100% humidity in the L.A. 9-1-1 communications room

In the catagory of stuff happens:


Does your co-locate have a sump pump?

A good reminder. It's not that the National Fire Protection Association
doesn't do a good job, but we need equal time for National XXX Protection
Associations for other threats to facilities.

I was about to say I can easily remember being burned by water even without
Sean's example, although that metaphor is highly suspect. In facilities
for which I've had design or operational responsibilities, I've never had a
fire that caused any problems. Fire protection, on the other hand....

1969...At a Navy site, there was a classified tape vault adjacent to the
       main computer room. It had a sprinkler inside, without a sprinkler
       alarm. As a true vault with a bank-vault sort of door, there was
       very little ventilation. There was no sprinkler alarm. Over a
       weekend, the sprinkler inside, which turned out to be defective,
       let go. Water rushed into a sealed space, compressing the air

       On Monday, a sailor spun the combination, pulled the door handle...
       and was smashed into a wall as the door burst wide. Several broken
       ribs, a concussion where the back of his head hit the wall, but no
       permanent injuries.

       This was a mainframe computer room with a raised floor and
       emergency power off, so most water ran under the floor and just
       wet cables. Power was interrupted quickly. But it took several
       days to dry out and fix components fried by the power-off surge.
       The militarized computers weren't particularly bothered, but
       the IBM 7090 and UNIVAC 1108 were down for days.

       LESSONS LEARNED: Sprinkler alarms in sealed spaces.
                         Raised floor does give some protection.

1970...building maintenance turned off the heat in the office building over
       a long weekend when the building was closed. Temperature dropped to
       about 10 degrees F. On Monday, as the heat was back on, sprinkler
       pipes that had frozen burst in several walls and ceilings. The most
       dramatic spot was the mall beauty shop...people with their heads in
       electric hair dryers were NOT amused as water cascaded over them.
       Luckily, no electrocutions.

       My computer room had a DEC PDP-11 (serial number 1117 -- my remembering
       the serial number almost 30 years later should give you a sense how many
       service calls I placed on it). No emergency power-off for the room.
       In what might have been a medal-winning act of heroism if this were
       a military site -- it was the clinical computer room for Georgetown
       University Hospital -- one of my colleagues, Scott Dyer, ran into ankle-
       deep water to pull electrical plugs before the rising water could get
       into the disk cabinet fans, succeeding with seconds to spare.

       The only cables actually submerged were RS-232, and where connectors
       were underwater, they were tightly screwed together and remained

       LESSONS LEARNED: Sprinkler systems need heated buildings in cold
                         Dry-pipe sprinkler systems, in which no water enters
                         the piping until a sprinkler head actually releases,
                         are preferred for equipment rooms.
                         Emergency power off systems have their uses, although
                         they can be expensive. Might make sense to tie
                         underfloor water alarms to emergency power off

1975 or so...more than one occurrence. US Senate off-site computer room, where
      we had several computers for the Library of Congress. Senator took a
      nap on a hideaway office couch, while smoking. Couch caught on fire and
      other office furnishings lit off.

      Firefighters put a water stream on it and put it out. Office was on the
      4th floor, computer room on 1st floor. Water runs downhill. Water
      gushed mostly down stairs; very little came through ceilings at first
      but water started dripping (and gushing on one occasion) much later
      than the initial flood.

      LESSONS LEARNED: After the first occurrence, the Senate people bolted
                        rolls of plastic sheeting to the ceiling near the
                        main computers. They stapled a thin wood strip to the
                        end of the roll plastic, and attached a rope to the
                        strip. This let an operator grab the rope and quickly
                        pull protective plastic over the computers. Remember
                        that if you cover the top, you have probably blocked
                        cooling and need to power down FAST.

                        If stairs enter the computer room (e.g., emergency
                        exit), avoid putting equipment close to them. Water
                        coming in is an issue -- and a burning computer could
                        be an exit problem.