Changes to Foam Testing Specifications

The National Fire Protection Association Standard 11 entitled Standard for Low-, Medium-, and High-Expansion Foam is in the 2014 fall revision cycle at NFPA. As such, several key process steps have been completed to move this standard from the 2010 version to the new 2014 version. The new revision should be issued this fall. The first draft of the new version was issued in September of 2013; and the posting of the second draft and the technical committee ballot is scheduled for June 13, 2014.

Due to proposed changes to the NFPA 11, Dyne Technologies is changing the way field fire-fighting foam is tested. These changes will become effective on June 13th when the second draft is issued. Instead of requiring all foams to meet a minimum specified standard, regardless of the type or brand of foam, Dyne will ensure the foams are performing at or close to the performance level when the foam was first manufactured.

The change proposed for NFPA 11 is as follows “When the type and brand of foam are known, the quality testing shall confirm the product meets the manufacturer’s specifications.” As recommended by the proposed version of NFPA 11, Dyne will test to the foam manufacturer’s specifications when available.  There are multiple reasons for this change:

  1. In the past it was typical for foam manufacturers to develop foams for all applications such as foam chambers, subsurface injection, non-air aspirated sprinklerss, etc. Today, manufacturers are developing foams for specific applications which are no longer defined by the “typical” performance characteristics. NFPA 11 recommends that all foam be used in a listed system.
  2. The United States Environmental Protection Agency has defined a PFOA stewardship program which is encouraging foam manufacturers to use C-6 fluorocarbon surfactants. Foams made with this new technology may perform somewhat differently than foams manufactured today and subsequently be tested to different specifications.
  3. By testing to make sure fire-fighting agents perform as they do when first manufactured, the door will be open for additional technology breakthroughs in the future.

An additional proposed change to the standard is the definition of a film forming foam.

In the 2010 edition of NFPA 11, film forming foam is described as follows:

“A concentrate that when mixed at its nominal use concentration will form an aqueous film on hydrocarbon fuels. The hydrocarbon fuel typically used as a minimum benchmark for film formation is cyclohexane.”

To date, Dyne has shown film formation by placing foam solution on cyclohexane and ensuring the film prevented ignition - thus meeting the above definition.

However, to align with other industry standards, NFPA 11 is proposing the following definition.

“A property of aqueous film-forming foams and film-forming fluoroproteins characterized by a positive (>0.0 dynes/cm) spreading coefficient when measured according to ASTM D 1331 using cyclohexane as the hydrocarbon substrate and distilled water to make the foam solution.”

Because of this definition change, going forward Dyne will require all film forming foam to have a positive spreading coefficient by either demonstrating film formation or reporting the spreading coefficient.

Please note, these potential changes are going to be implemented on June 13th to coincide with the posting of the second draft as opposed to waiting for the issuance of the final revision. The reason for implementing these changes now are:

  1. It appears these changes will be passed shortly.
  2. The changes align with other standards such as Underwriters Laboratory 162 and the International Maritime Specification 1310.

Dyne will continue to provide independent, unbiased foam testing services to ensure you that the products will work effectively in an emergency situation. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call.


Joan M. Leedy
Technical Director
Secretary and Committee Member of NFPA 11

Dyne Technologies, LLC