Tales from IT : For Whom The Bell Tolls

It was my second week at my new job.  It was still hectic as I tried to get their infrastructure performing better but at least my second week couldn’t be as bad as my first, right?

Oh dear.

To set the scene, the office I worked in was the main HQ of the company.  On the floor with the global IT department was the server room and also all the executives for the company;  the CEO, CIO, CFO etc.

One of the first suggestions I made for the Exchange infrastructure was to split off the MTA components onto their own, dedicated servers.  I’d got the request pushed through and we had a couple of new servers installed in the server racks.  What they didn’t have were network connections.

Floor Tile Lifter

The server room had all its racks on a false floor;  the floor panels could be removed to allow cabling to be laid from the network switches on the wall to all the relevant server cabinets.  You had a tool which was a bit like a horse-shoe magnet with two suction-cups at the ends;  to lift a floor panel you stuck the tool onto it, flipped a pair of levers to remove the air from teh cups and then lifted the now attached floor panel.

All was going swimmingly as I laid the network cable across the room.  The process was simple;  I lifted a pair of floor panels then passed the cable from one to the other.  Sometimes it was a bit of a stretch and I had to lean quite a way into the floor cavity to get the cable across.  For one particularly tricky section, I had to support my entire weight on one hand at the edge of the floor tiles.

This is the point where the wheels came off the wagon.  My hand slipped, and my entire bodyweight slammed my hand down into the floorspace, straight onto one of the fire sensors hidden under the floor.

This is bad.  On a number of levels.
This is bad. On a number of levels.

What I didn’t mention was that the server room also had a cutting-edge (at the time) fire-prevention system.  When a fire was detected the room would flood with Halon gas.  As this would make breathing a little tricky for people still in the room, the system would helpfully sound a loud klaxxon to alert them.

And by loud, what I actually mean is ‘ear-splitting for the entire floor’.

Panic stations.  I hit the ground quite hard and then got blasted with a wall of sound.  A few seconds after that I was remembering the Halon system and running for the door,  straight into all the senior members of IT trying desperately to turn off the alarm and prevent the Halon system firing (and also automatically killing the power to all the servers in the room).

Surrounding the people trying to fix the problem were all the executives from the floor who were wondering what all the noise was about and whether the entire building was about to explode.

This meant I luckily had a large audience of all the most senior people in the company when I flung myself out of the door of the server room I had almost killed.

It might be hard to believe, but I stayed there for over two years after that point.

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