By: Mark Abrams
It was a another morning in Los Angeles just like many other mornings on February 16, 2022 when I got up at 5:30AM to get ready for the next two days of work up north in the Eastern Sierras. I began the day with my regular routine getting ready for the work ahead, but had to modify the routine to pack an overnight bag and collect all of my prescriptions and nutritional supplements to take with me. After a last minute check of emails to determine if there were any urgent issues that needed to be addressed prior to my departure, I handled the items that were necessary and headed out the door to the car by 6:20AM.
It was about 50ºF that morning which was typical for the last week when I got into the SUV. I loaded my overnight bag along with my heavy duty boots that I wear when at a tower site. I was headed to El Paso Peak which is just south of Ridgecrest and about a 3.5 hour drive from my house. So after packing the car, I took off out of the driveway and started heading down the hill into Torrance where I proceeded to head north until I reached the I405 aka the San Diego Freeway. I entered the on-ramp and immediately began to drive slowly due to the heavy traffic. I had planned to leave before 6AM, but I had not gotten organized enough the night before to enable me to get out the door that fast, especially since I forgot to set the alarm clock to get me up at 4:30AM. So now I had freeway traffic to slow me down as I headed north towards Highway 14 which is the route that I chose to get to the high desert area. The traffic slowed to 10MPH at times and other times I was proceeding at full speed. There were delays when I first entered the freeway, again near LA Airport and again in the Culver City area as I proceeded to pass the Santa Monica Freeway. There was still some traffic through Wilshire Blvd where many people would exit the freeway to go to UCLA and other businesses in the Westwood and West LA areas.
Now I was able to drive mostly full speed heading through the Sepulveda Pass on I405 and encountered slowing as I approached US101 and soon thereafter it returned to mostly full speed. I continued north until I reached Roscoe Blvd where I exited the freeway to partake in a breakfast sandwich which I rarely have the opportunity to consume. After my brief interlude, I proceeded back to the freeway through the heavy traffic until I was able to turn left onto the freeway heading north again towards Mojave. The traffic was variable as I drove at full speed and then back to 20MPH. Eventually, I reached Highway 14 where I transitioned to the Mojave Freeway where traffic was at full speed. It had taken me one hour and 40 minutes to travel a distance that I should have covered in 1 hour, but that also included my 14 minute stop for breakfast. So I continued heading north until I exited the mountains and dropped down into the Palmdale area. I needed to exit at Avenue L to get gas at Costco where the gas price was high, but far lower than any other source of gas in the high desert or anywhere else in Southern California.
After filling up with gas, I proceeded north towards Mojave. When I passed Rosamond, there was construction on the highway and traffic was diverted from the normal roadway onto one of the reconstructed southbound lanes with a reduced speed of 55MPH. As I drove at the reduced speed required by law in the single northbound lane that was narrow enough that no one could pass me, I was being followed by several cars that made it clear that they wanted to pass me and continue north at the normal highway speed instead of the reduced speed required by the construction. If I had been able to let them pass, they would have spun me around several times while they passed me, but the roadway was too narrow to allow that to happen. There was no place for me to pull off the road to allow anyone to pass without driving off of the pavement onto the gravel shoulder which I did not want to do. So I continued north with the vehicle behind ready to kiss my rear bumper and push my SUV to a speed increase of another 15MPH. Eventually, I passed through the construction zone while the roadway returned to normal so that the vehicles that were stuck behind me were able to pass me as I pulled over into the right lane. A short time thereafter, I entered the town of Mojave where I would make a pit stop at the local gas station.
After a brief break, I continued north on Highway 14 aka Aerospace Highway accelerating to highway speed and passing Highway 58 while heading towards Ridgecrest. My actual destination was a tower site known as El Paso Peak where we had a lot of work to do that day. As I passed one solar farm after another and Jawbone Canyon, eventually I arrived at Redrock Randsburg Road and proceeded northeast for at least 15 miles where I had to bear left onto Garlock Road. Another 12 miles later, I reached US395 where I sat there for several minutes watching one of the largest stream of vehicles to ever travel this remote section of highway in a short time. Eventually I was able to turn left and proceed north until I reached the turnoff for El Paso Peak. I turned left and proceeded up the road that was an unusual and unique combination of dirt, pavement, oiled dirt, dilapidated pavement, potholes, rocks, ditches, eroded roadbeds, ruts, smooth road and other maladies that would create challenges to driving up this road. After about 10 minutes, I arrived on top of the mountain to find our tower crew already hard at work.
