(click thumbnail)Figure 1. Lights on this surge suppressor indicate the status of surge modules.We’ve been organizing our transmitter site using a list compiled by Mike Patton, a special projects and contract engineer in Baton Rouge, La.
When was the last time you checked backup items like surge suppressors, the UPS or even your alarm system? Green lights on the LEA Surge Suppressor shown in Fig.1 provide an easy method of checking the status of the surge modules.
Do you maintain a current list of phone numbers? The operative word here is current.
The list should include the station hotline and any other jock access numbers. It’s frustrating to solve a problem but not be able to notify the jock that the station is back on the air.
The phone list expands to include the general manager, program director, OD and corporate engineer – anyone in the management chain.
Mike has made it a habit to call management as soon as he arrives at the site.
Mike also suggests you establish a policy of calling one person, agreed upon ahead of time, and letting them serve as the relay to station staff or management. This keeps phone interruptions to a minimum, alleviating the equivalent of the kids in the back seat whining, “Are we there yet?”
A notebook log for keeping track of typical equipment test meter readings is helpful, and you can keep the emergency numbers there. In this day of multiple sites, trying to keep all those readings memorized is nearly impossible.
Fig. 2 shows a “quick and dirty” method of logging readings. Defacing the front panels of equipment will drive some engineers crazy, but at least here, the readings were marked with pencil.
Your transmitter site notebook of emergency numbers should include business and emergency numbers for equipment manufacturers, as well as those for consultants and other engineers with knowledge of the station. Do you have someone who cuts the grass? List their numbers, too.
(click thumbnail)Figure 2. Scribble on gear if you must, but at least use pencil.
Important names and numbers include HVAC, plumbing and electrical contractors. Include a tow-truck operator and any other pro who might need to be called in the middle of the night.
Keep phone books – both business and residential – on hand.
Mike adds another helpful hint, particularly if you have an intern or secretary available. Give him or her the list to call all your numbers and verify that they are correct. Area codes and phone numbers change frequently. Take steps now to have an accurate list in the middle of the night when you need it.
Move on to the utility companies, again both main and emergency numbers. Include your account number and the service and billing address. Keep a copy of each of your utility bills in your notebook, and you’ve got the list already.
Where are you?
Do you know what the actual street address for your transmitter site?
You can obtain this information from your county’s 911/Office of Emergency Operations (OEO). The information can be critical for police, fire, ambulance and utility location purposes. Although many counties are attempting to identify even rural sites, if your transmitter location has been around a while and is remote, you may need to request an address from the OEO. Then make sure the address is listed with the utilities so they have it before an emergency arises.
Your list should include local law-enforcement numbers. If an alarm is used, include the number to the alarm monitoring service. If you can’t remember the code, write it down but do something funny to it. Add a digit to the number or write it backwards. If someone gains access illegally, they can’t pretend to be you when the alarm service calls. We all have some great stories about accidental alarm trips. They are not so funny when a station is off the air.
If your site uses a generator, include the fuel supplier and service numbers; again, a copy of the bill is useful. Mike points out that these accounts often are set up by the bean counters. Your official account name may in fact be an ancient station slogan, like Kool 93.
Mike includes the names of a couple of pizza delivery companies that service the transmitter site area. Don’t laugh. You may be there for a while.
Make a date with the station’s copy machine. Copy all station licenses, FAA authorizations, tower registration numbers and auxiliary services. Include a copy of the AM NRSC measurements.
I agree with Mike that this paperwork task can be daunting, but it’s time well spent. For a contract engineer, it’s billable time. Having one’s paperwork house in order is part of good engineering, no matter how little respect it gleans from the staff. You’ll sleep better at night.
A trip to Wal-Mart, Radio Shack and Home Depot will ensure a well-stocked transmitter site.
Is the station owner balking at the idea of a well-stocked site? Mike agrees with one engineer who wrote that you might not want them as a client or an employer!
While you’re at Home Depot, consider picking up a travel case for small parts. Brian Edwards of New World Radio in Washington displays one such case in Fig. 3. The cases are compact, and the tops seal well, preventing parts from jumbling into adjacent compartments.
(click thumbnail)Figure 3. Brian Edwards displays a travel case for small parts.
Jeff DePolo is a broadcast and communications consultant in metro Philadelphia. He added a few things to Mike’s list, making it even more inclusive.
Atop Jeff’s list are RF adapters and patch cables. Include some scraps of coax and audio cable for emergencies.
Jeff likes to keep a cordless phone with him, or ensure that the transmitter site phone is equipped with an extra-long cord. Placing a parts order in a room full of transmitters can be impossible with all the noise.
There’s another advantage to the long cord or cordless phone. You can talk to the transmitter manufacturer’s parts or service staff while looking inside the transmitter, ensuring that you get the right part.
If anything at your site requires a computer for control or programming, put one of your old dumpster-bound 486 computers at the site. Leave it unplugged for lightning protection. You never know when you’ll need it. The list of computer-controlled equipment is growing – processors, remote control equipment, RBDS generators and EAS, to name a few.
If legal in your area, consider a can of pepper spray. As Jeff puts it, “You never know. And pepper spray works on bears, too.”
Somewhere safe and hidden, keep a copy of equipment passwords and combination lock codes. To simplify combinations, buy the “set-your-own” Master combination locks. They’re a little more expensive, but worth the money if you need to change combinations due to a staff change.
Jeff joins the ranks of engineers who have experienced fuse failures, but adds critical circuit breakers to the list. Breakers do fail, and for sites with older panels, finding replacements can take a while if the model is not a current one.
In keeping with the redundancy theme, Jeff likes to add an emergency provision for audio should the STL fail. An old Comrex unit could come in handy here. A CD changer with a handful of CDs and several custom-cut CDs with IDs is another idea to buy you some time should the link fail.
Though not a problem for most of us at this time of year, ice falling on a Mark or Scala feedhorn can destroy it. With that in mind, Jeff keeps a spare yagi and 100 feet of 1/2-inch line in the truck all winter, just in case.
Submissions for this column are encouraged, and qualify for SBE recertification credit. Fax your submission to (703) 323-8044, or send e-mail to [email protected].