Why 91.5 Went Down Last Saturday
Sometime early Saturday morning KZYZ, 91.5, suddenly went off the air. The problem was large: one of the critical components of the transmitter itself, the "exciter," failed and took the signal down with it.
Fortunately, knowing this was a vulnerable part of the radio chain, we had bought a spare exciter last spring. (We got a killer deal on it at $1200 instead of the usual $5K.) It took more configuring than we expected, but we got the backup unit into service the next day with the help of ace radio tech Brian Henry. Brian also took the broken unit to his shop to repair it.
If we had not had that backup unit on hand - and remember, it was a weekend, there is a strong likelihood that we would still be off the air this late in the week (Thursday) because the companies who make the gear don't keep this kind of inventory sitting around. The factory told us it could take a week at least to get us a replacement.
For the past year I have been talking a lot about how we need to shore up our physical infrastructure. There are a lot of aspects to it that I won't go into here, but this event points to one of the main ones - we need redundant systems and backup equipment on hand for when things go down. We use very high grade equipment. But it still wears out over time. It isn't a matter of whether something will fail, it is a matter of when.
So, we have to spend a lot of money on the equipment and you might not even notice that we have it. In fact, that is best, because when something fails and you hardly notice, then it did its job.
We have backup units ready to go in some other parts of the radio transmission chain, but in many, if not most, areas we are still vulnerable.
(This is a good place for a reminder that we are going to a three-pledge-drive year starting in late February.)
We should all be thankful to Rich Culbertson for getting on the case as soon as he knew what had happened, and for sticking with it day and night until it was back up and running. Way to go Rich. And thanks too to Katharine Cole who gave us the 4WD pickup Rich used to get up to the transmitter on Laughlin Peak.