Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mystery buzzer

I'm moving into a new office at work in to a building that is probably from the 70s. I'm reclaiming a receptionist's area that is outside a large office that used to belong to a CSIRO chief. I've been cleaning and rearranging and just trying to make it my own so I came in a couple hours before anyone else.

The floorboards have an array of bizarre sockets and cables so that I'm guessing pretty much anything could be run through the walls, phones, internet, printers, intercoms, etc. There's even a doorbell. Given that everything is running through the internet now, I figured nobody would be using these anymore so I started cutting some of the cables and pushing them back into the wall.

Within about a half hour a bleary eyed maintenance man in overalls bursts in and says, to effect, "good lord, what's going on in here?". It turns out that one of the cables I cut was for an emergency distress signal and it probably set off a siren at the security station.

When we realized what happened there were laughs all around but he explained that this was a predecessor to the "man down" system for people that are likely working alone in dangerous situations. Mostly it's used for labs and the machine shops... However you'd often also see it in the HR and executive offices (where I am), wired up under the bottom of a desk in case someone came in and started to cause a bit of trouble (e.g. disgruntled employee, irate citizen).

Putting two and two together, I think I actually found a real-life "release the hounds!" buzzer. I'll have to be careful that I don't trip that lever to open the trap door.


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