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Keep the Goodies Under Lock and Key

I recently spoke with an engineer who told me of nests of black snakes he found in a previously unused communications building. As snakes search for warmth, they are drawn to a transmitter building's heat source.

Why do snakes love transmitter sites?

I recently spoke with an engineer who told me of nests of black snakes he found in a previously unused communications building. As snakes search for warmth, they are drawn to a transmitter building’s heat source.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 1: Set a dish of mothballs in the base of your equipment racks, in floor troughs and around the building.
An inexpensive method of deterring snakes is the common mothball. These can be scattered around the floor of an AM antenna coupling unit or in more populated areas like transmitter buildings, placed in several small plastic cups or dishes, as seen in Fig. 1.

Mothballs will evaporate with time, so they need to be replenished. Keep the box sealed or you’ll find the box empty when it comes time to replenish the containers.

Mothballs serve all kinds of purposes. At one of the NAB Transmitter Workshops I host, a suggestion was made to use a mothball as a guaranteed “payment for services will be made in 30 days.” It seems this contract engineer got tired of a particular client dragging his feet in paying his bill. After fixing the transmitter and anticipating the slow pay, the engineer opened the back door of the transmitter, and, while it was still off, slipped a mothball between the HV interlock contact, forcing them open. He then restarted the transmitter and waited about 30 to 45 days for the mothball to disintegrate.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 2: A gift idea from Pock-Its.

(click thumbnail)Fig. 3: The pouch can accommodate a Leatherman Tool, Maglite, screwdrivers, Sharpie marker and a key ring.
The day that happened, the transmitter shut down and the station called the engineer for service. Payment for the previous visit was required when the engineer showed up. Neither Radio World nor I endorse such a collection method. I describe it to show that, in this day of tightening budgets, it’s frightening the tactics contract engineers must use to get paid.

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Before we know it, the holidays will be upon us.

Fig. 2 shows a neat little gift idea that you can leave as a hint. Greg Gallagher of Clear Channel’s Washington properties sports this neat belt organizer, from Pock-Its.

As you can see in Fig. 3, in addition to space for a multipurpose tool and a mini flashlight, there’s a pouch for screwdrivers, a Sharpie marker, even a key ring. The beauty of this pocket pouch is that it uses a hook-and-loop attachment flap that fits around your belt. This flap permits quick removal of the pouch, without removing your belt. Visit

(click thumbnail)Fig. 4: An empty pager rack …

(click thumbnail)Fig. 5: … can be put to good, secure use.

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Storms may have damaged your transmitter rectifier stacks. Before trashing them, check to see if they can be rebuilt. As engineers are forced to do more with less, repairs on these expensive parts may be warranted.

There’s a site, provided by engineer Paul McCain, that sells a variety of diodes, especially those with high peak voltage ratings. The company is HVCA, found at Its telephone number is (732) 938-4499.

When you call, tell ’em you heard about their company from the pages of Radio World.

. . .

A lot of engineers also serve as site managers. Many sites have abandoned pager transmitters from companies long out of business. These transmitters are rack-mounted in short ventilated racks, usually with lockable front and rear panels.

Pete Loewenheim, chief for WHAG(AM) in Hagerstown, Md., found one of these lockable cabinets, shown in Fig. 4.

In a busy station environment where curious fingers like to push buttons, Pete used the emptied communications cabinet to house the station’s Burk remote control system, the remote control computer and UPS, as seen in Fig. 5.

The beauty of this cabinet is that only the keyboard and monitor are exposed to curious fingers. The ventilated cabinet keeps the rest of the equipment under lock and key, giving the operators access only to what they need.

Submissions for this column are encouraged, and qualify for SBE recertification credit.