Cold comfort

A contractor is working to replace the outdated ventilation system in the office building where this IT pilot fish works. But that shouldn't pose any problems for IT -- at least in theory.

"The other day, one of the contractors forgot to turn the boiler back on after they were working on it," fish says. "Needless to say, the next morning a large portion of the office was cold -- about 55 degrees.

"We were warm in IT, so we really didn't think too much about it until the building UPS started beeping madly."

The error indicators show that there's an overload situation -- and fish has a pretty good idea what's going on. He immediately dispatches every tech he can find to deal with the problem immediately.

But before they make it halfway down the hall, the circuit breaker for the dedicated computer circuits trips, and every desktop PC in the building shuts down.

Fish's guess turns out to be right. He knows that because the heat has been shut down occasionally during the ventilation project, users have brought electric space heaters into the office.

And despite clear instructions to every department that space heaters should be plugged only into specially indicated outlets, users have plugged the heaters into the computer power strips.

"Because they were easier to reach," sighs fish.

"We didn't have to seize the heaters from the users. Their managers took them and would not give them back until the end of the day. The building finally got to about 68 degrees at about lunch time; the users had to wear their coats all morning.

"We haven't had a repeat incident. There have been some cold days, but the few heaters out there are plugged into the specially marked outlets."

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Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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