Remember, always follow all vendor instructions

This pilot fish is a registered nurse, not a regular IT tech. But it's back in the days before his hospital got an actual IT department, and as one of the few people onsite with a knowledge of computers, he's their go-to IT guy.

"I was working in Cardiology in a cath lab, which has cardiac imaging equipment," fish says. "The company that installed the X-ray equipment had a control system with two tape drives, an 8-inch disk drive, six racks of proprietary hardware and miles of small-diameter wire and circuitry.

"Unbeknownst to pretty much everybody, when they installed that equipment someone decided it was OK to run power for the delicate electronics that told the system what to do through the same 250-amp circuit breaker as the X-ray equipment."

One evening, fish is working overtime when the X-ray tube goes down. That usually means the tube has overheated, which isn't a complete surprise -- the X-ray tube has a stationary anode and a cathode that's spinning at high speed, throwing off the X-ray energy. With what's essentially a mechanical device, there's bound to be lots of excess heat.

Fish calls the vendor's tech support and explains that the tube had stopped spinning and the hospital needs a service tech sent out to repair it.

Tech support guy asks fish to fire up the tube again so he can do a little more troubleshooting over the phone. Fish says he doesn't think that's a very good idea. But tech support says he won't dispatch service until fish gives it a try.

So fish pushes the trigger -- and a second or two later the 250-amp circuit breaker blows. Fish passes that info on, and the service tech is dispatched.

"The vendor had another tech onsite who didn't work on the cath lab equipment -- only the CAT scanner -- and he stuck his head into the cath lab while we were waiting," says fish. "As I explained to him what happened, all those miles of delicate wires and circuits suddenly went up in a blaze of glory, dropping the Halon fire-suppression gas and giving us all a six-week vacation.

"Needless to say, by the next time we had a similar incident, all computer equipment was isolated by proper breakers -- and I was told please to not try to fire up the X-ray equipment."

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