I exited the SUV and proceeded to visit with the crew while viewing their progress. They had arrived at the site about 25 minutes prior to my arrival, so they had made some progress on the tasks at hand. They had the tower climbing gear out of the truck and had it neatly arranged so that we could rig the tower. Soon the tower climbing harness had been donned so Chris was getting ready to start climbing. Much of the equipment had been unloaded from the van and brought over to the building to facilitate the process of installing the equipment in the building. I grabbed the box with the new repeater before I climbed up the staircase to the 2nd floor of the building with David a short distance behind me complaining about his knees not liking the stairs while he carried the power supply. We sat the boxes down near one of the FM broadcast transmitters and then went into the other room where I showed him the plan for installing the new repeater for Inyo County next to our equipment which also resided in the tower site. We looked at the antenna cables that we needed to trace out and looked at the tower to see the cables that we were supposed to remove. I then went into the other room to take the new repeater out of the box, dispose of the packing materials, mechanically assemble the balance of the repeater and do the same for the power supply. All in all, we had a considerable amount of work to do for the day and we were just getting started.
We had not been in a hurry to get up to the mountain too early in the morning. It was now about 10AM and the temperature was still trying to reach 50 degrees. There had been some wind when the crew first arrived and they found that it was reasonably warm if they could keep in the sun and out of the wind. As the morning progressed, the wind was dying down and it continued to get a bit warmer so it was pleasant with a jacket provided you could stay in the sun. In the shade, it still was too cold to be comfortable even though I was wearing thermal underwear and had my jacket zipped up fairly high. Fortunately, most of the work that I needed to do was inside the building. I went to the car to get my antenna sweep tester to check out the antenna cables that we were supposed to identify.
It was time for Chris to climb the tower. His first task was to straighten out an antenna that had one of its mounting clamps broken. This entailed climbing the tower to the lower cross-arm. The lower mounting clamp broke allowing the upper clamp to rotate 60 degrees causing the antenna to lean over at a 60 degree angle. Antennas do not work properly when they are designed to be mounted vertically and they are at some significant angle relative to the ground. With the help of the ground crew, Chris managed to straighten out the antenna and replace the broken U-bolt in the clamp. After fixing the antenna mount, he replaced some other missing U-bolts in other clamps that were holding other antennas in the same vicinity on the tower.
The next task was to identify some abandoned cables and mark them so that they could be readily reused. I used my antenna sweep tester to determine the frequency band of antenna that was on the other end of the cable. Chris would then look for the antenna that was on that frequency band while comparing the cable type and size to get an educated guess as to which antenna on the tower was connected to our abandoned cable inside the building. We had 2 each 7/8” Heliax cables that terminated over the top of our equipment. The Anritsu antenna tester indicated that the antennas were in the 800MHz and 900MHz bands. We found two antennas next to each other that were on 800MHz, so we disconnected them one at a time. The first one was not connected to either of the two cables we were checking, but the 2nd one was on one of the two cables. So we removed the antenna, marked the cable and proceeded to raise our new antenna up the tower and securely mount in on the cross-arm for the repeater we were installing. This accomplished another one of the tasks that we needed to complete today.
The tower owner had come up to the site and identified several other antennas that were no longer in use that he wanted to be removed from the tower. This included some 100MHz yagi antennas which are large antennas and create a significant amount of wind loading on the tower. Removing these antennas is a significant amount of work and is awkward to manage due to the antenna size, the limited work area and the wind. We also had to remove the antenna cable that fed the antenna along with several other antenna cables that were on the tower. There were several old style bare aluminum cables on the tower which pose a radio interference hazard, especially due to the fact that there were multiple high power broadcast radio transmitters on the tower which makes radio interference a serious issue with a high likelihood of occurring with these old cables on the tower. Once radio interference starts, it can affect all the radio systems on the tower and can also affect radio systems in other buildings, so it is prudent to head the problem off at the pass before it happens.
