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Predicting the risk of fire and explosion

Although factory owners work hard to minimise the threat of fire or explosion in manufacturing plants, there is always a trade-off between risk and cost, making objective decision-making difficult. But work by Brunel mathematicians Dr Paresh Date has enabled service providers to use a catered algorithm to analyse a range of hazards.

Dr Date, who specialises in computation of risk in finance and other domains, devised a standardised method of measuring risk, enabling designers of fire detection systems to understand trade-off between increased cost of safer installation and the accrual increase in the safety level.

The algorithm also brings transparency to customers, who can often spend between £40,000 and £700,000 in safety installations involving multiple sensors, valves and fire extinguishers, enabling them to understand why further expense might be needed to provide greater security.

The research was carried out between 2004-2009 by a multidisciplinary research team involving Dr Date and engineers from United Technologies Company Fire and Security (UTCFS) – one of the world’s largest installer of industrial explosion protection systems. After acceptance from academic peers, UTCFS developed a commercial implementation of this algorithm and adopted it from 2012 as a standard operational tool, training its worldwide salesforce in its use.

Similar research can now be adapted to other sectors where safety is crucial, such as quantifying explosion risks in offshore oil and gas rigs.