Foam Fire Suppression System: Principles, Application & Types

Foam fire suppression is one of those being widely used with great results in firefighting today. We will be discussing extensively what it’s really about and how it’s being used.

The science of firefighting has seen significant improvements through newer innovations and discoveries. This has birthed more efficient fire suppression techniques and systems.

The use of foam concentrates on fires was originally applicable to fires whose fuel source was oil.

As time went on, innovations and improvements in technology helped expand the applicability of foam fire suppression systems to other fuel types.

Foam Fire Protection Systems

As the name implies, foam fire suppression systems have to do with the application of special foam formulations on fires to suppress combustion.

These systems are made of water mixtures with appropriate extinguishing chemicals or agents.

This water-based fire extinguishing agent has proven effective in a wide range of fire scenarios hence its adoption for combating a variety of fire incidences.

As you read on, you’ll learn the different ways foam fire suppression systems are deployed as well as the types and more.

Applicability of Fire Fighting Foam System

Due to its efficiency, firefighting has received a boost by applying foam fire suppression systems to a whole lot of areas.

It’s being used in industrial settings, in the transport sector, marine, petrochemical, mining, and oil industries among others. Such wide applicability reveals a lot about the reliability of this fire suppression technique.

Working Principle of Fire Suppression Foam

A comprehensive understanding of the workings of foam fire systems requires taking a looking at how fire suppression occurs using this product.

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Whenever a foam fire suppression system is deployed, three things happen; first off, the oxygen supply to the fire is affected. This in turn reduces combustive action.

Secondly, foam fire suppression systems are designed to remove heat at a faster rate. This helps significantly to put out the fire source.

Thirdly, there’s the act of vapor suppression. What happens here is the arrest of combustion through interference with the vapor phase concentration of burning fuels.

These three actions all combine to suppress or extinguish a burning fire. This is why foam fire suppression systems have received wide acceptance across multiple industries.

With this said, it’s time to take a look at the different types of foam suppression systems.

Foam Fire Suppression System Types

This is a crucial part of the discussion we cannot avoid. Here, you’ll see those different fire scenarios are better contained with specific types of foam fire suppression systems.

There are low, medium, and high expansion systems when it comes to foam fire suppression. Let’s briefly expand on each for more clarity.

  • Low Expansion Systems

Low expansion systems are a type of foam fire suppression technique where burning spills are targeted. This system involves the deployment of a very wet fluid foam blanket.

As expected, the blanket consists of tiny foam bubbles. For low expansion systems to be effective, they need to be properly discharged.

This is why the use of fire hoses, foam makers, sprinkler systems, spray nozzles, and monitors helps with the accuracy of delivery.

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Low expansion systems are mostly applied to fuel storage tanks, a storage facility for other liquid flammables, aircraft hangers, trucks, manufacturing spaces among several others.

  • Medium Expansion Systems

When fire outbreaks occur, one of the targets for firefighters is the vapor which promotes combustion. This is where the application of this type of foam fire suppression technique is most effective.

It includes a dense foam blanket measuring an average of two feet deep.

It’s mostly used for combating fires in chemical manufacturing facilities, as well as in refineries. With the vapor suppressed by this expansion system, the fire is effectively contained as it eventually dies out.

However, there are certain situations where fire containment requires more drastic action.

  • High Expansion Systems

High expansion systems cater to fire outbreaks of fires in large facilities holding high volumes of flammable liquids.

This foam fire suppression type is designed to be damp rather than wet and consists of large foam bubbles. A clear reason why they’re called high expansion systems is the size of the foam blanket that forms.

Foam blanket thickness formed can vary from 3 to 45 feet in depth. This effectively shuts out any chances of raging combustion.

Applicability of high expansion systems is most common when there’s a fire outbreak in Liquefied Natural Gas impound basins, aircraft hangers, as well as total flooding warehouses.

Ideal Conditions for Use of Foam Fire Suppression Systems

Foam fire suppression systems rely on the availability of the right conditions such as a large water supply.

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Because it’s mostly water-based, a water reservoir will need to be positioned close to the facility for situations like fire outbreaks. With an adequate water supply, containing the fire through foam suppression wouldn’t be difficult.

There should also be a properly channeled drainage system that takes care of the runoff from the use of foam fire suppression techniques. The goal is to keep waterways and water bodies safe from contamination.

Proper drainage systems will also help to lower toxicity to wildlife.

Cleaning Up After Fire Suppression

The nature of foam fire suppression systems means a lot of cleanups will follow after application.

This tends to be easier when used outdoors as getting rid of the foam won’t be difficult. However, a lot more work is needed when applied indoors. All the foam has to be gotten rid of.

Foam fire suppression systems must get effectively deployed. Firefighters can help you contain the foam problem after the fire problem is effectively dealt with.

Foam Fire Suppression Systems Maintenance

These systems must be properly maintained to eliminate issues when eventually needed.

Maintenance involves all sorts of actions ranging from system flow testing, annual inspections, and checking the viability of foam concentrates.

With the right actions taken, there shouldn’t be any issues with the deployment and use of foam fire suppression systems. Plus, better results are obtained.

Foam fire suppression systems are effective for extinguishing a wide range of fire situations. We’ve seen the different types of suppression systems in addition to the functions they serve.

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