We were working to identify additional cables when the local sheriff deputy arrived with the key to another building so that we could remove the old repeater from the other building. Our plan was to reuse the duplexer from the old repeater which allows the repeater to transmit and receive simultaneously from the same antenna. A duplexer on VHF is an expensive device, especially since both the transmit and receive frequencies are fairly close together. So our plan was to grab the old duplexer and install it in the new building with the new repeater, cable and antenna. We walked over to the other building and the deputy opened the lock for the gate to the fence around the building. We entered the compound and found that there were 4 separate rooms in the building. We had no idea which room was supposed to have our equipment since none of us had ever seen the repeater equipment and the key was not marked with anything that told us which room the key would fit. So we started with the door to the first room closest to the gate in the fence. The key would not fit that door, so we moved on to the second door which was marked to indicate that Verizon was the tenant in that room. Our key did not fit the Verizon room, so we moved on to the third room which also did not respond to our key. So with only one room left, we inserted the key and proceeded to unlock the lock to the room. Success, so we thought. We opened the door and we found only one radio in the entire room which was clearly marked as belonging to NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Association) aka the National Weather Service. No other radios or antenna cables were present in the room. Now we were starting to “panic” because this would make it impossible to complete our task unless we were able to find the repeater we were supposed to remove. We searched the room thoroughly looking behind the large microwave dish antenna stored in the room and concluded that there were no other radios in the room. I checked for any other antenna cables to see if our equipment had been stolen from the room, but there were no other antenna cables. (If the repeater had been stolen, it is highly unlikely that the antenna cable would also be missing.)
Now it was time to contact the building owner to see what room the issued key was supposed to fit. We knew that room #2 was for Verizon and room #4 did not have our equipment leaving room #1 and room #3 as the two places the equipment could be located. So while the sheriff deputy was attempting to locate the correct key within his department, David was talking to the building owner’s office in an attempt to determine the solution to getting into the building. A search of the sheriff’s key bank did not reveal any other key for the site, so the deputy tried speaking to the local PD which had radios at the site. The deputy was informed that the local PD had installed a new radio system and was no longer located at the site, so they no longer had a key to any of the buildings at the site. David had gotten voice mail because the person in control of the site for the building owner was on the phone with another one of their customers, but she called back about 10-15 minutes later at which time David proceeded to explain our predicament. This sparked puzzlement on the part of the tower owner who was surprised that there was any intent to remove a repeater from the site. Now, the tower owner was upset with us and the sheriff’s office because the sheriff’s department had not informed them of any intent to remove the repeater from the building. Apparently, the lease had a specific termination clause that had not been followed and the building owner was upset with the lack of communication. After about an hour of negotiation with the tower owner by ourselves and the sheriff department, we were informed that we would not be able to get the key today or tomorrow. This placed a major crimp in our plans to get the repeater installed for Inyo County. We could not get the new repeater on the air without the duplexer from the old repeater because a new duplexer was not ordered for the new repeater since it is a totally passive device that typically does not need any maintenance unless mechanically damaged. Therefore the old duplexer should work just as well as a new duplexer.
Now it was time to start wrapping up the work for the day because we had hit a block wall for the day. There still were some more antenna cables and antennas to identify and/or remove from the tower. However, our tower climber was too tired to do any more work on the tower for the day and pushing him to climb again would likely lead to an accident that could be serious and create additional delays in finishing the work. So we cleaned up the site for the day, locked the doors and proceeded to head down the mountain.
We were now down the mountain before 4PM and heading north on US395 towards Ridgecrest. We took the Ridgecrest turnoff from the highway and continued north into the town. We pulled over into a parking lot to spend time to finish some phone calls to work on the logistics of the situation as well as finding a restaurant for us to have a late lunch or early dinner depending upon how you look at the situation. We eventually took off for the restaurant Casa Corona to have some Mexican food. We arrived at the restaurant, parked the vehicles and went inside with a direct beeline to the rest rooms to clean all the dirt off our faces and hands. We then got a table in the bar so that we could enjoy our meal along with having some libations.
