Dallas hamsexual Victor Xray posted this gem of a tragedy to the forums earlier today:
911 Calls Released After Family Electrocuted
“Melville Braham, 55, his wife Anna, 49, and their 15-year-old son, Anthony, were trying to put up a new amateur radio antenna when it fell onto power lines. The accident happened at Melville’s mother’s house on Alaska Avenue.
The Brahams had amateur radio antennas in their yards. They were trying to put a second one up when the accident happened. Eyewitness News learned that family members couldn’t get near them to help. Melville’s mother did have an amateur radio license.
‘They were trying to put up an antenna in the backyard and my brother and mom and my dad were holding it down and, um, something happened and something went off and they got electrocuted and they are all laying on the ground,’ daughter Melissa Braham told the 911 operator.”
The worst thing about this is that it was absolutely preventable. I personally don’t like insulting the intelligence of my readers by stating the obvious, bust apparently the ham world at large needs to be reminded of a few Antenna 101 basics.
1.) STAY AWAY FROM POWER LINES. There is a very simple formula you use here: if the height-to-tip of your antenna structure exceeds the shortest ground distance to the nearest power line, don’t do it. Period. Shorten your antenna structure, move forther away from the power lines, or stick to handhelds and indoor antennas.
2.) DON’T DO ANTENNA WORK AT NIGHT OR IN INCLEMENT WEATHER. When the sun goes down, it’s time to call it quits for the day. If there’s a stiff breeze or clouds looming on the horizon, put it down and wait for better conditions. You can’t be a part of EMERGENCY COMMUNICATIONS or SAVING THE WORLD THROUGH HAMMING if you’re recovering from electrocution or being struck by lightning (if you’re even lucky enough to get a shot at recovery.)
3.) KNOW THE LIMITS AND REQUIREMENTS OF YOUR SUPPORTING STRUCTURE. From the article pictures (and from the mouth of the reporter), it appears that the family was attempting to use a Buddipole contraption of at least 40 feet or greater, un-guyed and not set in the ground. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Don’t try to stand up a fully-extended mast from the ground.. they’re not meant to do that. And don’t go top-heavy with your antennas, either. A Rohn zip-pole was not meant to support an Andrew Decibel DB420 dipole array fully extended, to use an example.
4.) USE COMMON SENSE. In ham radio as in many other aspects of life, if it seems like a bad idea, don’t do it. If you don’t know what you’re doing or feel uncertain as to your capabilities, seek experienced help.
Hopefully we can all learn a lesson from this. And maybe if you’re sitting there and reading this and thinking “gee, what a bunch of idiots, I would never do that” then you especially need to give it some thought.
And last but not least, don’t do it like this guy.