What is ESD?
Electrostatic discharge (ESD) is a stream of electricity that occurs suddenly between electrically charged items through contact, electrical breakdown, or an electrical short. There are several reasons that this situation can occur, but the most common is a power outage and subsequent power surge caused by an electrical storm. When static electricity builds up, the ESD can damage sensitive electronic devices, burn out electrical pathways and even cause fires and explosions if a spark is formed near flammable substances.
Manufacturers of electronic devices advise protecting them against ESD to avoid failure or permanent damage to circuit boards from the higher voltages. Most electronic devices are built with some ESD protection from day-to-day usage, however to protect devices at your home or office during more intense situations further steps should be taken.
There are three primary symbols to denote ESD awareness as defined in ANSI/ESD S8.1:
- Black triangle with hand and slash through it is often posted with a yellow background, this symbol denotes that a device is susceptible to ESD, and needs to be packaged accordingly. These devices should also be protected once placed in your home or office.
- Black triangle with hand and arc around it--This version of the symbol denotes products that are made to protect sensitive devices from electrostatic discharge. These protective items include package, clothing and equipment.
- Bold circle with two bold concentric circles and the words ESD COMMON POINT GROUND inside--This symbol designates an ESD ground point where a plug or connector can be attached. This symbol is recommended to be colored black or white on green.
Protect and Monitor
If you are working with electronic devices, it is a best practice to set up an Electrostatic Protective Area (EPA). In an EPA, all electrical devices are grounded, higher charging materials are kept out altogether and preventative measures such as anti-static mats are used.
If you want to protect your computer, network hardware and other devices from ESD in your home or office, start by keeping the device in its anti-static packaging until you are ready to install it. If you need to transport an ESD sensitive devices, place them in ESD static shielding bags. Place anti-static mats in the area where the devices are stored. Additionally, added surge-protection devices help in keep power surges from sensitive electronics. In the midst of an electrical storm, turning off equipment and disconnecting power cords is additional help.
Depending on your need, there are several types of monitors to detect levels of ESD from human contact and from contact with charged objects. Measurements can also be taken to determine how much ESD a device can withstand.