July 3rd, 2019

Why Do I Need a Tarp?


Full disclosure, I was a Firefighter. And we love water.

A few years after getting my Firefighter 1 certification I found myself on a quarter section of blackened earth, with a shovel and a six-foot wall of fire extending a few hundred yards in either direction moving away from me at a rather quick pace thanks to those hot summer Kansas winds. A pond, a loafing shed, and a pump house lay beyond. As we tried to improve the chances of survival for the shed and the pump house, there were two things running through my mind as we tried to break the fire line with shovels and the dirt on the ground. One was,"boy I could really use a drink" and the other was"where the heck is the grass truck." We had slowed the line's advance with that shovel, and shortly after that and my wanton thoughts, I heard the diesel and a short whoop from the siren as a Grass Rig pulled up behind me. I grabbed an attack line and started spraying water. I was very thankful for that line. It was not a shovel, and it was full of water. The shed and pump house were saved, and we went on to contain most of that line.

Even though I only had a shovel, I was prepared. And I was prepared with just enough tools to get done what was needed.
Back to the point: Firefighters love water.

A firefighter's primary job is to save lives and to protect structures and property. In the process of evacuating people and saving property, water is used in the least destructive way possible. Water flow rate on a typical attack line can be as much as 200 gallons per minute. That's about 3 to 4 bathtubs per minute. And on a structure fire like an office building, there will be multiple lines.

If you have a data center or server room in an office building that shares space with other tenants or is multi-purpose, and other space is engulfed in flames, you can bet that love of water will intrude on your space.

Your data center is safe because it's probably surrounded by floor-to-deck one-hour fire rated gypsum sheetrock and has its own HVAC. We all have gaseous fire suppression in our data centers, right? Well that doesn't matter. The minute a firefighter goes to town on that raging fire on the floor above your data center, you can bet that hot, black, smelly water is going to find its way into your data center, and on top of your racks, and run all over your precious hypervisors and your brand-new all-flash array.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why you need a tarp. Because at a bare minimum you need just enough tools to get by until the cavalry arrives to help clean up the disaster. The tarp is also good for stopping water from other sources, like burst pipes, like the one that they ran through the existing room that management determined would be your switch closet. So, go to your local hardware store and pick up a blue tarp large enough to meet your needs. While you're at it, get a couple of rolls of Gorilla Tape, and a roll of high-density painter's plastic sheeting. This stuff may take up a file cabinet drawer, and you'll never be unhappy that you have it… when you really need it. Your Board of Directors and the examiners will also show their appreciation.

By:  Mike Smith, AWS CCP

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