We were discussing the day’s work and the plan for the next day. We were trying to come up with a plan that would salvage as much of the original job as possible. I was planning to head north after eating and stay the night in Lone Pine so that I could head to Eastern Sierra Transit to install some demo radios at their office and in one of their vehicles while the other guys were planning to spend the night in Ridgecrest so that they could head up the mountain in the morning to finish the work on the tower. While talking and relaxing, I received a phone call from the office that there was a big problem with the Cal State Long Beach Police Department radio system. My first reaction was that it was not our problem as we do not service their radio system. The office agreed with my assessment, but the PD was still asking for our help. We were already 3.5 hours north of Los Angeles area plus the additional time to get to CSULB. Also, they have Motorola equipment which we do not normally service so we do not have service manuals, spare parts for their radios or any intimate knowledge of their radio system and its configuration. We did have some cursory knowledge of their system, but were lacking much of the information necessary to troubleshoot and fix their problem. All of our field personnel who had any chance of determining their problem and fixing it were up in Ridgecrest and I was the most qualified to look into the problem. So I took the phone number of the police department to call them to discuss what Raycom could offer to mitigate their problem. For over the past 20 years, Raycom has provided communications to the Special Olympics Summer Games which are held at CSULB. Each year we have installed a base station at the PD for the games and had removed the base station after the games were over. The person in charge of their radio system knew me since we would meet during the first Special Olympic Summer Games that were held at CSULB and each year thereafter and during such meetings, he had gained a considerable respect for our capabilities. However, since they had a Motorola system, they continued to use Motorola to keep their radio system operational.
I called the police department to speak to the person in charge of the radio system. I was informed that he was out on bereavement leave and was not available. They switched me over to his supervisor who knew almost nothing about the radio system and was desperately contacting anyone and everyone who she thought may be able to help. Their radio system was completely down so they had no contact with the officers who patrolled the campus. Now they had to rely on cell phones which are not a reliable method of communicating with police officers, especially when a serious incident is in progress. She informed me that Motorola had shown up and found that the power supply for the repeater had failed and that they were not in a position to fix the problem. She was pleading with me to come fix their problem. I told her that I was at least a 3.5 hour drive and I had a job in the morning in Bishop which was 5 hours away, thus making it difficult for me to help them. I suggested that they try another Motorola service shop to see if they could help. She informed me that she had called every Motorola service shop that she could find and none of them felt that they could resolve the problem for the college. I talked it over with the guys and we came up with a new game plan for next day which would allow me to leave and head over to the college. So I reluctantly agreed to change my plans and drive the 3.5 hours back to Los Angeles that night so that I could be at their campus in the morning to pull whatever rabbits I have out of the hat to solve their problem.
I arrived in the office around 8:30AM Thursday, the next morning. I located a spare Kenwood repeater that could be installed at CSULB to get them back on the air. The repeater was programmed and tuned to a frequency that was quite a distance away, so the repeater would need to be programmed and tuned for the CSULB frequency. I gave the repeater to Dave to accomplish this task while I went to work writing a program for a base station and two test portable radios. I had Rick locate a Kenwood base station with a desk microphone, power cord and magnetic mount antenna. I located two Kenwood portable radios with charged batteries so that I could test the entire system before we headed out to the customer’s location. I programmed the radios more than once to correct the minor deficiencies in the radio program. Also, I programmed the base station and proceeded to test its functions. The desk microphone did not work, so I grabbed a hand microphone which did work. I went back to Rick to get a working desk microphone which he finally was able to locate. Soon after I finished checking out the test radios and the base station, Dave was finished programming and tuning the repeater, so now it was time to test all the radios together as a system. After performing numerous checks, we were convinced that the radio system was fully functional.
