It is amazing how much damage a small animal can do.
Our home office building has a diesel backup generator that comes on automatically whenever there is a power failure from the local utility. This provides sustained power to our servers as the backup UPS system will only last a short time. This setup has served us well for many years.
Enter an enterprising squirrel, who decided to build a nest in the switchgear of the generator – to stay out of the weather, perhaps. Take a weekend with violent thunderstorms. The power goes out, the generator comes on, the switchgear cycles power from the main line to the generator, a flash of light, and the squirrel nest and nearby wiring is vaporized in an instant.
No power to the servers, and an impending uncontrolled shutdown with possibly catastrophic consequences.
Phoenix Contact NLC-COM-CELLULAR-CDMA
Do you worry about unexpected events that can cause headaches for your processes? We have found an answer in a new product from Phoenix Contact that allows inexpensive monitoring over the CDMA cellular network supported by Verizon Wireless. This is a new communications module for their Nano line of smart relays, the NLC-COM-CELLULAR-CDMA, joining a GSM module previously released. But the new module offers a significant advantage for us – the ability to send messages after power loss for up to five minutes.
The modules work by sending, and receiving, messages using the SMS protocol – the same text messages that are used between cell phones. Up to 16 telephone numbers can be programmed in the module’s Telephone Book, with schedules set up so that different people can be notified depending on the time of day. Preprogrammed messages can be sent whenever triggered by the program in the Nano controller and can contain process values. The module can also be set up to automatically notify contacts when power is lost, or when other system events occur such as program stop or loss of communications with the controller.
It is also possible to send commands to the controller to turn things on or off, or to adjust set points for counters, timers, or other process values. These commands may only be sent from one of the programmed numbers in the Phone Book. Also, the commands can be password protected, such that every command has to begin with the password in order to be accepted by the controller. A notification that a command was executed can also be sent to one or more numbers in the Telephone Book to allow supervisory monitoring of process actions.
Although we are now on the lookout for wayward animal nests, we are also backing that up with 24 hour monitoring of our critical backup power system. Our IT staff will have instant notification in the event of any unexpected power failures, and the peace of mind of knowing that they will not be caught unawares again.