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Comms room, comms room, comms room is on fire – we don't need no water, let the engineer burn

Figuratively, of course

On Call As you shut down and wait for Windows or macOS to spend the usual hour installing updates before your weekend can begin, spare a thought for those on the other end of the phone in The Register's weekly On Call column.

A reader, who we shall call "David", was reminded by our Away Team episode of his own data centre drama a little closer to home.

David was putting in the hours on a temporary contract for a nameless call centre provider north of the border. Naturally, keeping the phones going was a priority so the helpdesk was quick to pick up a call from an engineer working on a remote site.

Unlike most call centre calls, it wasn't about PPI or an accident that wasn't your fault. In fact, as David told us: "The call started innocently enough with our helldesk guy saying hello to our remote colleague.


When customers see red, sometimes the obvious solution will only fan the flames


"Within seconds he has pressed speakerphone and we hear the immortal words..."

You've been selected for a BT Survey? Your mobile phone could be due for an upgrade? Hello, this is Microsoft, your PC has been infected by a virus and we need to...?

No, it was none of these. Instead, the engineer said: "The comms room is on fire, I'm going in!"

David told us: "My jaw hits the deck as those closer to the phone scream, 'Noooo!'"


The team waited, fearing the worst, and imagining scenes that would make the director of a Backdraft sequel mutter "steady on".

David continued: "Ten minutes later comes a second call"

Would we be about to witness the birth of a new Darkman?

No. "The fire was out thanks to the (suicidal?) bravery (stupidity?) of our colleague.

"The worst of the flames were on the Krone frame, which he extinguished promptly."

The story concludes with a note of caution. The cause of the fire appeared to have been the UPS and yet maintenance had recently been performed and the batteries supposedly changed.

Naughtiness had been in the air, however, as David observed: "Lo and behold, weren't the incendiary batteries the old 'replaced' batteries?"

Before you scuttle off to check the dates on your own batteries, perhaps something similar has happened to you? A time when "everything's on fire!" or "check out the blast-radius of this DevOps boom" had taken on a tinge of frightening reality?

Of course it has. Send an email to On Call. Anonymity assured, if not the flammability of batteries. ®


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