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Major Changes in Firefighting Foams Suggest Needs for Different Tactics and Training

Posted: Aug. 11, 2022

To use the fluorine-free foams currently on the market safely and effectively, fire departments will need to adopt different tactics and new training on how to select, use and dispose of these new foams.

The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Firefighting Foams: Fire Service Roadmap outlines the transition from the fluorinated aqueous film-forming foams (AFFFs) currently used to extinguish flammable liquid (Class B) fires to fluorine-free foams (FFFs).

Why AFFFs are going away

AFFFs use of a class of chemicals containing per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly referred to as PFAS. PFAS have well documented environmental and health risks. Because of these risks, state and federal legislators are phasing out fluorinated firefighting foams in military, aviation, industrial and municipal firefighting arenas.

The current replacement for AFFFs

Although FFFs are replacing AFFFs, recent research on alternative fluorine-free foams by the NFPA, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Defense has shown that FFFs are not as effective as AFFFs at fighting liquid fuel fires.

What this means for firefighters

To use the FFFs currently on the market safely and effectively, fire departments will need to adopt different tactics and new training on how to select, use and dispose of these new foams. Fire departments will also have to be prepared to adapt to changes in legislation and in the foam industry as fluorine-free foam products continue to improve.

The roadmap

The NFPA's roadmap offers considerations for transitioning firefighting to fluorine-free foam, supported by the latest research and a technical panel with representation from the firefighting profession, fire science and research, the fuel industry, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and other stakeholders.

The report includes both overview and in-depth coverage of:

  • Understanding current regulations and knowing when to make the transition.
  • Firefighting foam tutorial.
  • Selection of an acceptable AFFF alternative.
  • Cleaning of equipment and definition of acceptable levels.
  • Disposal of current AFFF products (concentrates and solutions).
  • Implementation of the selected alternative.
  • Health concerns and minimizing firefighter exposures.
  • Post-fire / post-discharge cleanup and documentation.

Related content

Watch this short video to learn how to prevent exposure to PFAS.

https://youtu.be/vrxXdVfNLSc

This article is based on content in the
Aug. 11, 2022 InfoGram.

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