meteorological conditions in Avonmouth, including wind directions and strength; and
  • detailed analysis of friction losses over extended HVP and conventional hose line runs to ensure that adequate pressures are provided at the monitors themselves to achieve the throws required.

With the petroleum storage facilities posing the single greatest risk, the aim of the review was for AF&RS to develop its capability to become self-sufficient to achieve initial extinction of a full surface fuel fire in the largest single storage tank within its operational area. Calculations to deal with a fire on this scale allowed the project team to draw up an equipment specification required to fight such a fire in accordance with national standards and international best practice.

The exhaustive procurement process which followed identified the most effective foam proportioning equipment and monitors to meet the Service’s specific requirements. The process also looked at how the new resources could best be mobilised to an incident and deployed on the incident ground.

Three ‘skids’ were designed by the Service and made to order by Angloco. Each skid was designed to be carried by a prime mover which, when used together, provide a complete bulk foam resource to tackle a major petrochemical fire. Alternatively, the units can be used independently but at the same time to tackle two smaller foam incidents in different locations.

Included on two of the skids are high flow foam proportioning units and foam concentrate tanks as well as large capacity foam monitors.

The foam proportioning is achieved using CTD’s Salamandre 360 units supplied by ABC Macintosh; these draw Auxquimia SA Polyfoam AFFF-AR 3/3 pseudoplastic foam concentrate from the 7,000 litre on-board tanks.  Each proportioning unit also carries two Angus Fire foam monitors – one Bipod and one Titan – as well as large diameter supply hose, various couplings and other ancillary equipment.

Exercise Director Pete Davis said: “After several years of thorough research and planning, the new equipment was delivered to us in late 2013. Although we had tested our developing revised procedures many times on paper during the planning process and carried out independent tests of the new equipment, Exercise Orion was our first opportunity to bring all the elements together in one place.

“This gave us the opportunity to test our calculations and carry out full acceptance tests of the new equipment.”

The exercise made use of the oil storage tank at the Fire Service College. Taking lessons from the Buncefield incident in December 2005, AF&RS’s local operating procedures involve the use of water for the foam attack drawn from an inexhaustible supply. Pete said: “In order to fully test the foam capability we used the High Volume Pumps (HVPs) to provide the water supply as we would at a real incident.”

The first part of the exercise saw the deployment of two HVPs to provide sufficient water for the foam attack. AF&RS and Gloucestershire FRS’s HVP teams set up the two pumps at the college’s fireground reservoir feeding two twinned large diameter hose lines over a distance of just under a mile.

These supplied six AF&RS pumping appliances which, in turn, fed the two Salamandre units. These proportioning units delivered the required foam solution to the three monitors in use. These demanded around 12,000 litres of water a minute at 10 bar inlet pressure, providing a throw on the day of around 60 metres at their optimum elevations.

Although the Salamandre 360 units were used together during Exercise Orion to rehearse a full scale bulk foam attack, the specification allows them to be used independently at smaller incidents where only one is required.

Pete said: “We were pleased with how the exercise unfolded and it was good to see the elements come together as we’d hoped. We were able to show that we now have the equipment and the skills to mount an enhanced major foam attack should the need ever arise.

“Another of the key benefits we demonstrated on the day was how this new way of working improves firefighter safety at this type of incident. The foam proportioning now takes place remotely at the Salamandre units, rather than through induction at the monitors via pick up tubes. This eliminates the need for forklift trucks carrying bulk foam stocks to operate around the monitors themselves – instead, this can now take place at a greater distance from the fire at the Salamandre unit.”

Avon Fire & Rescue Service will be feeding the outcomes of the exercise into CFOA’s national foam mutual aid working group led by CFO Adam Eckley from Essex County Fire and Rescue Service.

Pete said: “We thank our colleagues at Gloucestershire FRS for their support and assistance on the day. The professionalism and hard work by all those involved to ensure the exercise provided such effective learning was outstanding.” 

AF&RS Assistant Chief Fire Officer, Rob Davis, added: “Our thanks also go to the Director of Training at The Fire Service College, Jon Hall, and his team. The world class exercise facilities provided the ideal venue to test our new and improved bulk foam capability in a realistic setting. There is no doubt that Exercise Orion provided our crews with a fantastic opportunity to rehearse our response to a major petrochemical incident.”

  • Operation Florian

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