Smocked Up: Fire At Data Centre Disrupts Intranet For A Week

Smocked Up: Fire At Data Centre Disrupts Intranet For A Week

Tanaya Sahoo | Sep 09, 2019

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A jovial evening of 1st September carried an unfortunate turmoil in the very den of data channelling of NIT Rourkela when smoke was reported from the Data Centre. Needlessly unfortunate, the mishap marked a saga a fire breakout in the campus in a span of just 8 months when a catastrophic fire had engulfed the Purchase and Works Department on 5th December 2018 and a similar incident 6 months prior to the latter.

At around 5 PM in the evening, one of the two Air Conditioning units in the Power Room of the Data Centre malfunctioned, smoking up the entire place in a few minutes. Initially, the exact nature of the fire was not located but the officials and personnel at the data centres were quick to call for safety as the security personnel around the place rushed to the site in the already dampening smoke. Among the first few officials to arrive on the spot of the incident were the Dean Student Welfare, Prof. S.K Patel, The Officer on Special Duty, Suman Dutta soon followed by the PIC Safety and Security, Prof. Rohan Dhiman and others. While the OSD and the security personnel strived hard in the smoke to put off the fire on first response, the arrival of a fire brigade unit from the Odisha Fire Services quickly brought the situation under control.

The accident caused a lengthened disruption of intra-networking in the campus causing unrest and speculation among the NIT Rourkela fraternity. The Dean (SW), Prof. Patel formally disclosed the unfortunate cause at 8:26 pm through an official social media group of Telegram all along which an official statement was anticipated. Zimbra, the NITRIS portal, LAN and the Monday Morning website were inoperative through the extended weekend as host servers of NIT Rourkela were on a breakdown following the fire.

The NITRIS and Zimbra portals were restored to normal at around 11 PM on 5th September while LAN facilities and the Monday Morning website were operational on 6th September. The mishap marked several speculations regarding the gaps and flaws of the electrical wiring and load-bearing capabilities of the institute’s infrastructure as well as the immediate response mechanisms to such unforeseen accidents.

Prof. Rohan Dhiman on asked about the general safety and adequate firefighting requisites in the campus states,

The fire-extinguishers in the campus were refilled after the incident in the Purchase and Works department last year. The number of extinguishers is not that low but this year also we have to go for another round of refilling. They may not be available in every other location but are available at all strategic places on the campus. We have deliberated this year to regularly keep a record on them and also make sure about their efficient maintenance. The process would be done sooner.

Regarding the response from the security and the fire brigade he further states,

The security and the fire brigade collectively followed the normal procedure to respond to the fire. Thankfully, the damage was contained only to the AC vaults and the impact was localised in due time. Other cables and units in the room didn’t catch fire. I was told that the two air conditioning units worked alternatively based on a timer and only one of them malfunctioned because of drawing heavy power. We would be enforcing recommendations on safety so that these particular incidents are not repeated. With respect to the feedback from the stakeholders of this institute, everyone is unhappy about such frequent mishaps and so serious measures would be undertaken.

Immediately following the mishap, a committee of executives headed by Prof. S.K Patel and consisting of Prof. Rohan Dhiman, Prof. B.D Sahoo (Head of Data Centre), the PIC of Electrical maintenance, professors from Electrical department among others was formed to report on the issue and undertake measures to prevent such occurrences in future. The committee met at the surveillance room to discuss the cause with the estate electrical engineer and work on a plan of action. At the same time, the recommendations put forward by the previous committee formed to report on the fire at the Purchase and Works department awaits implementation. Prof. Dhiman takes upon himself to press on the subject after his recent appointment as the Person-in-charge of safety and security, especially as the recent fire breakouts in a short span remain worrisome. Therefore, it becomes imperative to streamline the fitness of infrastructure on the campus.

While the head officials and work personnel at the Data Centre remained unavailable for comments about the accident or the restoration of internet facilities in the campus, Prof. S.K Patel as the head of the committee formed to report on the accident said that the data centre operators urgently worked to reinforce a normal network in the campus as a priority and re-furnish the data centre, further which the committee would meet to assess the situation and report.

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