dfwairport.com - The Importance of Understanding Proper Agent Selection
Mon, Mar. 25, 2019

The Importance of Understanding Proper Agent Selection

Bonnie Barlow, Captain
Extinguishing Agents Instructor

I stress to my students, both basic and experienced, the importance of understanding proper agent selection for the given incident. An ARFF vehicle operator is responsible for a wide range of knowledge such as memorizing the airfield, knowing response routes (and changing response routes), becoming an expert on their specific vehicle, knowing details on a wide variety of aircraft, and the list goes on. Additionally, they’ll most likely be performing solo as the only person assigned to that vehicle any given day. It could also be first to the scene of an incident and may be on scene for some time before the municipal department, or mutual aid can arrive to assist. In those moments, one single-vehicle operator will have to assess the situation and make many decisions that will set the tone and the outcome of the incident. The most basic ARFF firefighter, up to the most experienced operators and incident commanders must understand agent selection for the given event.

  • Water: spot fires and interior fires
  • AFFF Foam: liquid hydrocarbon
  • Dry Chemical (potassium or sodium based): rapid knockdown of liquid hydrocarbon and ONLY choice for 3-dimensional fires
  • Dry Powder: flammable metal Class D fires
  • Halogenated Agents: enclosed fires such as engine cowlings, cargo holds, and computer rooms
  • AFFF-AR: polar solvent fires

ARFF personnel must know how each system works and ensure each system combat ready. They must choose the correct agent for the incident and at times, make that decision quickly and without being told to do so. Correct agent choice will result in rapid knockdown and extinguishment of the fire. Incorrect agent selection could increase the fire size and intensity. This understanding is vital in quick mitigation of life-threatening situations via rapid-fire extinguishment. Correct agent choice will also be extensive cost-saving for cargo and airlines by preserving savable property.