Q It Up: Tell Us a Story! - Plate On

Plate On

From Charles Archer [Chuck[at]WBQB.com], B101.5/NewsTalk 1230, Fredericksburg, Virginia

One night, about 15 years ago, I was working for a 100,000 watt FM station when the main transmitter failed. The backup kept us on the air but it was only a few thousand watts. The signal was so weak, we had trouble monitoring the station in the studio. Several attempts to bring up the main failed.

As fate would have it, our Chief Engineer was out of town and our backup engineer was almost an hour drive from the transmitter site. Thinking we could get there faster, he instructed my OM and me to go up to the transmitter site and be his eyeballs. Neither of us were engineers, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to go up to the site and tell him what we saw.

The setting was quite spooky. In the dead of night, we drove up this mountain to a cinder block shack in the middle of the woods. Once inside, we called the backup engineer and relayed some of the readings we found. He instructed my OM to hit the “plate on” button to fire up the main transmitter. As soon as the button was depressed, a deafening 100,000-watt white arc of pure electricity exploded above our heads. It was a lightning bolt going off in a 20x20 brick building.

We hauled a** out the door and covered about 50 feet in two seconds!

Once outside, we checked our underpants and debated whether it was safe for us to go back. About 5 minutes later we gathered enough courage to slowly go back inside where we found the speakerphone with the backup engineer still on the line. Without even asking if we were extra crispy he says, “Well, that didn’t sound good. Guess I’m heading over… and guys, whatever you do, don’t touch anything!”

That was the day my engineering career ended.

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