The Maths Behind Fire Fighting

Firefighter Header

#ShowYourWorking is our annual campaign where we invite people from all industries to help show that maths is everywhere and highlight the importance of maths in all careers - from athletes to artists, and from horticulturists to hairdressers.

Today, we are shining a spotlight on firefighters, with an example shared with us by the Museum of Scottish Fire Heritage in Edinburgh.

Here are some ways that firefighters use maths in their work:

  • Firefighters do quick maths equations to work out the amount of pressure remaining in their cylinders for Breathing Apparatus. In a BA search and rescue team they will have to check their air/pressure gauge and calculate how much air they have used, subtracting it from the amount on entry to estimate how much time they have left.
  • Percentages help firefighters understand the flammability range of a variety of gasses so they can understand the hazards and severity of the environment they may be working in. For example, a gas such as acetylene is potentially flammable at dilutions between 2.5% and 80% in normal air. This allows them to anticipate the hazards associated in that environment.
  • Firefighters use maths when operating the appliance pump, working out the pressures required to supply water from open water sources or fire hydrants, when operating a fire pump. They work out potential loss of pressure in a hose, for example each 25-metre length of hose would lose 0.2 Bar of pressure due to friction, if they had 3 lengths of hose to the Branch this would be 0.6 Bar.

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