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Voice of Vashon expands its reach with new antenna

Last Wednesday, a metal tripod and radio antenna were affixed to the top of the Heights Water tank. - David Weller/Vashon Island Fire & Rescue photo
Last Wednesday, a metal tripod and radio antenna were affixed to the top of the Heights Water tank.
— image credit: David Weller/Vashon Island Fire & Rescue photo

Since last Wednesday, Islanders from Shawnee to the north-end ferry terminal can now tune in to Voice of Vashon Standing By, the Island’s informational radio station.

The radio station’s second antenna was installed March 11 atop a water tank just north of Cedarhurst Road. Its first, at Sunrise Ridge, has been broadcasting continuously at 1650 AM since October 2007.

And officials hope the radio station’s third and final tower will be put in place within months at Dockton Fire Station, giving more than 90 percent of the Island access to its radio signal.

“It’s so cool to have a signal to the north end now and to finally get this thing on the air,” said Jeff Hoyt, Voice of Vashon’s emergency broadcasting coordinator, of the second tower’s installation, which was delayed for four months because of weather and logistical issues.

“I feel great about it,” he said. “It all came together really smoothly.”

The radio antenna’s installation at Heights Water took 10 people — and a fire engine — about three hours, Hoyt said. Seven people worked from atop the 20-foot tank to affix a metal tripod to the tank and secure the 10-foot antenna to the top of the 20-foot tripod, which was designed by Island metal artist Mark Bennion.

The top of the antenna is 50 feet from the ground, the limit the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave the project.

Vashon Island Fire & Rescue’s ladder truck, which has a 75-foot ladder, transported workers to the top of the 30-foot wide tank.

Assistant Fire Chief Bob Larsen was elevated above the rest, doing the nuts-and-bolts installation of the tower and radio antenna.

The station is an important component of Vashon’s disaster-preparedness efforts, Larsen noted. In times of inclement weather or disaster on Vashon, the station provides Islanders with up-to-date weather, roads and other relevant information.

The 10-watt AM station broadcasts a continuous loop of information pertinent to those traveling the Island and to Vashon residents in general. Dozens of times, Voice of Vashon Standing By has reported ferry service disruptions, power outages and road closures.

It was more than two years ago that volunteers from Voice of Vashon and VashonBePrepared first talked about creating an AM Vashon radio station using a Traveler’s Information License — the designation the FCC has since given to Voice of Vashon Standing By.

Within months, the project’s final tower could be in place in Dockton.

Fire Chief Hank Lipe has been enthusiastic about the radio station since he began work on Vashon in the fall.

“It’s a very cost-effective option to be able to transmit emergency information for both the community and us, not using a computer or

the Internet,” Lipe said. “We’re in the business of public safety, and to have the ability to partner with Voice of Vashon is great.”

Before Lipe’s arrival, Voice of Vashon had been searching throughout Dockton for a suitable location for its third radio antenna. They’d always hoped to put it on the Dockton Fire Station property, and Lipe agreed.

“We want to make sure we can transit emergency information to the entire population,” Lipe said.

A utility pole will be installed on an unused strip of land in the southwest quadrant of the fire station property, he said, and then staff and volunteers will affix a radio antenna to its top — again using the ladder truck.

Hoyt and Lipe agreed that, after the tricky water tank installation, putting up the Dockton antenna will seem simple.

“Now, it seems like putting a telephone pole in the ground and putting an antenna atop is child’s play,” Hoyt said. “The Dockton station should be a breeze.”

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