Alert FM Offers a Flood of Information - Radio World

Alert FM Offers a Flood of Information

And try these bright ideas to save money and space at your station
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The recent floods of epic proportions in southern Louisiana caused a multitude of problems. Louisiana’s Deputy Director of Preparedness Chris Guilbeaux writes that alert messages to the public were delayed in many cases, as internet and cellular networks were overloaded or flood waters damaged key cellular infrastructure, especially in Baton Rouge.

In 2013, the state’s emergency officials recognized the need for improved emergency alert communications because the existing emergency alert system had not kept pace with modern technology. The Governor’s Office of Homeland Security installed an Alert FM system to send out its emergency messages to all 64 parishes, as well as multiple colleges and universities in the state.

Guilbeaux writes that Alert FM is unique when compared to other notification systems because it delivers emergency messages using the data subcarrier — also known as the Radio Data System — of existing local FM radio stations, providing overlapping and redundant signal coverage. The broadcast messages are free to the public, and they don’t require a long-term contract.

The investment paid off during the recent flooding, as messages streamed out regularly and rapidly and were displayed on personal Alert FM receivers. The overlapping FM station signal coverage also insured widespread dispersion of the data messages, even if a station or two were impacted by the flood and off the air.

The Alert FM Portable Receiver or USB stick with Windows Application cost under $50 each. Find out more at www.AlertFM.com.

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Fig. 1: Look into saving money by converting to LED bulbs. This display was found at a local Batteries+Bulbs store. I visited Batteries+Bulbs the other day and was impressed with a display (shown in Fig. 1). I knew LED bulbs were cost-savers, but not to the extent indicated by their sign.

I’ve spoken to a good number of readers who have replaced their incandescent studio flood with LED versions, to save not only electricity but also cooling costs, as the LED bulbs are practically cool to the touch.

Yes, the initial investment can be steep, but the long life and savings certainly offset that. Besides, wouldn’t you like to retire your stepladder?

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In my Aug. 3 column, Cumulus Tucson market engineer Julio Alvarado displayed a Middle Atlantic rack panel equipped with brush bristles, through which Cat-5/6 cabling could pass.

Engineer Marc Mann points out another feature of this panel: In addition to keeping wiring looking smart and reducing dust, it can assist with “active cooling.”

In a rack, where circulating fans move the equipment-generated heated air from the bottom of the rack to the top and out, the nylon bristles provide a seal to ensure most of the air is routed properly and does not leak out.

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Longtime Radio World contributor and professional engineer Charles S. “Buc” Fitch had a dilemma.

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Fig. 2: When you’re squeezed for space, this kind of plug can wreak havoc.Fig. 3: This slim-line AC plug’s pigtail design can buy a few precious inches of space. His bride, Mary Ann, had a counter-top microwave with a straight NEMA 5-15P plug, which sat nearly at the counter’s edge because of the 3-inch-plus space taken up by a heavy-duty AC plug.

We’ve all encountered similar situations in which a slim-line AC plug would buy us a few precious inches of space. Cruising the web, Buc found a number of right-angle plugs in the $20 price range; however, he also found a slim-line plug and outlet with several advantages.

First, since the plug was a pigtail, it enabled immediate use — there was no wiring of the plug or the wall socket. The assembly was also compact. The actual cord is only 8 inches long, for a total length of about a foot. Most important: The assembly is UL-CSA rated, which none of the Chinese types are. The assembly is made of #16 gauge wire in the SJ format, so it is good for at least 10 Amperes continuous. Perhaps the best feature of all is its $6.95 price.

You may not have a microwave that could benefit from this plug, but perhaps it might apply to a rack located against a wall or to CD players mounted in a tabletop rack enclosure.

Head over to www.sfcable.com and enter “P7PE-RA45-01” in the search box.

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Fig. 4: Radio Shack now offers small parts in see-through poly bags, which make organizing and storing easier for the broadcast engineer. Contract and specials projects engineer and principal with Radio Art Enterprises Art Reis writes from Chicagoland, to recommend that those readers who are still fortunate enough to have a Radio Shack to visit, do so.

This is especially true if you’re at the store looking for components.

Many of their smaller parts are being sold in these little zip-lock bags. One look convinced Art that these are wonderful for storing small parts that might get lost. The hole in the top makes for great peg-board storage, and the clear bag means you can see what’s inside. Very creative packaging. Just add a label and go.

When Art attended Michigan State University back in the early ’70s, a new school of packaging was started there. At the time, he thought that to be a trivial waste of time and resources. He doesn’t think so any more.

Contribute to Workbench. You’ll help your fellow engineers, and qualify for SBE recertification credit. Send Workbench tips to johnpbisset@gmail.com. Fax to (603) 472-4944.

Author John Bisset has spent 46 years in the broadcasting industry and is still learning. He handles West Coast sales for the Telos Alliance. He is SBE certified and is a past recipient of the SBE’s Educator of the Year Award.

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