I enlisted the help of Alex who was very familiar with the CSULB police department dispatch because of working with the Special Olympics just like myself. So he took the base station while I went upstairs to take care of some essential paperwork, make a pit stop, load the repeater and test radios into the SUV and head for CSULB. I headed east on the 91 freeway and then south on the 605 freeway until I reached the 405 freeway where I headed north to the first exit which was Palo Verde. As I was getting off the freeway, I was called by Alex to inform me that he had successfully installed the base station. We agreed to meet at the rear of the engineering building where the repeater was located. He had the hand truck which we used to transport the repeater and tool box. We went to the top floor of the building, exited the elevator and headed to the stairwell where we had to climb one flight of stairs to the roof since elevators usually do not go to the roof of most buildings. The tool box was about 80 pounds and the repeater was about 25 pounds. I carried the two test portable radios while Alex and the person from CSULB carried the other items.
We arrived at the roof, unlocked the door to the roof and proceeded to head over to the cabinet on the roof that contained the repeater. We opened the cabinet and started to assess the situation so that we knew how to remove the broken Motorola repeater and install the replacement Kenwood repeater. I determined how we would accomplish the task and proceeded to disconnect the antenna cables, the power cable and the phone line cable from the repeater. I started to pull out the repeater from the cabinet, but found that there was a heavy ground wire that was securely fastened to the repeater chassis that required a T-30 torx driver to remove. I wasn’t sure if I had one, so I tried my vice grips to break loose the ground screw which fortunately worked well to loosen the screw. After removing the ground wire, I was finally able to remove the repeater and install the Kenwood replacement. I attached the transmitter cable, but the receive cable was too short. I had brought some extension cables, but they were also too short. So I asked Alex to go downstairs to his van and find a receiver cable that was long enough to reach from the duplexer to the receiver input to the repeater. This took about 10 minutes and during the waiting time, I started hearing some radio traffic with the test portable radios. I assumed that the traffic was going through the repeater that I just installed and was surprised that it seemed to be working so well without the receiver antenna being connected. I called dispatch to get a radio check and they told me to standby because they were working on an incident. Again, this was a surprise as I had just gotten the repeater on the air a minute ago and they claimed to be in the middle of an incident which I never heard anything about after I fired up the repeater and the test radios. Eventually, Alex returned with the proper cable to allow us to finish the job.
We proceeded to pack up the tools and equipment so that we could begin the trek back to the vehicles. We stuffed all the wires into the cabinet and then locked up the equipment cabinet. I packed up the tool box, grabbed the test radios and then we proceeded to leave the roof. We locked the door to the roof and proceeded down the stairs where we loaded the tool box and the old repeater onto the hand truck and wheeled everything over to the elevator, down the elevator and back to our vehicles. We placed the tool box back into my vehicle along with the dead repeater which we intended to take back to our shop to attempt repair or replacement of the power supply. While standing at the vehicles, I was listening to the repeater being used and I was hearing a heterodyne which indicates that another repeater was also activating. When dispatch was talking, there was only one radio transmitter keyed, but when I keyed my test radios, two repeaters were keying up at the same time. I commented to the person from CSULB about the heterodyne and he did not respond. So now we headed back to the police department dispatch to make certain that our equipment was operating correctly from their office. Also, I needed to find out about this “phantom” repeater and why it was keying up while attempting to use the repeater that we just installed.
