Tips for Evaluating Fire Fighting Foam Systems

Jon's Mid America

Having the right foam systems for your fire apparatus is essential to your department’s ability to do its job in protecting your community.

Whether you’re upgrading an existing apparatus, or deciding on specifications for a new fire truck, there are different criteria you must consider in evaluating the pros and cons of different foam systems for fire fighting.

To help you out, here are some important things to keep in mind when you’re selecting a foam system for your apparatus.

#1: Types of Hazards You’re Responding To

The type and complexity of your foam system will vary with the hazards your department needs to be able to handle.

  • What types of hazards are you responding to? This would include residential or commercial, industrial, manufacturing, or agricultural.
  • What’s the size of the hazard? This, of course, will affect the size and proportion of the pump you use. Small hazards might require only a small portable handheld eductor system, while something much more substantial is needed for large industrial systems.
  • Types of fires. You will need different foam for wildland versus municipal fires, and for Class A versus Class B fuels.

#2: Characteristics of the Foam You’re Using

You also can’t use just any old foam for any old fire. There are variations in the foams available for different purposes, and your foam system must be compatible with the foam you’re using.

  • What is the viscosity of the concentrate used to produce the foam? In other words, how thick, or “resistant to flow,” is it? Temperature can also affect viscosity — the colder the temperature, the thicker the concentrate, and vice versa. Different foam systems may be compatible with different viscosities.
  • What is the flow rate of your foam? Measured in gallons per minute (GPM), your system may be optimized for low or high flow, or it may be able to adjust depending on your needs when responding to a particular hazard.
  • What percentage of foam you need? Concentrates on the market vary between 0.1% and 6%. Some foam systems are designed for a specific percentage, while others will let you adjust. A system that adapts may be more economical because you’re less likely to have to upgrade your system every time you use a different concentrate.

#3: Foam System Features

Foam systems come with a range of features and capabilities that must be evaluated based on the needs of your department and community. Here are a few important features that you must keep in mind.

  • Portable or vehicle-mounted. Portable systems may be smaller and include handhelds, and they may be used on different apparatus. A vehicle-mounted system, as the name implies, is permanently attached to a single fire apparatus. Vehicle-mounted systems include eductors, around-the-pump proportioners, automatic proportioners, and other variations.
  • Foam injection method. How will your concentrate be combined with water for discharge? Single- and multi-point systems are available. Single-point injection may be adequate for smaller jobs, while multi-point injection is typically used in larger, industrial situations that require a higher capacity.
  • Number, size, and types of foam tanks you need. If your department responds to multiple types of hazards, you may need different types of foam and foam systems of varying sizes and capabilities.
  • Electronic features available. There are foam systems available that will let you adjust the settings, such as GPM or percentage of concentrate used in a particular setting. If you have more than one tank, you may be able to program them separately. This can be especially useful if your department must respond to a wider variety of calls.

Do you have questions about selecting the right foam systems for your apparatus?

Give us a call at Jon’s Mid America. We’re happy to answer your questions so you can be confident in making the right choice.

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