Shark Tank: What a blast!

It's the late 1970s, and this chemical company builds a state-of-the-art computer room, complete with a Halon fire-suppression system, says a pilot fish working there.

But state-of-the-art doesn't come cheap, and this is a big room. "So some genius decided that instead of running Halon pipes all over the room, they would put them only along one wall, with the pipes positioned to blow the Halon across the room," fish says.

"Naturally, the Halon was high-pressure. In fact, the first test bent the Halon pipes, but they just braced them to prevent that."

One Saturday, fish is working at a keypunch machine in the computer room when the Halon alarm sounds.

"It was supposed to give a 30-second warning before releasing the Halon," says fish. "But when I looked up, it was already blasting across the room, carrying everything loose in the room with it!"

Fish ducks under the keypunch, and the computer operator dives under the console table.

"When we emerged, it was a disaster area," fish reports. "Listings and paper were swirled and scattered, pens were embedded in walls, a paper tablet was sliced in half by an acoustic ceiling support, and several disk pack covers had been flung the length of the room and smashed."

And what set it off? Turns out technicians from the company maintaining the Halon system had just shown up to do routine maintenance.

"They swore they never got near the control panel," fish says. "Yeah, sure. It took a lawsuit to get them to pay the $15,000 to recharge the Halon tanks.

"But my company had to pay to repipe the computer room with low-pressure Halon."

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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