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Code Violations Can Be Costly

Dwight Morgan, CE for KOOL(FM) in Phoenix, commented on a previous topic, the cost-savings of using a shipping container for a transmitter building.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 1: A container building can be as nice as you make it.Dwight Morgan, CE for KOOL(FM) in Phoenix, commented on a previous topic, the cost-savings of using a shipping container for a transmitter building.

He knows of several radio tower sites that will not allow these “dumpsters” on-site. Check local regulations before you invest.

Dwight’s not a big fan of these anyway. They are narrow; further, he says they are not very safe if you put a large transmitter in them. If you lose air conditioning, the container can become a “hot box” quickly. Dwight ought to know; Phoenix gets a lot of sunshine.

His advice: Before your general manager starts counting the pennies saved, think about what you have to live with and work in before you nod your engineering head up-and-down. Good thoughts, Dwight.

As with any building (or container), have a backup ventilation plan. Look ahead for what could go wrong. Perhaps the answer is to install a pair of Bards or similar brand of wall-mount air conditioners, or a louvered exhaust fan with filtered air intake.

As for the width of the building, don’t forget to consider swing space for the doors on the transmitter and the rack; that’s easy to overlook. Designate cable runs.

You can make any building nice or sloppy; the choice is yours.


For additional “container” pictures of the Alex Langer 890/1060 site, head to the following link:

Garrett Wollman writes in with the link, which, in addition to the container pictures, has some great pictures of a variety of New England transmitter/studio sites.


Contract engineers come across interesting things in their travels. One engineer opened the spare tube box and was greeted by the sight in Fig. 2.

Yes, have a fresh set of spare tubes; but when was the last time you opened the box to see what was inside?

This is an especially good idea for new contract clients. What may look like boxes of new tubes may be – empty.

Protect yourself when working with a new client by taking a photo inventory. You can even charge for this.

When you first visit a site, bring along a camera and take pictures of everything: equipment in racks, condition of rack wiring, spare tubes and parts. The client can use this photo inventory for insurance purposes; and if there’s ever an issue later – missing equipment, accusations of sloppy wiring – you’ve got the picture evidence to exonerate you.


Speaking of contract engineers, we heard from one who wrote that he saw the “reset relay on the breaker” and shivered. He had seen the contraption before, using a cart machine solenoid mounted on the transmitter. (So that’s what you do with old ITC-SP cart machines!)

This engineer, who asked not to be identified, had several other FM clients at the same site, so these occasional “breaker trips” gave everyone some site time. An interesting way of looking at a problem.

However, this engineer, like others cautioned that if you install this kind of modification, be very careful, as it could lead to cleaning up a big mess with the release of captured smoke within all of the components.

Read on for a similar opinion.


(click thumbnail)Fig. 2: Check the condition of spare tubes
Nick Markowitz has worked as a broadcast engineer for over 25 years. He says the transmitter remote breaker reset we showed in the Feb. 1 issue is a total violation of the National Electrical Code, NFPA-70, which all stations must follow.

He said stations fail to follow this code, and many engineers do not even realize they must follow this, along with ICC.BOCA, and other codes, where appropriate.

Nick is also a fire investigator, and says that if there were a fire at a transmitter site where this contraption was present, there is a good chance the insurance carrier would deny or greatly cut back a claim payment seeing such disregard for codes.

The first question Nick sees on investigation letters is whether the site meets all applicable codes.

Also, Nick writes that the remote reset is dangerous. Although the utility companies use self-resetting breakers, they are designed for this application. Not being on-site and resetting a breaker could result in a catastrophic short circuit. Fire could easily result.

For these reasons Nick strongly discourages the use of a remote reset. No one is on site to take appropriate emergency shut down measures should the breaker stick “on” while a fault is still present.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 3: A space-diversity STL isocoupler!
Unfortunately, Nick gets to see the deadly side of electricity when it is not handled properly. Nick’s got an interesting fire-related Web site, with good articles on grounding and gel-cell battery replacement. Head to


From the Urban Myth Department:

I’ve always heard about STL “beam-benders” but had never seen one. A beam-bender is a passive, “back-to-back” mounting of STL antennas to change directions of the STL path to overcome an obstacle, usually a building.

Here’s a twist. When Loud and Clean Engineer Grady Moates lost an STL isocoupler at a client’s stations, he used back-to-back Scala Miniflectors to get across the base insulator of the AM tower, as shown in Fig. 3. Guess the urban myth isn’t so mythological after all. Yes, that’s snow in this nighttime photo.