Foam training is crucial

Published:  08 May, 2009

Training with foam is a crucial part of a modern firefighter’s array of tools and one that should not be neglected, explains Luc Jacobs of Solberg Foam.

When it comes to putting out fires a firefighter is no different to a milkman, gardener, postman or any other fit individual, but what makes a firefighter special is training. From the day a firefighter joins a brigade he starts training and it doesn’t stop until he leaves or retires. The modern firefighter has an array of tools in his/her toolbox and in well-trained hands, can tackle any task or problem put before them. Training is crucial.

Why is it then that firefighting foam is often forgotten, what is it that prevents firefighters training with foam? Is it cost? Is it environmental concerns? Is it facilities, or is it just not important enough?
In this day and age it could be argued that environmental concerns come first closely followed by costs, so let’s address these concerns.

Firefighting foams contain persistent molecules (organohalogens) and are restricted in everyday use; in fact they are categorically banned for “training, testing or evaluating” so training with “front line foam” is definitely not an option. Training foam however does not contain any such persistent molecules and can be used without damaging our environment. Often these foams come as a super concentrate, like Solberg TF5X, which enables firefighters to mix a solution ready for training and this ensures that the costs of training foams are kept to a minimum. It seems then, that training foam is neither expensive nor harmful to our environment, so what about the training facilities?

Any chemical when released into our environment has a Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)/Biological Oxygen Demand (BOD) on water courses, and training foams are no different. Therefore if your training facility does not have the ability to manage the COD/BOD it could “suffocate” aquatic life. Managing the risk however is easy to do with correct planning and preparation so it would seem that there is no reason why a firefighter should not become proficient in the application of firefighting foam.

Now consider the advantages when firefighters are proficient in the use of firefighting foam:
•    they will be aware of what foam to use on what fire (Class A, Class B, hydrocarbon or polar solvent)
•    they will know what induction rate to use (1%, 3% or 6%) and:
•    they will understand how best to apply the foam blanket (indirect, direct, or gentle)
•    they will experience extinguishing fires in all types of scenario like spill or flowing fires
•    they will learn how to add dry chemical powder into a foam stream and extinguish hydrocarbon fires that are under pressure
•    they can experience and practise using foam through all types of nozzle including standard hand held branches, through medium expansion nozzles and even Hi-Ex equipment.
All this results in quicker extinguishment at an incident, with no waste and therefore reduced costs. Logistics are also easier to manage because only the foam required to tackle an incident needs to be sourced, and firefighter safety is greatly increased.

A firefighter is only as good as the tools he has and the ability he has to use them – training is crucial.

  • Operation Florian

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