Averted disaster (“missed it by THAT much”)

by | Jun 22, 2019

Sitting next to my desk is a table which houses all the gear that keeps things running around here. On it is the UPS that protects my iMac, my laptop, a label printer, my Nintendo Switch, and a power strip that has everything in the area plugged into it.

In other words, this is a part of the office I really should be careful with, and usually am.

So Friday, while trying to snake a cable into the back of the iMac, I realized my glass of iced tea that was sitting right there waiting to get bumped by an errant elbow. Catching myself, I picked it up and moved it out of the way to safety to another table (which sits just above and to the left of that gear table shown).

You can guess what happened.

Five minutes later I turned in my chair, and my elbow hit the glass of iced tea and sent it flying. It poured itself out on the power strip, and I heard a click, and lots of stuff went dark.

After running out for towels (cussing just a bit at myself) I came back in and saw the power strip had de-powered (duh) so everything plugged into it was dark. I noticed the iMac was on UPS power, indicating the circuit was dead. All that work we had done upgrading the electrical in the house worked perfectly, and the GFC in the wall dropped as soon as it noticed the short.

I spent the next 20 minutes pulling everything out and toweling stuff off and sopping up iced tea and bits of ice as I sorted out the damage. I pulled the cabinet that hides the outlet out, and yes, the GFC had sprung. I unplugged the power strip and picked it up, and water dripped out.

Ugh.

The good news, though, was that the tea missed all of the gear and other than a few cosmetic drips, it was all dry. I also had a spare power strip in the garage, which I recruited for the cause, and proceeded to sever the power cable on the old so I wouldn’t be tempted to try using it again.

Then it was just drying stuff off, cleaning out the dust, resetting the circuit and plugging stuff back in. It all worked fine. But if you think about it, six inches either way and that could have turned into a really expensive mistake. Ditto if the electrical hadn’t been carefully brought up to code, too.

Lesson learned, and offered: this is why data centers have “no food or drink” rules in them. Because even if you think you’re being careful, you may just be shifting the danger around. I could have (should have) moved it further away and out of reach, but half-thinking, I didn’t put it in the properly safe spot. A dead power strip is a cheap payment for reminding myself to be more careful next time.