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Put a Tag on That Line

Speaking of signs and labeling: If you lease space on your tower, it’s a good idea to identify the cables going up the tower, and also the antenna location.

Jim Bremer, chief engineer for Regent in Redding, Calif., writes, “Thanks for Workbench. It’s a must-read for me.”

He read about adding labeling to UPS systems and had a few thoughts of his own to share. In addition to the date the batteries are replaced, Jim adds the number of batteries and type, like 2 X 12V 7AH. This makes reordering easier.

Jim has another handy use for labels: Put the (current) tech support phone number on each piece of equipment, along with the name on the account. This saves the hassle of finding the manual and discovering that the area code has changed while you forgot to note the new one.

Great ideas! With engineers running in so many directions, all ideas to simplify the process of keeping equipment running are welcome ones.

If you’ve just taken over a facility, now is the time to get this contact information current. This is especially true for the transmitter. I had a customer call just the other day to see if he could get a copy of the transmitter checkout sheet for his 10-year-old transmitter. BE, like other manufacturers, keeps this documentation on file. If you find this important information missing, call your transmitter manufacturer to get a copy.

While you’re at it, inquire about updates or field service bulletins. Not every engineer may be as thorough as you. Get the information now, before you need it.

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(click thumbnail)Fig. 1: Post a sign identifying lines and antennas on the transmitter

(click thumbnail)Fig. 2: Tagging coax lines makes identification easier

(click thumbnail)Fig. 3: A small piece of tape, or a card, will keep the VIN from being discovered by thieves Speaking of signs and labeling: If you lease space on your tower, it’s a good idea to identify the cables going up the tower, and also the antenna location.

In the case of Fig. 1, the sign is posted on the transmitter. You don’t have to have 26 RF lines running up your tower to keep everything labeled. The numbered tags shown in Fig. 2 are inexpensive and take only a few minutes to attach. Similar tags are located at the beginning and end of each RF run.

Thanks to Paul Shulins of Greater Media Boston for sharing these ideas.

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Our next topic is pretty scary. This item was submitted to warn car owners, but let’s extend it to any station that owns a remote or news van.

Under the title “What will they think of next,” car thieves have found a new way to steal vehicles.

This method is ingenious and requires little effort on the part of the thief. The thief locates the vehicle he wants to steal, then peers through the windshield of the car or truck and writes down the Vehicle Identification Number from the label on the dash. His next step is to go to the local car dealership and request a duplicate key based on the VIN number.

A friend didn’t believe this was possible, so she called a dealer and pretended she’d lost her keys. They told her to just bring in the VIN number and they would cut her one on the spot; she could order the

keyless device if she wanted.

So we know that at least one car dealer’s parts department will make a duplicate key from the VIN number and collect payment from the thief, who will return to your car. He doesn’t have to break in, do any damage to the vehicle or draw attention to himself; he simply unlocks the vehicle and drives away to a local chop shop.

It is that easy. It’s bad enough that cars and trucks are being stolen this way, but when one considers the investment stations have in remote vehicles, it’s time to fight back.

Until car dealerships get wise to this and develop more secure key-making policies, there’s a simple solution. Place a 3×5 card over the VIN number, or better yet use some tape — electrical, duct or medical tape — across the metal label on the dashboard, as seen in Fig. 3.

By law you cannot remove the VIN number, but you can cover it so it can’t be viewed through the windshield by a car thief.

[Ed. Note: Not everyone agrees this is a problem. This matter has been discussed on urban legend site and was the subject of an article in the Washington Post. See]

This tip comes from radio veteran Harold Green. Now retired, Hal spent many years in my native Washington, D.C., first as a union engineer for WRC, then back at the station some 24 years later as the general manager. In between, Hal worked at another AM giant, WMAL, where he filled engineering, programming and eventually general management positions.

I’m proud of engineers like Hal who move into general manager positions. There are not many who make this jump, but those who do offer owners a unique perspective on the job.


Kent Randles, a senior engineer with the Entercom Portland cluster, was looking to add “911” signage to his sites, as described here; but when he types “911 address sign kits” into Google, he gets a link to our Sept. 1 article describing their use. Glad to hear the search engine is linking up to recent Radio World Workbench articles.

Here are URLs for several companies that supply such signs:

These “do-it-yourself” sign kits also can be found at rural hardware or farm supply stores, along with the support stakes on which to mount the signs.