TEN STEPS TO INTEGRATE CAFS INTO YOUR FIRE DEPARTMENT
The use of compressed air foam is gaining increasing acceptance in the fire service industry worldwide. As you consider bringing this technology to your fire department, make sure your department receives the best benefit possible by thoroughly researching and training on compressed air foam systems.
Check out these 10 steps to help you implement CAFS into your department with confidence.
- Do your research. Learn what CAFS is, how it works, what it can and cannot do, what size systems are available, what options are available, and what other items are needed. Ask questions and find the answers. The more knowledge you have the better decision you can make.TIP: Waterous sales and service personnel and the Waterous CAFS instructor cadre are great sources for information, as is the website www.compressedairfoam.com. Compare the information you find from these resources to your department's situation and fire problems, and then determine how your personnel can best use CAFS in daily operations.
- Select the right system. Select the system that is the proper size and type for your needs, and supports the mission of the apparatus on which it will be mounted. CAFS vary in both size and the way the pump and compressor are powered. Decide how many, and what size lines will be used, and let that information dictate your decision in selecting the appropriate size system. Determine the need for pump-and-roll capabilities and chose a system that matches those needs. TIP: Auxiliary powered systems have true pump-and-roll capability, PTO systems have limited pump-and-roll, and midship driven systems cannot pump and roll.
- Write a careful spec. Spend time composing your truck and CAFS spec to fit your needs. Include options that are appropriate for your department, and clearly define the size of the system required and how it will be powered. Lay out which discharges will be foam/CAFS capable, and specify ease of use for controls and maintenance items.TIP: Specify "Auto On" so that the system defaults to CAFS. This will assist engine operators, and demonstrate to the department a commitment to using the technology. Also consider including options like electric valve controls with presets, auto tank fill and foam refill systems, and be sure to include CAFS delivery instruction in the specification.
- Purchase the correct supplies and equipment. Research and purchase an appropriate high quality Class A foam concentrate. Because the quality of Class A concentrates vary widely, when selecting a concentrate, refer to the USDA US Forest service qualified products list to find products that are approved for use on federal lands. Try to obtain products on this list available from your local suppliers, and test these products to determine which will work best for your department. Purchase enough foam to allow personnel to train as needed.TIP: Smooth bore nozzles are the best tool to use with compressed air foam. Purchase the appropriate smooth bore nozzles in all the sizes that your fire department normally uses. Waterous CAFS instructors can assist you with the proper sizes and part numbers for your favorite brand of nozzle.
- Develop department SOGs. Decide how, when, and where foam and CAFS works best for your fire problems and write guidelines to direct your personnel. This will clearly guide your personnel in the use of foam/CAFS.TIP: Waterous CAFS instructors can provide boilerplate SOGs and assist in tailoring them to your department.
- Train all personnel. Take advantage of manufacturer delivery instruction, and include all levels of personnel from new recruit fire fighters to the seasoned Chief. Make sure to include EVT technicians, fire investigators, and public information officers as well. Both classroom didactic and hands-on practical instruction should be included as well as live fire situations, if possible.TIP: Quality delivery instruction is crucial to implementing a CAFS program. It is very important to prevent initial bad experiences due to lack of knowledge, so make sure the training is informative, diverse and engaging.
- Train. Have your personnel train until techniques like making the correct foam for each tactical application is mastered and becomes second nature. Like anything we do in the fire service we need to practice, practice, and practice.TIP: Engine operators in particular must be able to provide the correct foam quickly so that the firefighters on the line will gain confidence in using foam to fight fire.
- Train with live fire. Put the white stuff on the red stuff. This is the only way personnel will fully understand and become efficient fighting fire with CAFS. While live fire training is easier for some departments than others, it is a critical step in integrating CAFS. Firefighters must see what happens when foam is applied to fire, particularly on interior structure attacks, and they must also practice application methods. Live fire is the only way this will happen effectively.TIP: Knowledge and experience are essential. Failure to obtain firefighter buy-in to the use of foam can often be tracked to the lack of live fire training.
- Train some more. Continue to train at all levels of the department from hands-on evolutions with engine companies to simulator exercises for officers. Practice is the only way we become competent performing the jobs we do in the fire service, so continue practicing different scenarios and examine ways to use CAFS with your department's equipment, personnel and fire problems.TIP: Plan to consume a great deal of foam concentrate and continue to drill until all personnel are competent in foam operations.
- When the fire ground is not white ask why. Expect your personnel to use the tools and technology that they have been provided and hold them accountable. Use the system and reap the benefits that CAFS technology provides for your personnel, for the fire department, and for the citizens that you serve.
About Keith Klassen
Mr. Klassen has 31 years experience in the Fire Service as a volunteer and a career firefighter. He is currently a Captain for Summit Fire Dept in Flagstaff Arizona. He has 12 years experience using Compressed Air Foam Systems and 20 years experience as a secondary and post secondary vocational education teacher.
Mr. Klassen is also the CAFS Instruction Program Manager for Waterous and oversees all CAFS training for the company.