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Shake It Up, Baby

Let’s begin with an account from an employee of a California-based telco, which experienced an earthquake:

"In the early 1990s I was working in Simi Valley for [this particular telco] and we experienced an earthquake affecting the data center there. There was minimal damage to the building, but the raised floor area equipment room sustained substantial destruction that resulted in knocking out the data center for several days. It was weeks before full function of the data center was restored. The principal reason that the outage was so protracted was that none of the equipment racks had been anchored to the concrete subfloor. As a result, the racks rocked with the quake and the contents were dumped out, and over, and spread about the floor. Surprisingly, some of the equipment survived and continued to function. In many other cases, however, equipment cables were severed, or power was disrupted. As you might imagine, lots of other physical damage was done."

The lesson in this case ought to be obvious. In earthquake zones, it’s imperative to comply with building codes and other directives when installing any equipment. This isn’t always an expensive proposition. The equipment required to brace and bolt down equipment racks is inexpensive, and available in any Home Depot.

On a personal note, I may have mentioned in other articles that my wife and I lived in Tokyo, Japan for several years, and as a result rode out a number of earthquakes. It’s not like in the movies. We expected that when we experienced our first quake, it would be the up-and-down motion we all see in Hollywood pictures. This isn’t necessarily the case. In the cases of the quakes we were experienced, the ground went back and forth. We also noted that the effect of even a small quake was much more noticeable when we moved to the seventh floor of a tower apartment than when we lived at ground level. Many times, ground motion that would almost shake us out of bed on the seventh floor would barely be noticed by friends on the first or second floor of the same building. Distance from the earth should be a consideration if your data center is on the upper floors of a building. The building is probably designed to withstand a quake, and will most likely do fine. Everyone inside, however, might just feel like they’re in an omelet pan.

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