[RFI] I will have you arrested

Kelly Johnson n6kj.kelly at gmail.com
Tue Feb 9 14:53:37 PST 2010

All well and good, but...what if the local utility won't do anything
after you pinpoint the pole?  I have been trying to get a bad pole
fixed now for 2.5 years.  They've been out here more than once, but
they have so far been unwilling to cut power to the neighborhood long
enough to rebuild the pole with 12KV lines on top.  They will look at
the pole.  They will listen.  They've even tightened a bolt or two on
the lower half of the pole, but they won't get near the top of the
pole.  Too bad I can't arrest the CEO of PG&E!

On Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 2:31 PM, Frank Haas KB4T <kb4t at arrl.net> wrote:
> I am an interference investigator for a large electric utility in
> Florida. If I see someone hitting a power pole with a sledge hammer
> (or anything else) I call the police and have that person arrested.
> Tampering with utility equipment is foolhardy, unlawful and doesn't
> solve the core problem.
> If you know what you are doing and trust your equipment, you don't
> need to tamper with utility equipment. If you don't know what you are
> doing and don't have equipment to trust, enlist the aid of someone in
> your area who does. Call the utility and request an interference
> investigation. Work with the utility to help them locate the problem
> especially if they don't seem skilled enough to do it themselves.
> (Interacting with the utility is an entirely new thread!!)
> I have said this before here: You don't have the right to tamper with
> utility distribution equipment. As has been pointed out by many here,
> you can be injured or killed. Sure it's rare to get caught and rare
> that things fall off poles but it does happen. The police in my
> territory are happy to respond and arrest people tampering with
> utility equipment.
> If I determine that interference is coming from your home rather than
> from power distribution facilities near your home, is it appropriate
> for me to start beating on your house to try and change or stop the
> interference? Of course not. For this same reason, you don't have the
> right to tamper with utility equipment.
> In many respects, locating interference sources is much like regular
> direction finding. You need equipment that can pinpoint the source.
> You must learn to trust your equipment. Buzzing interference can come
> from many NON-UTILITY sources. The biggest mistake many people make is
> ASSUMING a source is coming from utility equipment. These days it's no
> longer a slam dunk that the buzz you hear is utility-based. I'll
> comment on this later in this note. Rule #1: Assume NOTHING! Trust
> your equipment to lead you DIRECTLY to the source.
> It's somewhat difficult to carry an 80 or 40 meter beam around. Small
> loop antennas work well for sources that can't be heard much above 7
> MHz. I use one I picked up at the Dayton Hamvention a few years ago.
> Check out: http://www.g4tph.com/. A loop antenna coupled to a handheld
> receiver capable of AM reception throughout the HF spectrum with a
> usable signal strength indicator makes for a nice portable low
> frequency DFing kit.  http://www.homingin.com/joemoell/80intro.html
> offers links to other low frequency DFing options.
> I rarely need to use my loop set however. I use an Icom IC-7000
> installed in my company truck with a Hi-Q 4/80 tunable antenna to
> listen easily from 1.7 to 144 MHz. Starting from the customer's
> location, I listen on the affected frequency (often in the 80M ham
> band) and drive around in an expanding circle or square. When the
> signal begins to max out the signal strength indicator, I tune to the
> next higher harmonic or even higher and continue to drive. With many
> sources and nearly all power line sources, I can hear the signal on
> VHF. If so, within a short time, I'm parked within one pole or one
> house of the source. Handheld equipment points me directly to the
> source. If the signal is never heard much above 7 or 8 MHz the loop
> set is broken out at the point where the signal strength maxes and the
> foot search begins.
> The vast majority of real power line interference sources can be heard
> well up to 300 MHz as you get closer to the source. At VHF, it's easy
> to pinpoint the pole. Once you have located the pole, leave the rest
> to the utility. There are a few power line sources that can't be heard
> above about 8 MHz even when you are close. Loop antennas have pointed
> me to these sources. A power line source that is farther away than a
> 1/2 mile, may not be heard at VHF at the starting point. Instead, the
> low frequency components of the interference are heard. Small loops
> can point you in the right direction. As you travel in the direction
> of the source, the signal strength will increase. As the signal gets
> stronger listen higher and higher in frequency until you can point at
> the source with a small yagi.
> Once you have located the pole, it's next to impossible to determine
> from the ground what might be wrong without very expensive specialty
> equipment. 50% of the time, even the expensive specialty equipment
> won't pinpoint the actual problem. I'm not a lineman. I don't climb
> poles and I don't have a bucket truck. I do use binoculars to closely
> examine equipment on a suspect pole. Sometimes I can see the problem
> but very often I can't. Only a utility crew working with a skilled
> investigator can take the right steps to find the source and eliminate
> it.
> As the ham radio community begins to comprehend the spreading epidemic
> of HF spectrum pollution that overrun the US, the ability to DF
> interference sources is going to become ever more important. The
> tsunami of garbage electronics flooding the store shelves and
> streaming into your neighborhood will be much more of a problem than
> the occasional power line interference issues that crop up. Keep in
> mind that your utility cannot resolve non-utility interference issues.
> For an illuminating introduction to this epidemic, take a walk around
> your neighborhood with a battery operated handheld shortwave receiver
> tuned to your favorite HF band. Be ready for a shock. You will
> understand in short order why the noise floor in your receiver is so
> high now. Power line interference pales in comparison.
> Smacking a pole with anything is against the law and doesn't solve the
> basic problem. Work with the utility to resolve the problem. Learn
> their process and use it to your advantage. The problem will be
> resolved safely and more quickly.
> Want to take a sledge hammer to something? Replace your neighbor's
> Whackycrap 5000 Deluxe with the spectrum-blanketing switching power
> supply. Then use the sledge hammer to crush it so it can be mailed in
> an envelope to the uncaring importer/manufacturer who designed it,
> imported it and allowed it to pollute the spectrum in your
> neighborhood.
> Good luck.
> 73,
> Frank N. Haas KB4T
> Professional Interference Investigator
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