The FCC EAS CAP deadline is now in the rearview mirror.
It’s amazing to me as I read the trade press how many stations waited until the last minute to order CAP-compliant EAS equipment. Of course they are finding out that there is a backlog of orders and it may be several weeks until those units are shipped. I’ve read on various list servers advice on how to deal with FCC inspectors should they happen to come by before the CAP-compliant equipment arrives and is installed, measures such as keeping documentation of the equipment order at the control point. And not surprisingly I have read other reports that say the FCC won’t be giving any breaks in such cases, documentation or no. And who can blame them? We have had almost two full years to deal with this! My company had everything installed and working before the first deadline, and I know a lot of others took care of this months ago.
It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if the Enforcement Bureau didn’t make an inspection sweep of stations this month or next to check for EAS CAP compliance. I remember past deadlines and the sweeps that followed those. In the summer of 1990, when the NRSC-2 standard became law, the FCC made a sweep looking for the required NRSC audio filters. I think it was 1996 when the Part 17 Antenna Structure Registration rules became law, and the FCC subsequently made a sweep of tower sites looking for the proper posting of ASR signage. And then again in 1997, when the EAS system replaced the EBS system, the FCC made a sweep looking for EAS equipment in stations. Since this seems to be a pattern, forewarned is forearmed; we should probably expect a visit in the coming months.
Despite having CAP-capable equipment installed since December of 2011, it was still a bit of a last-minute scramble for the stations in our company to get firmware updates installed and the units properly polling the IPAWS server. But it did work and we immediately began receiving daily weekly tests from that server (FEMA was sending “weekly” tests on a daily basis through the first week in July so that stations could confirm proper operation as they installed, updated and configured their equipment). It will be interesting to see what the routine is in terms of CAP tests going forward.
June was a very challenging month as we all, to one degree or another, dealt with record heat, wildfires and smoke/ash. Buckhorn Mountain was perhaps the broadcast site that was most affected. While the site itself was mostly untouched by fire, power to the site was lost early on in the High Park fire, and the generator either didn’t start or ran out of fuel, taking several stations, including KUNC, KJAC, KYEN, KGCO, KXGR and a couple of translators, off the air for the duration. Some stations scrambled to temporarily relocate to other sites, but others remained off the air until either power was restored or the generator came back on line.
But just because the fire did not burn the building doesn’t mean there wasn’t fire damage at the site. There was evidently tremendous heat coming up the slope behind the building (west). That heat melted the KGCO Andrew Ku-band dish, melted the jackets on the L-band and control cables and melted the deicer control. Even the “Andrew Flash” decal was melted off the face of the dish. The EMF Broadcasting folks had to replace the dish and all to restore the satellite feed to the station.
Air conditioners were strained pretty hard from the 105-degree heat along the Front Range. Two of the units in our stations failed at various times and had to be serviced. The one unit that seemed to weather the heat the best was the new (last summer) BreezeAir high-tech evaporative cooler at KLZ. That unit was pumping ice-cold air into the building even on the hottest afternoons, and it’s no wonder… I saw the dew point on a couple of those days down in negative territory, -27 degrees F in one instance! There’s a lot to be said for evaporative cooling in our usually arid climate, but since most transmitter sites do not have water, it’s probably not an option except in a very few cases.
As things wind down with the big fires of June along the Front Range, we all need to recognize that the danger is far from over. The “dog days of summer” have yet to arrive, and once the monsoonal flow is gone, I suspect we’ll be back in the same situation – maybe worse if we get good rains in July and early August and the grass/brush grows up.
As I have visited our various sites in recent weeks, I have thought about how easy it would be for a fire to start and sweep through those sites. A passing train, for example, might easily spark a grass fire along the right of way out by Barr Lake and the westerly winds would drive that fire right through the KLTT antenna site. The fences and exposed parts of the electrical, control, transmission and sample lines to the towers would be vulnerable to fire/heat damage. I suspect the same is true at many other sites, AM and FM, in the area.
All of that points to the need to take extraordinary brush clearance measures this summer. Keep the grass and weeds cut all the way to the ground with a good-sized buffer zone around tower base fences, doghouses, ATUs, transmitter buildings, generators and generator fuel tanks. Think about what would happen if a fire were to come through. If there is very little standing fuel available, your chances of escaping damage are good.
During the Catalina Island fire of 2007, the blaze swept through our transmitter site but didn’t damage anything at all with the exception of a single fence post. The fire went through the site in about five minutes but found no standing fuels because our chief engineer had maintained his clearances around the towers and any flammable structures or improvements. The one fence post that we did lose was the victim of an airborne ember that landed on top of the post many hours after the fire passed the site. It smoldered for a couple of days without anyone noticing before it finally burst into flame.
Let’s all hope that the second half of the summer (and the second half of the Rockies’ season!!) is better than the first!
If you have news to share with the Rocky Mountain radio engineering community, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.