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Google Data Center Electrical Explosion | All You Need to Know

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Google Data Center Electrical Explosion

What Are Electrical Explosions?

Explosions happen when an electrical system experiences a sudden energy release because of a malfunction or any fault in the electrical system. This energy release can have very dangerous consequences.

High currents can create electrical explosions by forming a high-energy arc which then evaporates the insulation material as well as metal. 

In other words, an electrical explosion is a quick release of energy because of a short circuit between the power phases. It is necessary to realize that a large amount of energy is stored in the electrical panels when they operate normally.

For instance, a short circuit of 400 amp, 120/208 voltage panel can release more than 100 kW energy during a fault. An electrical explosion of this magnitude is likely to destroy the whole panel and it can even start a fire. It can lead to serious injuries and even death.

There are two types of electrical explosions. They are:

1. Arc Flash Explosions:

An arc flash is a rapid release of electrical energy because of a fault in the voltage system or a short circuit. It generates extreme heat and light flash along with a blast and sound wave. These flashes can even cause serious injuries, burns, and damage to the equipment.

2. Arc Blast Explosions:

An arc blast happens when an arc flash produces a high-pressure wave because of the expansion of vaporized materials and air.  This arc blast can lead to push objects and cause structural damage and other injuries.

Both kinds of electrical explosions are risky to equipment as well as personnel. It is very important to implement precautionary measures like wearing protective gear and following strict protocols to stay safe from electrical explosions. 

By proper training, regular maintenance, and following safety measures, you can prevent electrical explosions.

Google Data Center Electrical Explosion

The Google data center electrical explosion happened in August 2022 at its largest data center campus. The three workers at Google were trying to gain access to the electrical cabinet when this happened. They were working on a substation near the data center when this arc flash occurred.

Three of them were severely injured and then hospitalized in a nearby hospital. They were treated and then they were able to function properly.

Also, this Google electrical explosion led to an outage. Google Maps and  Google Search were badly affected and the services stopped for some time. As per the outage tracking website Downdetector, more than 30,000 people reported the outage issue only after a few hours of the incident.

This electrical explosion in Google Iowa has impacted Google search the most. But, after some time the outage diminished. However, according to a Google Spokesperson, the electrical explosion at Google was not the reason for the outage. The outages were caused by an internal error.

Another Case Study Of Electrical Explosions

West Fertilizer Company Explosion 

In April 2013, another massive electrical explosion occurred in the West Fertilizer Company. It injured 12 volunteers, two public members, and several others. Even 15 people died in the electrical explosion.

The electrical explosion at the company occurred when a fire broke out in the plant. The investigators claim that ammonium nitrate was the reason for the explosion. They also said that the fire began in the building where seeds and fertilizers were kept. 

Moreover, the investigators said that the reason for the fire could be a faulty golf cart, which is a malfunction of the electrical system. They also guessed the reasons for an explosion to be natural causes, ammonium nitrate or anhydrous ammonia.

The West fertilizer company’s electrical explosion was deadly. It injured a lot of people and led to an electrical explosion death as well. 

Also Read: Hoover Dam Electrical Explosion

How To Stay Safe From Electrical Explosions?

1 . Prevent Accidental Electrical Contact

You must prevent accidental contact with the electrical equipment. But how? Here are the two simple ways to prevent electrical contact.

  • De-Energize The Electrical Components:

If the electrical system is not in use, then make sure to de-energize it. It is advisable to shut off the electrical equipment when not in use.

  • Make a Barrier

Make sure to install the insulation equipment such as rubber mats all around the electrical devices. Also, put warning sign boards to prevent any electrical contact.

2 . Make Use Of Approved Equipment Only

Do not use any non-approved low-quality equipment. Make sure to use only proper equipment to prevent contact with the electrical current. Use only properly insulated tools to prevent the flow of electricity if they come in contact with a live wire.

Moreover, it is advisable to employ experienced electricians as they are well aware of the equipment and its usage.

3 . Temporary Electrical Service Safety

Your construction site needs a temporary electrical service. So you must get it installed near the building till it has its electricity system.  Also, ensure that temporary service is well protected from rainy weather and ensure that it never becomes overloaded as this may be perilous.

4. Wear the Right Protective Gear

Ensure that all the workers are well equipped with protective gear to reduce the risk of being exposed to electrical hazards. Make sure that your employees wear proper headgear for safety purposes.

Also, your workers need eye protection and face protection to reduce the injuries caused by the arc explosion. It is very important to wear insulated hand protection to stop the electric current from flowing. You must also make a contact list, and a first aid kit for emergency purposes.

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