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It's raining IT

We all know water and computers don't mix. When you don't have a choice, however, some interesting experiences can occur.

Twelve years ago, Gary Moon made a big boo-boo while moving some important equipment. He still has a copy of the fire department's report to prove it! Now, Moon joins the ranks of the other IT managers who currently reside in Blooperville.

For various reasons, some users share their stories anonymously. In this case, Moon's mistake happened long ago, so he went on the record. Here is his tale.

Late one night, Moon was working late to finish up a project. At the time, he was the only IT support person at a small manufacturing firm that made printed circuit boards. "I was running new network cabling to replace the old and add new workstations in the front office," Moon explained. The office consisted of a large area separated by cubicles. Each cubicle had a PC, but the server and the hub were also in the same area, he said.

Moon's painstaking process took quite a while. "I had to climb up on a ladder, move ceiling tiles, run the cable in the ceiling to my next point, climb down, move the ladder, and repeat the whole process for the entire length of the building," he said.

Finishing the project efficiently was one of Moon's goals. Around 9 pm, however, he got careless. As he neared the server area where the cables converged with the hub, he placed the ladder down hard. CLINK! Something sharp and metallic sounded. "I looked up just in time to get a full-face blast of cold, filthy, high pressure water," said Moon.

Gasp! Moon had knocked loose the head of a sprinkler from the office's sprinkler system. As alarms sounded, said Moon, "gallons of water sprayed down from the ceiling all over the office area and over all of the live computer equipment." Moon frantically ran around the office pulling power cables out of the walls. He was soaking wet, but thankfully didn't get electrocuted.

Unfortunately, Moon didn't know where the power shut-off was. So, he made an interesting attempt to limit the water's damage. He hoisted a 50-gallon garbage drum on his shoulders until it was nearly full with water, then he dragged it to the front door of the office and threw it out. "It wasn't enough to keep up with the sheer volume, so I got another one. I dumped one, while the other filled," explained Moon.

Moon repeated the process over and over. "How long will it be before the water stops coming!?" he remembered thinking. Finally, the fire trucks arrived. "It probably took under four minutes (for the trucks to arrive), but it seemed like hours," he said.

After the fire department shut off the water, the manager of the building and the CEO of Moon's company arrived. "Somehow I kept my sense of humor, and my manager and the CEO seemed impressed by that." Because of his composure, both the CEO and building manager kept their cool, Moon said.

Defeat was not an option, said Moon. So, the three came up with a plan to salvage the waterlogged equipment. "In the plant, there was a large oven used for baking the circuit boards," he said. Brainstorming, they took the computers, put them in the oven and ran it at 190 degrees. While they waited, the flooded office was cleaned with a wet-dry vacuum.

By 4 am, all the computers were back in place, booted up and running, Moon said. By 8 am, workers began arriving. Amazingly, "the only evidence of the previous night's disaster was the funny smell of the just shampooed carpets, the ragged-looking CEO, plant manager, and IT person, and small puddles of water in people's desk drawers."

Moon walked away from this catastrophe with two valuable lessons. Number one: "To properly recover a computer from water damage, bake at 190 degrees for 3 hours." Number two: "Always keep your sense of humor and professionalism, even in the worst situations. It may help you keep your job."


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This was last published in June 2002

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