For the inaugural session, school director Frank Bateman kept promotion and advertising for his new Hellfighter U foam fire training to a bare minimum. Other than a couple of e-mail flyers sent to customers of his former National Foam fire schools, he did nothing special to promote the project.
“I didn’t want more than 100 students,” Bateman said. “Four rotations of 25 students is the limit for enough viable work to keep each student busy while accomplishing our learning objectives.”
Almost immediately, enrollment oversold for the first Hellfighter U held in December 2015 at the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) fire school in College Station, TX.
“That was heartwarming,” Bateman said. “The flyer said ‘Yes, it’s a different name but it’s the same school that has become the best of its kind in the world.’ As before, no shortcuts will be taken in producing the same quality foam school associated with the Cadre (nickname for Bateman’s instructors).”
One hundred and five students representing industrial and municipal fire response organizations throughout North and South America participated in the intense three-day schedule of live-burn training utilizing the many full sized industrial projects at Texas A&M.
“This is the best physical plant in the world,” Bateman said. “Number two isn’t even in sight.”
For decades, National Foam conducted an annual flammable liquid firefighting school at TEEX. In 2000, Bateman joined Kidde Fire Fighting as training manager, instituting a curriculum overhaul of the National Foam fire school that clearly targeted emergency responders. The new program became so successful that it was expanded to three sessions annually.
In September, Bateman joined ICL Performance Products as Class B foam marketing and business development specialist. ICL’s Phos-Chek has long been established as a leader in sales of fire retardants and Class A foams.
“We’re the only ones that make that red stuff they drop on wildfires from airplanes,” Bateman said.
In 2014, ICL acquired Auxquimia SA in Spain, expanding ICL’s product list to include a full line of C6 based AFFF and AR-AFFF ATC foam concentrates effective against Class B fuel fires
“I’m trying to do what I feel is necessary to attack an already mature marketplace,” Bateman said.
Establishing a new fire foam school in the tradition of Bateman’s previous schools (National Foam and 3M) became an important part of moving into the Class B market, he said.
“Of course, the name comes from the old John Wayne movie ‘The Hellfighters,’” Bateman said. “Adding the ‘U’ for ‘university’ was the closest to the original I could find available as an Internet domain.”
Underneath Hellfighter U on the school’s official patch is the Phos-Chek name.
“We are quite proud of the products we make,” Bateman said. “They have shown great performance.”
During Bateman’s tenure, National Foam schools observed a “no-sell” policy. Unlike other schools, the curriculum emphasized concepts and techniques rather than thinly disguised product promotions. The same will be true of Hellfighter U, Bateman said.
“We don’t make hardware,” he said. “That allows me to select the equipment that is best for the job. For example, I’ve always been a fan of the Terminator, even though National Foam is our competitor.”
In keeping with plans to incorporate big flow systems into the Hellfighter U curriculum, Ferrara Fire Apparatus and US Fire Pump had personnel and equipment on hand for demonstrations. In the future, ICL plans to continue its efforts to affiliate with suppliers of products and systems equal to the quality of ICL – superior performance, most reliable and reasonably priced yet state-of-the-art equipment vendors, he said.
“It isn’t easy because many good quality providers are already doing business with somebody else,” Bateman said. “However, we have some pretty good thing going too.”