Part 4: Hurricane Sandy's Impact Has Data Centers Outside New York Re-evaluating Threats
Hurricane Sandy's Impact Has Data Centers Outside New York Re-evaluating Threats
By Maryellen Lo Bosco May 2013 - Data Centers
Sandy redefined the nature of threats facing data centers and other critical facilities outside of the New York metro area as well. In Upper Marlboro, Md., the county administration building is across the street from Schoolhouse Pond, which came over its banks for the first time during Sandy. "We stored huge amounts of records in the building and a warehouse nearby, and they were underwater," says John Sloan, associate director at the Office of Central Services.
The county is now scanning all the restored paper records as well as new records for the court system. "Everything is going into DVR," Sloan says. Restoring the paper cost $8 million. The building is being restored, and some offices have moved to where there is no threat of flood.
"We have built a flood wall around the county administration building," Sloan says. The wall will protect up to 40 inches from the ground level; the flood waters during Sandy came up 24 inches. Meanwhile, a joint project has been undertaken by the Army Corps of Engineers and the Department of Environmental Resources and the Department of Public Works and Transportation "to mitigate the possibility of flooding in new areas in the future," says Sloan. "We are putting sensors in rivers and ponds that are part of the river system, which will indicate if the water is rising and give us a better idea of whether the river will come out of its banks."
James Caffrey, administrator, facilities management, for Orange Regional Medical Center, in Middletown, N.Y., about 75 miles from Manhattan, says that the major impact to his data center was brownouts that did not last long enough to allow the backup generators to start up. The very brief power outages (less than 7 seconds) tripped the circuit breakers so that water pumps for the chillers stopped working. Temperatures started to rise, and some computer systems were shutting down, so mechanics used fans and opened doors to cool equipment.
"We are fortunate," Caffrey says. "The hospital is 18 months old, and we have three emergency generators, but we didn't have enough emergency circuits throughout the hospital. We plan to expand the branch circuits." Because the hospital cannot tolerate down time, it has 100 percent emergency power, and two sources of power coming into the facility. "If the power goes down on one side we can switch to the other," he says. "They are fed by two different utility substations."
Caffrey says that the hospital is putting a fan on the roof that can be activated if the data center starts heating up. "We are looking at bypassing the cooling system," he says, "installing a separate HVAC system for the data center, and probably in the long-term looking at an offsite data center, since we are running out of storage space." In relocating the data center — essentially by building a new one — the hospital would still keep it on hospital property, which encompasses 60 to 70 acres.
Maryellen Lo Bosco is a freelance writer who covers facility management and technology. She is a contributing editor for Building Operating Management.