Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska - Firefighters assigned to the 673d Civil Engineer Squadron train during the foam test at Hangar 18 on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Aug. 31, 2017. The firefighters were a part of the foam test to practice and train for rescue operations. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Caitlin Russell)
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska -- Contractors conducted the final fire-suppression foam test in Hangar 18, Aug. 31, 2017, to ensure the new system performed as designed.
Adam Montoya, 673d Civil Engineer Group assistant chief of fire prevention, said it was the final evaluation by the contractors before releasing it to the 176th Air National Guard. The new fire-suppression foam system will be safer for occupants and assets in the hangar.
Previously, the system was composed of monitors on the floor that, when activated, would disperse foam underneath the aircraft’s wings. The new system includes generators on the ceilings that regulate the high-expansion foam and release it onto the hangar floor.
Sirens and flashing blue lights will alert personnel in the hangar the system has been triggered; the system is set to automatically go off if the infared detectors detect a fire.
“The fire suppression system can cover 90 percent of the hangar’s floor with foam in one minute,” Montoya said.
The new high-expansion foam is better suited to prevent fires and explosions resulting from the jet fuel. The foam suppresses the oxygen which feeds the fire.
“After the foam has been released, within a few hours it turns into liquid, which makes it easy to mop into the drain without corroding the pipes,” said Gerald Romig, Alaska Air National Guard state engineer.
The updated system provides more coverage inside the hangar while also being environmentally friendly and biodegradable.
Additionally, the newer system’s safety features include an abort switch in case the system is accidentally triggered, and infared detectors which must sense heat before the foam dump will initiate. If the detectors do not register the fire, there is also a switch to set off the foam dump manually.
The contractors who installed the system will also train fire inspectors and firefighter personnel on how the system works, how it was designed and how to reset the system after the foam is released.
The firefighters also practiced a rescue operation to ensure proper training in the case of personnel being lost in the foam.
“All users of the system will be trained on the proper usage,” Montoya said. “Training will most likely be recurring and happen annually with computer based training.”
The test was observed by the contractors to ensure the standards and requirements were met, including the amount of time the coverage takes after the system is activated. A silhouette was placed on the hangar floor and within three to four minutes, the foam exceeded a depth of six feet.
“The implemented fire suppression foam system will elevate the level of safety within the hangar, protect the structure and allow personnel enough time to egress safely,” Montoya said.