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Gold Buried in That Site Soil

Thieves have been busy this summer - busy stealing copper from transmitter sites.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 1: There’s plenty of copper at AM directional sites.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 2: A simple magnetic switch tied to the transmitter door alerts through the remote control.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 3: Eliminate remote confusion by listing all ISDN lines.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 4: For quick identification, label the circuits connected to your UPS.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 5: A clear description of equipment designations will expedite troubleshooting down the line. Thieves have been busy this summer – busy stealing copper from transmitter sites. I’ve heard from several engineers who have responded to their remote control alarms only to find copper ground radials and screen ripped from the ground, or above-ground coaxial feeder and sampling line cut and removed. With surplus copper selling at an all-time high, savvy thieves have targeted broadcast facilities.

It’s not just the copper cable. Crawford Broadcasting DOE Cris Alexander, a fellow RW contributor, reports thieves recently demolished an air conditioner at one of the Crawford sites, just to get to the evaporator core. A few weeks later the thieves returned, this time breaking into the building.

Fortunately, the alarm system frightened them so badly they left their tools. But as Cris notes, a few tools are pitiful compensation for replacing an air conditioning system.

AM directional sites are particularly vulnerable, with copper at each tower.
How do you fight back and still stay on budget? First, several of the national security companies are advertising on television and radio. See if you can work a barter for transmitter site security. The signs alone are worth the monthly fee, as a means of discouraging trespassers.

Security cameras have also dropped in cost; so consider adding a security camera system to next year’s budget. Can’t spring for the camera system? Buy an outdoor camera case, and mount the camera case outside. Since the glass is tinted, you can’t see if there’s a camera inside. Don’t forget to add a pigtail cable going into the building!

Include a few “premises monitored by video surveillance” signs, and most thieves will look for easier pickin’s.

As for the building itself, if you can’t get a full-fledged security system, a magnetic proximity switch, as shown in Fig. 2, and some wire running to the status alarm of the remote control will provide some peace of mind. Other ideas? E-mail them with high-resolution pictures for inclusion in a future column.

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Thorough labeling around your plant takes a little time, but the payoff is significant.

Consider Fig. 3, a listing of ISDN numbers and telco contact information that Cox Richmond Engineering Manager Jon Bennett uses. All of the information is at your fingertips, useful for the multiple remotes the cluster schedules. The clear plastic sleeves are available at office supply stores, and keep the information intact.

In cases where the sheet might develop legs and disappear, I’ve seen engineers secure the plastic sleeve to the rack with a wire tie. It’s available to read, but not so easy to remove.

John Huntley, formerly with New Hampshire Public Radio, keeps his UPS systems labeled, as shown in Fig. 4. John installed several of these in the studio rack room. The labeling quickly identifies the equipment being powered by each UPS. When battery change time comes around, or other maintenance is needed, there’s a clear indication of what’s connected and might be affected.

We’ve all hand-written labels on remote control systems, but with the popularity of color printers around a radio station, there’s no reason the remote control labeling can’t be pretty, too. At Greater Media Boston, Paul Shulins and his staff have color-coded the labels – black for main, blue for auxiliary and red for things like tower lights and generator run status, as seen in Fig. 5.

I’ll grant you that the labeling does take some time, but a clear description of equipment designations – whether it be on the remote control, console or UPS – will expedite troubleshooting at some point down the line.

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Don’t forget to visit the Workbench archive from time to time. There’s a deep collection of super reader tech tips saved from the past six years. Go to Radio World and click on the Workbench tab.

John Bisset has worked as a chief engineer and contract engineer for 37 years. He is the northeast regional sales manager for Broadcast Electronics. Reach him at (571) 217-9386, or [email protected]. Faxed submissions can be sent to (603) 472-4944. Submissions for this column are encouraged, and qualify for SBE recertification credit.