We arrived at the police department and went into the dispatch office. I demonstrated the heterodyne of the two repeaters and asked them if they had any other repeaters besides the one that I just replaced. When I was on the phone with them yesterday from Ridgecrest, they told me that they were completely down and that this was the only repeater. This was obviously not the case but I had no information as to how the system was configured nor how to do anything about it. I had some suspicion as to where the other repeater was located, but that was just an educated guess based upon past experience with the university. I finally got them to tell me that they had partially recovered the radio system since I spoke to them the night before which included a repeater located on top of the 10 story McIntosh building which was on the south campus. The dispatch would connect directly to the repeaters through their console which had the ability to select which repeater they would use for dispatch. They also had the ability to steer their transmission to either of the two repeaters and there was some mechanism to do the same for the portable radios used by the officers out in the field. So now I was trying to get them to set the console to operate properly with the new repeater which was not tied into their console via the phone line because the temporary replacement repeater did not have the wireline interface. They told me to flip the appropriate switch, but I had never operated their console and everything is programmable, so I had no way of knowing what needed to be done to effect the changes that I was requesting. The dispatch consoles were touch screen with many drop down menus, context sensitive menu options and dialog boxes which would take me quite some time to figure out. So I insisted that they try themselves. This process took about 20 minutes to get them to understand what I needed them to do. They took offense to me telling them that they needed to “disable” the other transmitter that they worked so hard the previous night to get activated so that they had some communications. They acted like I just stabbed them in the back by suggesting that they needed to disable the transmitter which was a simple switch function on their console once they figured out what I was telling them that they needed to do to get the radio system operating correctly. Once they got that accomplished, we had to show them how to use the temporary base station which created new issues. The dispatcher is used to speaking with their headset which talks to the phones as well as the radio. They had two dispatch positions, so we installed a microphone splitter and a second desk microphone. However, they tended to talk far from the microphone which made the dispatcher voice low and difficult to understand so we had to teach them how to use the microphone. Also, the separate base station that was not tied into the console allowed them to hear themselves talk over the base station on the console which confused the dispatcher. We explained what was happening and that they would have to lower the volume of the console to avoid having feedback and the “sidetone” of their own voice while they spoke. This was not ideal, but it was better to have the temporary problems than not to be able to contact the officers in the field or have a lack of coverage from the other repeater. They were now operational and we left for the day happy that we had been successful in getting them operational even though it was a bit clumsy compared to their original system.
As we headed to our vehicles, one of their people came out to catch us before we left the premises. They had received a call from another Motorola radio dealer about coming out to attempt to fix the repeater. So they decided they wanted to hold onto the repeater until the other Motorola shop arrived to determine if they could fix the repeater. So we left the campus without the broken repeater wondering how this would turn out. The next morning (Friday), we received another call from CSULB telling us that the Motorola shop showed up and was unable to fix their problem so now they wanted to bring the broken repeater to our office to see what we can do to fix it. So he showed up around 11AM with the repeater and we immediately gave it to one of our technicians to start figuring out what was wrong with it. We confirmed that the power supply was blown up from the power surge and started trying to locate another power supply. We found a used power supply for $1,000, but we did not know if the repeater itself was damaged beyond the power supply. We did not want to purchase the used supply if the rest of the repeater was beyond economical repair. We contacted our source of Motorola parts and we were informed that the power supplies were backordered from Motorola for at least one year or more. The power supplies have a reputation for failing during power surges and we found several used repeaters for sale cheap with failed power supplies. Now we were starting to get concerned that this was going to be bigger and more troublesome than anticipated. We continued to search for answers to getting the unit fixed and we managed to locate someone who had a spare repeater that was not being used. We had him ship us the power supply out of the repeater so that we could use it to troubleshoot the bad repeater. With a good power supply, we could test the repeater to verify that it worked before purchasing the used power supply. So now we wait for the arrival of the spare repeater.
All seemed good until later Friday afternoon when I received a phone call from CSULB. They were complaining about some feedback that has not been present on Thursday. She tried to explain the feedback, but I was unable to understand what she was describing so I suggested that she go into the dispatch office so that I could hear the “feedback”. After about 15 seconds, I heard a squelch noise burst. Within the next minute, I heard similar noise bursts of different lengths. It seemed like the base station was in the “monitor” mode which means that the tone squelch was defeated which keeps the radio from hearing anything except for a transmission from one of their units. If the radio was in “monitor” it could hear the co-channel traffic which included the City of Carson and the City of El Monte, both of which shared the same radio frequency with CSULB. This seemed odd to me, because I specifically remembered programming the monitor function as “momentary” which prevent the unit from being placed in monitor by accident by pressing a button on the front of the radio. The radio would only “monitor” if the button on the front of the radio was held down continuously. So I asked if anyone was pressing buttons on the base station and they said, “No!” So now I was trying to figure out how the base station would be in monitor and it occurred to me that there was a monitor switch on both of the desk microphones. I asked if either of the two microphones had the monitor button locked down. She checked the microphones and found that one of them had the monitor button locked in the monitor position. So I instructed them to unlock the button and the problem went away immediately. She thanked me profusely and I said goodbye to her and that we would talk next week after we had some idea if we could fix their repeater and how long it would take.
