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Ground Man's Perspective Tower Decommission

posted Oct 2, 2015, 10:08 PM by Stones River   [ updated Oct 2, 2015, 10:12 PM ]
Greetings from the Boro. KI4NDN here, First let me say that this is where the Amateur comes in. I am not a professional and anything I write here is simply me trying to share my experiences with someone that might enjoy or benefit from this information. Take what you can use and leave the rest. Thanks to KU4B for allowing me to experience this part of Amateur Radio that everyone doesn’t get to enjoy. I had a request to participate in the process of taking down one of three towers recently. A great experience and one of the many things that a Ham can do other than just talking on a radio. KU4B Dave has included me in a couple of real down and dirty events that takes Ham Radio to a different level for this ole boy. Gets me to thinking. What, how, why, safety. etc. The weather was really fall like here when we got started. Hurricane Joaquin was going on and lets just say there was no sun the first couple days in Dave's project. If you have never been involved or seen how these Hams globally put up or take down 100 ' towers, this may give a little insight. The photos are of KU4B Dave taking down a 70' tower with a damaged antenna atop.
Safety issues are always present anytime someone does things like this. Don't try this at home kiddos. No matter how many times a crew does this there is always the chance of something going wrong. The wind blows at just the wrong time, a rope snags at the wrong time, lightning out of the clear blue sky, rain quickly makes a reasonably safe tower a slippery accident waiting to happen. The list goes on and on.
The ground mans job is very important and potentially dangerous as well. Okay first off don't upset the man on the tower, he has many tools and small metal items such as nuts and bolts that he can practice his marble skills from an entirely different angle if you know what I mean. It is very important to wear a safety hard hat at all times while near the tower when someone is working on or near it. You might be surprised what a small wrench that weighs only ounces would do to the top of a bare head.
Another thing is baggy clothing that could get caught in some ropes is probably not a good idea. Dress appropriately. It would seem that being just 75' from the tower man you and he could easily hear each other to communicate what needs to be done next. Wrong. The winds often are very noisy and shift the audio and it is simply put very dangerous without having good audible communications with the tower man and the crew below. So good radio communications are in order, right. Well now hear we go we have to relearn how to program those cheap Baofeng radios again. Okay now that we have those on low power simplex we can begin. As you already know if it can happen it will happen. One of us failed to lock the radio and pocket travel changed frequencies. I can't hear you, what did you say? I know that this is simple and a quick fix. Quickly moving out to the car where I have another el-cheapo radio and a mobile unit I proceed to push all those little buttons that I can no longer see with these old eyes. Okay after some effort I have determined that this time it is not my fumbling that have caused communication failure. Managed to get through without radio communications until Tower man had to make landfall for lunch. Seems the trip up in the pocket or bag had switched the settings and problem was quickly solved.
Imagine the winds blowing pretty hard and its time to let down a 100 pound 12' length of pipe. You heard the tower man say okay let it down, well what he really said okay wait don't let it down my hand is stuck. You get the idea. This did not happen but not being able to communicate well is potentially asking for a scenario like this too happen.
There is a dampness in the air with that Hurricane moving in the Atlantic. It's much cooler than it has been. Fall is in the air. Typical Tennessee weather this time of year. Very slowly the moves that Dave makes is beginning to show progress as he ties the rotor to the ropes that reach the ground. "Okay let it down, whoa slow down, okay down." The rotor was the first thing down. Now he begins the process of lowering the very heavy mast pole. A few inches at a time and at last he has hands on the very badly beaten antenna. He begins to disassemble and soon he yells out okay put some tension on the rope. Down comes the antenna. Now remember that heavy mast pole? Moments later Dave yells out okay put some tension on the rope. Let it down. And the process goes on as the weather threatens and the elements are fighting back at Dave on top of that tower. That Old Buzzard still sitting on a nearby tower waiting for any mistake that could offer him a warm meal.
Thanks Dave for the experiences. Be Safe and always remember. Safety Safety Safety

Lessons learned yesterday were priceless.

1.Communications is more than radios.
2.Teamwork is more than having warm bodies around.
3.If it can happen it will happen.
4.Work slowly and use additional safety ropes to eliminate fast 
moving/FLIPPING  heavy projectiles.
5.Always have a safety plan.  address of tower 
project in case of an emergency, with nearby identifying landmarks if 
6.Always have additional rope allowance pulled through gin pole and turn 
buckles to insure attached tower parts will reach the ground.
7.It is everyone's responsibility for safety. Keep tower man informed as 
you approach the danger zone under him for additional awareness.
8.As a ground crew member keep a watchful eye on the climber at all 
times. Stay aware of his safety.
9.Have a rescue plan always in the front of your mind, call 911 
immediately. Have gear nearby to make climb for immediate aid if necessary.
10.Debrief each day to mitigate what was a potential problem or safety 
issue and how to be aware of and avoid in future events.

Safety Safety Safety
David / KI4NDN

KU4B Tower Decommission Sept 2015