Class is in session: Inside Fomtec’s International Foam School

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As the fire suppression sector undergoes rapid changes, Fomtec sets a new benchmark with its International Foam School

In the ever-evolving landscape of fire safety, leading foam solutions provider Fomtec is pioneering change not just in products, but in knowledge sharing and education.

Established in 2001, the company has made its mark with a customer-centric approach, a relentless pursuit of innovation, and a strong commitment to sustainable alternatives to traditional fire suppression systems.

Now, they are taking a bold leap forward, launching their inaugural International Foam School programme in Helsingborg, Sweden.

This initiative represents a significant step towards collective advancement in the industry, underscoring Fomtec’s commitment to equipping professionals with the knowledge and tools needed to face the future of fire safety.

In this exclusive interview with John Ottesen, Owner of Fomtec, IFSJ delves into the genesis of the programme, its curriculum, participant experiences, and the learnings gleaned from its inaugural run, and how the International Foam School is set to shape Fomtec’s future growth and the fire safety industry at large.

What inspired Fomtec to create the International Foam School programme?

The inspiration for creating the International Foam School programme stemmed from my personal experience.

Early in my career, I attended a foam school that deeply influenced me.

This experience not only shaped my professional journey but also played a crucial role in founding Fomtec.

Much of what we teach in our programme has been influenced by what I learned in that school.

We integrated many elements from the materials provided there into our own manual, refining and expanding upon them.

The significance of foam schools in my personal growth inspired me to establish something similar, but uniquely tailored by Fomtec.

The knowledge and tools I acquired from that school stayed with me for decades.

The manual I received during that training remained on my desk for 30 years until we crafted our own.

Now, our comprehensive manual has taken its place, embodying our extensive research and expertise.

At Fomtec, we firmly believe in a fact-based approach when it comes to firefighting and designing fire suppression systems.

Without an in-depth understanding of the foams, the guiding standards for system design, and the diverse applications of foam systems, it is challenging to effectively utilise data.

Our Foam School aims to provide that solid foundation for professionals in this field.

What is on the curriculum at Fomtec’s International Foam School?

Foam School allowed me to realise an ambition I’ve held for many years: creating a comprehensive Foam Manual.

We’ve produced a 500-page manual which delves deep into topics ranging from foam concentrates, hardware, and design standards to pertinent applications, inclusive of calculation examples and design data.

Our Foam School curriculum is structured around this manual, which we’ve aptly named “The Foam Manual.”

The manual I had from earlier served as an inspiration or a template for what I aimed to create.

While the fundamental issues in the world and the applications remain unchanged, the ways we address these issues and the products we use have evolved, especially on the chemistry side.

On the hardware end, much of the old equipment persists, but there’s new technology now as well.

There’s been an evolution in both equipment and foam over the years.

The applications we aim to safeguard remain consistent.

My approach in crafting this manual was to focus on these applications.

We constructed the manual systematically, chapter by chapter, discussing protection strategies for each specific application.

I drew a lot from the older manual’s essence, updating it to be relevant to 2023, including aspects like fluorine-free foam.

The manual is a substantial binder.

Inside, there are chapters dedicated to foam concentrate and hardware.

It delves into specific applications, offering readers clear guidance.

For instance, if a student wishes to design a sprinkler system, they’ll find a step-by-step guide on the process and references to the relevant standards to make their design appropriate and effective.

Our main goal with Foam School is comprehensive education.

We’re aware there’s a vast amount of information to grasp.

While we don’t expect students to remember everything immediately, we aim to equip them with the tools to facilitate continuous learning.

Through our program, they learn to execute relevant calculations and are pointed towards pivotal resources like NFPA standards to navigate further.

What are your aspirations for foam school attendees?

Foam School aims to provide comprehensive training in a relatively short period – three days, to be precise.

While this is undoubtedly a brief duration, our role is to guide students in the right direction.

We conduct in-depth presentations, working alongside students through each application, engaging in hands-on calculations to ensure they grasp the core concepts.

The methodology we employ is similar to that which I experienced in my training 30 years ago.

Although one doesn’t master everything immediately, it’s the consistent revisitation of materials, particularly the manual and industry standards, that fosters deepened understanding.

This repetitive process, which I found invaluable in my own learning, is something we hope our students will adopt.

Foam School is not simply about experimenting with foam in a simulated environment.

It’s centred on imparting knowledge on designing real-world foam systems, both portable and fixed, strictly based on established design standards.

Our curriculum offers a holistic exploration of firefighting with foam.

It begins with an introduction to foam concentrates, covering their varied properties, delving into environmental considerations, discussing PFAS transition topics, and explaining system design standards.

The course goes into detailed examinations of all primary applications, incorporating design exercises, and culminating in an examination.

Our aspiration is for students to leave Foam School proficient in using The Foam Manual and industry standards to execute impeccable system designs.

Can you share some key insights or takeaways from the first iteration of the programme?

One of the primary realisations was the sheer volume of content to be addressed within the span of 3 days.

Despite this, the overwhelming feedback was that students left with an enriched understanding, irrespective of their initial expertise.

It’s noteworthy that the Foam School immerses students into the latest data, with SFFF being the principal product demonstrated across our calculation examples.

We extensively leverage the findings from the Fomtec Enviro Programme, encompassing over 2000 fire tests and the subsequent approvals we’ve garnered.

While the learning trajectory proved steep for some participants, we confidently met our core objective: guiding students towards a data-driven comprehension of foam and its associated systems.

How have participants responded to the International Foam School programme?

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive from every student.

While it might be premature to make extensive assessments, my strong perception is that Foam School has reshaped many students’ perspectives on the subject and will influence their future professional approaches.

As a supplementary initiative, Fomtec plans to host follow-up webinars targeting specific areas of interest for the cohort.

Was Fomtec’s “data not opinion” mindset influential in developing the programme?

At the heart of Foam School’s curriculum lie the NFPA standards and FM Data pages, serving as the foundational pillars for our foam systems design approach.

What’s advantageous about this framework is the alignment in thinking between NFPA, FM, and us at Fomtec – the shared belief in a fact-driven, holistically approved methodology.

We then apply our products to practical examples spanning all pertinent applications, ensuring their utilisation remains within documented and approved limits.

For many participants, it’s a revelation to see how intricately everything interlinks and how even minor data omissions can compromise an entire design.

Does the school tackle to the industry transition away from PFAS-containing foam?

Foam School plays a pivotal role in this transitional phase.

While there’s a widespread desire for direct drop-in replacements, the reality is such replacements aren’t feasible.

With our new SFFF products not having the same leniency as traditional PFAS-based foams, the necessity for comprehensive knowledge becomes paramount to ensure a safe shift away from PFAS-laden solutions.

Relying on data and practices that are several decades old is untenable.

This is where Foam School becomes invaluable in the PFAS transition journey.

Ignoring this reality poses a grave risk, with potential consequences for both life and property.

How does the International Foam School fit into the future of Fomtec?

The Foam School is set to be a cornerstone in our future endeavors, with plans to introduce new classes approximately every six months.

As we progress and engage with diverse batches of students, we intend to tailor the curriculum to cater to specific audiences, such as Distributors, Contractors, End Users, Consultants, and Insurers, among others.

Our overarching goal is to unify everyone under a common vernacular concerning foam, emphasising a discourse rooted in data, not opinion.

In many ways, this is a language school, and we want as many people in the industry as possible to speak Fomtec.

This article was originally published in the October 2023 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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