It was now Monday morning and UPS delivered us a care package. We opened the package and found the power supply for the MTR3000 repeater that our friend had available. We quickly installed the power supply into the radio and found that the repeater fired up and appeared to work correctly. We used our test radios to test the operation of the repeater. As we kept the repeater keyed, the dummy load heated up indicating that the repeater was putting out significant power. We tested the receiver to verify that it would hear weak signals properly. We were confident that the repeater was working, but we did not have any easy way to test the wireline functions of the repeater. With some effort, we could test the wireline interface, but it would take some time and effort which we thought would be mostly a waste of time. Since today was President’s Day, we felt that the supervisor would not be in the office, so we waited until Tuesday to call them to explain the current situation. The power supply was on loan to us from a friend and we were expected to return it. Even though we could keep it for a few months, we needed to return that power supply to its owner. So now we went ahead and ordered the used power supply that we found on the internet to get the unit back on the air on a permanent basis. However, this situation presents a dilemma. If we install the repeater with the loaner power supply, we will have to go back to the customer’s location to change out the power supply to the one that we ordered through the internet which was not expected to arrive for about 2-3 weeks. This would mean that we will have to go out to the customer’s location again and replace the power supply in the field which can be a bit difficult for someone who has never done it in the past. The alternative is to leave them in this “crippled” condition for 2-3 weeks. So on this Tuesday morning, I called to speak with the supervisor to outline the situation, what we have been able to accomplish and what still needed to be done. She wanted us to put their repeater back into the system in an attempt to restore full functionality of the system right away.
So now it was time to pack up the equipment and head back to college. (I felt like I was Rodney Dangerfield in the movie Back to School going to college as a grown up mature person.) We went over to the police department to meet with the person who would escort us into the engineering building and up to the roof. He took our license plate numbers and entered them into their computer system so that we did not receive a ticket for parking in an area where we were not supposed to be parked. We then loaded up the hand truck with the repaired repeater and my tool box and headed into the building lobby and up the elevator to the 6th floor where we exited the elevator and went over to the stairwell. Now we had to pick up the tools and equipment to head up the flight of stairs to the roof where we used the key to open the door to the roof to access the cabinet where the repeater was located. We opened the cabinet and proceeded to remove our temporary repeater and then install the repaired repeater. I connected both the transmit and receive cables, the AC power and then the phone line. Now it was time to test the repeater and the phone line connection to the repeater to find out how successful (and lucky) we have been. I used the test portable radios to talk through the repeater. It responded normally and all seemed OK from our end. Now it was time to return to dispatch and have the dispatcher switch from their secondary site to the main channel. She pressed the appropriate button and the console responded and indicated that the main channel was online. I then asked her to make a call to an officer in the field. After doing so, the officer responded with a loud and clear which I was able to also hear on my test radio. The operation was a resounding success.
Now it was time to collect our temporary base station so I had Chris remove the equipment along with the dual desk microphones along with the temporary magnetic mount antenna. He took care of that task while I was talking with our escort (their IT expert) and one of the police officers who had met us at the building while we were exiting the ground floor. They were curious about the Diga-Talk digital radio network that we operate so I spent a few minutes showing them the operation of the network and its capabilities. They were very impressed and acknowledged that the network had capabilities that went beyond their existing radio system. After discussing the network, we shook hands and said our goodbyes.
We left the site knowing that we had accomplished what seemed to be the impossible when we first received the trouble call. We were able to pull the rabbit out of the hat and get the police department operating on a temporary basis until we were able to get them fully functional. The Motorola service station was able to determine the problem, but was unable to fix it and did not have any temporary solution. CSULB called other Motorola dealers in an attempt to get the unit fixed and was unable to get anyone from Motorola to fix the problem. Although we had never done any business with CSULB, we managed to arrive on our white horse to save the day. Now we get to ride off into the sunset, hat on our heads and smiles on our faces and ready to solve the next set of problems, the communications required for The SAG Awards…….