Reading this entry in the Jargon File reminded me of a funny story about an “unstoppable force meets immovable object” type problem I once encountered. Due to conflicting regulations regarding safety and security, the following situation was created at a facility I once worked at (and is now closed).
The datacenter was inside a faraday cage because it handled VERY sensitive data. It was inside a vault because it needed, by design and regulation, to withstand two direct sidewinder missile strikes without compromising the integrity of the data. All networking had to be fibre-optic to prevent EMF remanence leakage. It was equipped with a two-hour battery backup (an assload of 24 volt jetski batteries wired to two inverter / rectifier circuits) and a direct line to a 2-minute delay diesel generator. It also had a halon dump system for fire suppression. Note that, against reg, this room also had two workstations with desks, chairs, and coffee makers. Here’s what would go down if there were ever a fire:
- AC power is cut.
- 2 minute generator delay starts and batteries kick in.
- Vault doors seal from both sides.
- Halon gas floods the room.
- After two minutes, generator kicks in, relieving the batteries.
Now there are two problems with this: the fire suppression system kills the AC power but doesn’t take note of the batteries, meaning that if the fire was caused by an electrical malfunction, it will more than likely still be happening due to the batteries and generator. The other problem is that the two unlucky dudes working in that facility (and there were two dudes manning that room during the day and one at night) would be very dead from the halon gas and totally unable to escape due to the blast doors automatically locking when the halon dump happened. The doors do not unlock until the fire is out, the fresh air vents have opened, and the halon concentration reaches acceptable levels.
I’m really glad I never worked in that office. They never did have a fire there which is a very good thing.