The flammable liquid challenges that have existed in the high hazard industries for over a century are still there today. Moreover, they are not going away in the short term, no matter how quickly we can achieve a carbon-neutral world. Foam, in its various forms, remains the medium of choice in tackling these complex emergencies. How can we best achieve the balance between fire performance & the environmental impact of an evolving emergency? What is behind the acronym ‘F3’? How can manufacturers’ claims be independently certified to deal with this combined challenge?
Fire performance is not negotiable, but we also need to acknowledge the importance of responsible environmental stewardship: marrying the two together should be the ultimate aim of all of us in the fire industry. Angus Fire continues to address the changing needs of Firefighters & Fire Engineers alike, whether it’s fire hose, portable pumps, foam equipment or high performing Fluorine Free Foam (F3) concentrates.
The general term for fluorine-free foam: ‘F3’ to many people means good environmental stewardship because the breakdown products from a foam discharge, and resultant fire water run-off, are not persistent in the environment. However, this may not always be the case since the term ‘F3’ has not been defined by any standard other than GreenScreen. Users need to ensure that the ‘F3’ they select is bio-degradable, one way to do this is to look for the GreenScreen Certified approval. As with any foam discharge, uncontrolled spills are not always preventable, the aim should always be to contain & treat before discharge into the wider environment.
|Fluorine Free foam, otherwise known as F3 foam.|
F3 can be split into two types: those suitable purely for hydrocarbons & those suitable for both hydrocarbons & polar solvents (examples include water-miscible products such as IPA, Acetone, Propylene Oxide, etc.).
Fire performance & firefighter safety
The cornerstone of the fire protection industry are the listed and approved products, foams, and devices. Repeatable validated testing to industry standards such as EN, ICAO, IMO, UL and LASTfire are important depending on the final use of the product. Excellent results in these test standards provide verifiable data to enable users to benchmark foam concentrates during an evaluation. Let us take Angus Fire’s Respondol ATF products as an example. EN1568 scores it 1A for freshwater & 1A for seawater on all fuels. LASTfire grades it GOOD-GOOD-GOOD in all 6 tests where it even achieves the best “GOOD” rating at a low expansion of just over 3:1. Put simply, that’s the best.
However, we should note that design standards for individual users are dependent on that key phrase, “the authority having jurisdiction.” That could be the organisation’s internal fire standard, the local fire authority if they have local influence or, more likely perhaps, the insurance company. Broadly speaking that means NFPA11, EN13565-2 or UL162 will apply. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into the specifics for each hazard but application rates for finished foam are comparable for F3 and AFFF and will vary between 4.1 Lpm/m2 & 6.5 Lpm/m2 for fixed systems & 12 Lpm/m2 for rim-seal devices.
|The cornerstone of the fire protection industry are the listed and approved products, foams, and devices.|
Hardware compatibility is also a critical component in the overall system and is a mandate for any UL162 or NFPA 11 designed system. Utilising the existing proportioning equipment, whether mobile or fixed, is a decision that must be taken at the very start of any conversion. Not only must the user decide their position on decontamination, i.e. “How clean is clean?” but also investigate viscosity and the device/foam listings and approvals.
Another key performance indicator is drainage time. It may not be as dramatic as fast extinguishment, but it is a measure of foam stability. This can also impact on firefighter safety, especially in the aerospace sector where casualty rescue & retrieval depend on preventing re-ignition. Industrial firefighters also want the comfort of high levels of post-fire security when accessing plant areas for post-fire analysis.
Futureproofing against ever-tightening environmental standards can be as equally challenging as selecting a foam on fire performance.
The best practice answer lies with the GreenScreen certification process. This independent, non-profit organisation certifies the end product as a complete mixture, including impurities. This means that any manufacturer displaying the GreenScreen Certified logo has transparency on what, if any, potential environmental hazards are present. The value of GreenScreen is that in addition to a comprehensive & detailed evaluation of a chemical’s intrinsic human health & environmental hazards, it also provides a standardised & easy-to-understand accreditation to facilitate communication throughout the supply chains & within organisations.
Most importantly, this provides a bridge between you as fire practitioner & your purchasing department, because it allows for an objective evaluation of foams in conjunction with the UL162, EN & LASTFIRE fire performance ratings. Only foam with acceptable environmental credentials will pass GreenScreen.
|GreenScreen and Respondol certifications for environmental standards.|
- Ingredients & impurities from the raw materials.
- Human health and environmental endpoints.
- Online register of certified products: greenscreenchemicals.org/certified/products
The transition to F3 foams can be a daunting one, as you have seen it is not a matter of ‘old foam out, new foam in’. If you are considering who to move to for your F3 foams, Angus Fire takes an innovative multi-faceted approach, starting with a system review to ensure a successful transition with the most suitable foam for your application. Fire ratings, firefighter safety, hardware compatibility, future-proofing & not least environmental credentials are all part of the process, so ensure they are in harmony when assessing your move to F3.