I was one of the 184,000 people who went to CES in Las Vegas earlier this month to see the latest and greatest in consumer technologies. While the biggest names in tech prepared to unveil their new innovations inside the convention centers and ballrooms across the city, the biggest surprise came courtesy of Mother Nature. Rain. In Las Vegas.
They say, “it never rains in Vegas,” but, when it does, the city instantly transforms. Normally, the conference would be unaffected as most events are inside but this time the power in a large hall went out for hours – right in the middle of the world’s largest technology event.
What are the odds?
Higher than you think. We live in a world where people don’t do cost avoidance. If it almost never rains, why bother to take measures that would protect you if it did?
The power outage was said to be caused by “condensation” from the rain. As a guy who understands buildings, that is ridiculous. The real cause of the blackout wasn’t “condensation,” it was a leaky roof that bathed machinery and people alike in gallons of water from the storm. Once that water hit an overhead transformer, it was only a matter of time before the power quit and me and 30,000 others in the main hall were left in darkness.
During the blackout, I found myself wandering the other halls where the power was still on analyzing the building’s infrastructure more than the displayed technology around me. Checking out the preparedness and structural integrity of the building, it was proof that it’s time to be more proactive in what we do. An electrical failure at the world’s biggest electronics show was inconvenient, but not deadly. But that same thing could happen anywhere — a factory, an office high-rise, a hospital — and the consequences could be much worse.
How much does an accident from something that “never happens” cost? In the case of the great #CESBlackout, it would have cost about $30. That’s the price for a small, wireless sensor that could have called convention center staff the moment water was detected around the transformer. As for what that blackout did cost, that will depend on the scope of the emergency repairs, damage to exhibitor’s equipment and all the pending litigation. Whatever it is, however, it’s guaranteed to be substantially more than $30.
As building professionals, we have the tools available to understand what’s happening in our building and take steps to avoid a potentially catastrophic event. By using information coming off of major building systems, adding data from inexpensive sensors that fill in blind spots, and combining it with a little logic and good old-fashioned FM pro know-how, Las Vegas Convention Center operators could have been listening to what was happening to the building as the rain came down and stopped the leak before “condensation” became a ”water intrusion” catastrophe.
Like every year, CES revealed futuristic technology but this year it revealed something more: we, as building operators, owners, and even event hosts, need to do better.