Last Updated: 2013-07-11 14:57:30 UTC
by Rob VandenBrink (Version: 1)
Today's story isn't about protecting corporate crown jewels so much as protecting yourself. Richard's story last month (When Hotel Alarms Sound - https://isc.sans.edu/diary/When+Hotel+Alarms+Sound/15998) got me thinking about personal physical security - in particular, the reader comment about not being able to hear fire alarms inside many datacenters struck a chord - most datacenters are not built with protection of the folks working there in mind. Even when the Health and Safety folks get involved, they'll check for cables across the floor (trip hazards), a first aid kit, clear exits and that's about it.
If you're like me, you spend a LOT of time in datacenters. Small datacenters to large ones, it seems like I'm in a different machine room every day. Over the long haul (30 years and counting), that adds up to a lot of hours! What I'm starting to notice is that some clients are putting signs up regarding noise levels and hearing protection, and some are even providing disposable earplugs.
A quick measurement shows that most larger datacenters are in the greater than 100db-ish range. In fact, even my lab (I have one rack out of 5 in the room) is in that range. This puts a good part of my work environment into the "red zone" for risk of hearing loss.
While this graph is simplistic (it does not account for frequency for instance), you should be concerned about hearing damage after even a short time in most datacenters (in the range of 100db)
What this means to me is that after 30 years, it's about time I started protecting what little of my hearing I've got left. I've been carrying a set of "real" earplugs - the kind that has a real Noise Reduction Rating (25db in this case) in my laptop bag. And like all the personal "critical infrastructure" I carry, I have a spare in the bag, and another in the trunk of my car.
What's really surprised me is that even in the rooms with the signage and dispensers, often I'm the only one wearing earplugs! I am, however, seeing more folks wearing noise-cancelling headphones, which I understand help in much the same way (I am not a doctor, so don't have an actual opinion on how effective these are - especially if you're playing Led Zeppelin or The Black Keys)
While we need an arsenal of technical gear to work, you'll need your ears both during and after work - for the little space it takes in the laptop bag, carrying hearing protection is a good investment. This article isn't meant as a definitive reference, I'd encourage you to do your own research on hearing and other safety issues.