In the fire protection and suppression industry, aqueous film-forming foams (AFFF) have been used for decades as an effective fire suppression agent. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that make these foams so effective also pose dangers and health concerns both to humans and to the environment. This discovery regarding PFAS has had an impact on the fire protection industry, and today, more and more facilities are switching to healthier, safer PFAS-free foams, with notable success.
If your facility is considering switching to PFAS-free firefighting foam, you might be wondering about the technical implications of making the switch. How do you actually get your facility ready to implement a new PFAS-free firefighting foam? Will you need new equipment or firefighter training? Here’s what you need to know about switching to PFAS-free firefighting foam.
The most important consideration to make when making the switch to new PFAS-free foams is ensuring your facility’s firefighters have the training they need to properly implement new PFAS-free foams. In a wide range of applications, fluorine-free foams have been found to function as effectively as PFAS-based foams, but application rates and techniques can be different depending on the PFAS-free alternative that is best suited to your facility.
No matter what fluorine-free foam your facility chooses, it’s important that firefighters both at the facility and at nearby municipal firefighting stations have the training they need to apply the new extinguishing agent properly.
The scope of your facility’s transition to PFAS-free foam will depend largely on your application. While some facilities find few equipment adjustments are necessary, other facilities require larger-scale changes to ensure they are properly implementing a PFAS-free foam fire suppression system that is both safe and effective.
As you make a plan to transition to a PFAS-free foam, it’s in your best interest to work directly with an industrial fire protection team that is well-versed in your industry, and that is familiar with PFAS-free foam. For example, the Vanguard Industrial Fire Protection team works with hundreds of high-risk facilities across the nation and specializes exclusively in fire protection for industrial applications. Our team of experts has the training and the experience to design and install a fire suppression system that supports your facility’s safe transition to PFAS-free foam.
Most facilities find that the most difficult part of switching to PFAS-free firefighting foam is the disposal process. Before you can bring in new, PFAS-free foam, you need to carefully dispose of the PFAS-based foams in storage and in your fire suppression system. Disposal should be done in compliance with your local environmental regulations to ensure excess contaminants are not released into the local environment, groundwater, or drinking water.
When making the transition from PFAS-based foam to fluorine-free foam, if you plan to use any of the same equipment, you’ll need to ensure that equipment is free from contamination before you refill it. Generally, this process requires that you fully discharge the tank, truck, or fire suppression system, and then wash any components with washing water that is then properly disposed of.
Depending on your industry’s regulations, you may have to comply with specific contamination levels, which may dictate more thorough cleaning processes or the replacement of some components that PFAS may have seeped into if it wasn’t stored properly. Generally, this process is fairly simple but may require the replacement of some minor components.
Making the switch to PFAS-free firefighting foam is essential for some facilities in states that have already banned the use of PFAS-based foams. For others, choosing to switch to PFAS-free firefighting foam is both a smart environmental and business decision. The EPA has been clear about its PFAS action plan, and it seems that PFAS-based foams are slowly but surely on their way out.
If your facility is considering implementing PFAS-free foams, Vanguard is ready to help. From matching you with the ideal alternative to helping your facility implement the transition at the ground level, we have the tools and the expertise to help you move to PFAS-free foams effectively and efficiently. Get in touch with our industrial fire protection team for more information.