Matt Brunk
Matt Brunk has worked in past roles as director of IT for a multisite health care firm; president of Telecomworx,...
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Matt Brunk | August 30, 2011 |


On the Road With Matt: Inspecting

On the Road With Matt: Inspecting Post-earthquake, finding issues in infrastructure and installation practices that expose customers to unnecessary harm and property loss.

Post-earthquake, finding issues in infrastructure and installation practices that expose customers to unnecessary harm and property loss.

This past week's East Coast 5.8 earth rattling event set in motion the need for customer site reviews. Unlike the West Coast, some folks here in the East don't have any inkling about measures to prevent injury and property loss caused by earthquakes and other potentially catastrophic events. We were later hit with Hurricane Irene and fortunately in my area most of the issues were minor flooding, power outages, downed trees, disrupted aerial Telco cables, and just one of our customers had complete loss of Internet access and dial tone. Still, I've been coast to coast and find similar issues in infrastructure and installation practices that expose customers to unnecessary harm and property loss.

One of our jobs scheduled for a campus involves installation of a fiber backbone network. We visit a site to determine switch locations, estimate lengths and other requirements for each project. We always do a second visit with notes from the first and review what it is we want to accomplish. The photographs are a means to document for visual reference and then to ask pertinent questions. Once you leave a site or an area, your notes can fail you just like your memory.

The photo below is revealing.

The plywood used isn't fire rated. Fire rated plywood was a requirement adopted back in the early 1990s in most Maryland counties. A lot of gear for telecom, data, alarm, video and building support equipment is mounted on plywood. While it's always difficult to control contractors' lack of housekeeping, it remains a neglected area that wastes prime real estate space in utility rooms, electrical and telephone closets that house critical telecommunications facilities and infrastructure.

Let me briefly define "housekeeping" in case there's any doubt. Optimal organization of gear and wiring to maintain a serviceable and safe environment is what I mean by "housekeeping." Of course it must look visually appealing and this is where many sites fall short from neglect, poor practices and contractors that don't care. Then, I've posted plenty in the past about electrical protection and EMP (electro-magnetic pulse). The earlier versions of whole panel protectors have a tendency to catch fire and these units are commonly mounted on plywood next to service panels. Other powered gear can suffer lightning damage (that is heat) that tends to melt insulated jackets between wires that can short and burn up gear. So anything electrical mounted to plywood surfaces must be mounted or attached to fire rated plywood. Fire rated plywood has a stamp and you must be sure to use what the code calls for.

The second offense is the cabling shown on either side of the steel electrical conduit. White cabling (voice drops), blue cabling (LAN drops), black cabling (Video distribution) and the lone gray cable dropped behind the video cable is a classic case of contractors gone wild. What the photo doesn't show is the corner (to the left a few feet) of the wall where the drops should have been placed using the corner’s dead space to route the cabling instead of the prime real estate. Each contractor dropped in cable in the middle of the plywood that is prime real estate space for gear. All the drops have excessive tails that wind around either to the left or right and reach their terminations in the middle or slightly right on the plywood.


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