Alaskan Earthquake Picture

When a massive 7.0 Alaskan earthquake struck Anchorage, Alaska in late 2018, ISO-Base technology
saved the day for one data center. Here’s their story.

Early in the morning of Nov. 30, 2018, a massive 7.0 earthquake struck just north of Anchorage, the largest city in Alaska. The shaker injured a few people, but thankfully no one was killed or seriously wounded. Inside the data center at the nearby Alaska USA Federal Credit Union headquarters, things were rocking and rolling as the earthquake did its best to damage the facility’s valuable IT equipment, but a revolutionary product trusted by data centers everywhere saved the day.

Serving more than 650,000 members across Alaska, Washington, California and Arizona, Alaska USA has always been aware that its various outposts reside in seismically active regions. For many years, the solution to protect cabinets was to bolt the cabinets to the concrete subflooring with metal rods, a solution that worked only partially. While the rods kept everything upright during a quake, they didn’t do much to mitigate the vibration that typically occurs with a large seismic event.

Luckily, earthquakes were relatively quiet during the first few decades of the facility’s existence, but Alaska USA’s Data Center Operations Officer Jim Prolsdorfer knew the luck couldn’t hold indefinitely. With this in mind, he sought out a solution that would both protect the equipment in the data center and the people working there while not breaking the bank. Enter ISO-Base.

ISO-Base platforms by Worksafe Technologies use base isolation technology to decouple the damaging ground vibrations that can occur during an earthquake. Using a patented Ball-n-Cone design, the technology employs two eight-inch cones with a ball bearing placed between them to help displace the upper load bearing plate during an event. Instead of shaking and vibrating violently, equipment gently rocks back and forth, finally settling into its original position with little to no damage.

After exploring the various options on the market, Prolsdorfer and his team decided to go with ISO-Base platforms for 17 of their 33 Chatsworth cabinets. His pitch to management: ISO-Base is proven technology that works, it is solidly designed and in the long run, it’s “cheap insurance.” With the platforms installed, it wasn’t long before the ground started shaking. After the facility experienced three major earthquakes (one in 2014, one in 2016 and the 7.0 in 2018), “things got a little more interesting,” Prolsdorfer said. “The 2018 quake’s epicenter was close by, only 10 miles away and 29 miles down, which created some pretty good shaking.”

In fact, video surveillance footage captured the moment of the quake. Watch it below. (Note: you’ll see some vibration in front of the cabinets during the event. These are plastic curtains used for cool air containment that you see flapping. In total, Prolsdorfer says there are 10 racks bayed together in this row and as a group weigh more than 10,000 pounds – and they’re all sitting on an ISO-Base platform).

anchorage earthquake

Image: ABC News

Working from the company’s Arizona location, Prolsdorfer and his team were alerted to the quake within seconds. It was immediately apparent that all critical process running from this facility had stayed online without missing a beat.  In the aftermath, it was clear the ISO-Base technology had passed the test with flying colors.

“I was very confident in ISO-Base,” he said. “I was more worried about the building and my coworkers than the equipment going offline. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and our equipment and critical processes stayed completely intact and online during and after the quake.”

Ultimately, Prolsdorfer said ISO-Base was the perfect choice for a data center situated in an active seismic area.

“It gives us confidence and peace of mind that the equipment will come through. Even if the building had been lost, the equipment would be intact and ready to use again.”

Ready to protect your equipment before the next big one hits!

Learn How to Protect Your Data Center From Earthquake Damage