Technical Articles

Antenna Safety—Look Before You Install

The most important thing you can do when putting up an antenna is to look before you install. Go outside and survey your property. Consider every suitable location for your antenna—and any possible dangers that could be avoided during installation. 

So what are these dangers?

Overhead Lines: Power, cable, and phone lines look similar, so assume any overhead line could be dangerous. Minimum safe installation distance from overhead lines is twice the combined height of the antenna/tower combination.

Underground Utilities: These are more commonly found in newer construction. When they’re out of sight, we don’t always think about them. Call 811 before you dig that concrete base or bury your own radials or feedline and avoid problems.

Clearances: Make sure antennas, towers, and guy wires don’t become obstacles to people or pets. There should be enough clearance to easily walk around or under them without injury, and they should be marked for visibility. Provisions should be made to block children from attempting to climb any antenna supports.

Get a second opinion. Invite a ham friend to do an inspection as well. Another pair of eyes is always helpful.

Have a Plan

Plan your installation as if your life, and those around you, depended on it. Recruit enough help to successfully get the project off the ground. Make sure all involved clearly understand what needs to be done by reviewing the proper steps. Have all the necessary tools available, as well as appropriate personal protective equipment, such as hard hats and harnesses.

Let others know what you will be doing, not just the people helping you. Notify a family member or neighbor that you will be putting up the antenna. Ask them to keep an eye and an ear out for you. If all of you need emergency care, there will still be someone available to call 911!

Don’t Do That!

I always look forward to installing a new antenna, but experience has taught me that if you want to remain safe, there are some common sense things NOT to do. 

  • Don’t install the antenna at night—holding a Mini-Maglite in your teeth gets really uncomfortable.
  • Don’t install an antenna during bad weather conditions. Antenna plus human equals a possible lightning strike or slip-and-fall injury from a wet roof.
  • Don’t stand on top of the ladder or make sudden movements when you’re on it. Gravity rules.
  • Don’t carry anything to the roof that’s so heavy or big that you lose balance. Assemble that tribander on the roof instead.
  • Don’t try to rescue a falling antenna, especially near power lines. Let it go.
  • Don’t run antenna wires or feed lines across or beside overhead lines. You may be in for a shocking experience.
  • Don’t install an antenna if you’re tired or under the influence. Electricity and beer don’t mix.

Do This

On a positive note, here are some additional tips to make your installation safer and easier. 

  • Height or other restrictions on antennas could apply to your installation. Check local ordinances or CCR/HOA rules. Do this before any part of the antenna system gets off the ground so there are no surprises.
  • If there are nearby power lines, use a fiberglass ladder instead of a metal one.
  • If using slingshots, arrows, or air cannons to help install antennas, be sure no one is in range before you launch.
  • Make sure the tower, pole, or mounting hardware has the capacity to safely handle the antennas you plan to install.
  • Once an outdoor antenna is installed, it should be properly grounded with an approved lightning arrester.
  • After installation, be sure to do routine maintenance on your antenna to keep it working safely.

A Final Note

If you’re installing or taking down an antenna for the first time, seek assistance from an experienced ham or an antenna professional. Installing and dismantling antennas require some specialized skills, equipment, and experience. It can be harder than it looks.

Remember, only you can prevent antenna installation fails.

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