“Joe”, she said, “I know this is going to sound strange, but I’m working in the office this weekend to get caught-up on some year-end work, and something strange happened when I printed to the HP 1700. At the exact second I hit the print button, I heard a big pop – a big bang, really – and computers all over the office started beeping. The lights all went out, the printers all shut down, and some of the computers have even turned off. I don’t think the bang is related to my printing, but it happened at the exact second I sent the print. What do you think is going on?”

“Huh, that’s interesting”, I replied. “Where did this bang come from?”

“It sounded like it came from outside the building,” she said, “but I’m not really sure.”

I went on to surmise that the big bang she heard was probably an electrical transformer outside the building blowing its circuits, and that power to the whole building had been cut-off. The beeping she heard was, of course, the warning emitted by all the UPSs scattered throughout the office.

That was indeed the case, all brought on by a winter storm that dumped upwards of a half-a-foot of heavy snow on the city over this last weekend. A service call to our neighborhood was only one of many made by our local power company to repair downed power lines and failed transformers. Their fine efforts, however, resulted in power being restored to the building in only a couple of short hours.

I didn’t really feel put-out by having to go into the office over a weekend to make sure everyone’s computer was up and running, especially considering those power company workers who were also called-in over their weekend to work outside in the cold and the snow to make those repairs. I think I had the better end of that deal.

So what’s the moral of the story? Well, it might be a good time to test all those UPS units around the office to make sure the batteries are still functional. And perhaps we should further consider configuring the computers for an automatic shutdown in case of a power loss and UPS take-over. How many people use a UPS only for a temporary power source, overlooking entirely the interface that will shut down the computer in case it happens when the computer is unattended? I’ll admit, I’m one of them.

Or perhaps the better moral of the story is this – at least it’s more fun. Be careful when you hit that print button. You never know when it might bring down the entire neighborhood’s power grid.