Cables: The Neverending Story

Cables are:
A) Necessary.
B) Cumbersome.
C) A liability concern.
D) A maintenance challenge.
E) All of the above.
F) None of the above.

If your answer was any of the above- youâre right! Cables are everything, or in the case of wireless equipment use, nothing!

For those who seldom have the opportunity to handle cables, this monthâs column may not seem interesting, but everybody involved in television field operations has to handle them at one time or another. Thatâs for sure. There are hazards and benefits certain cables bring. Some of these characteristics are as follows: nÊElectrical Shock Hazard: Cables are made to carry electrical power, and will do so up to the point of mechanical failure. With excessive voltage/current exposure, multiconductor cable insulation melts and soon contacting conductors create a larger overall conductor. Wow!

Different vehicles, buildings, or areas in buildings might have different voltages and grounds. Hooking up a cable from one to another may demonstrate this difference, and it should be considered dangerous at all times to hold a conductive part of a cable while contacting any object which might have a different potential. When approaching an unknown, holding cables by their insulation at arms length, then lightly striking the connector on the ground of the destination connector is a means of seeing if there is any problem. A voltmeter, of course, is more desirable, but this is not always an option, nor is a voltmeter always true, or foolproof in operation.

Trip Or Overhead Hazard: It almost goes without saying that cables are a real trip hazard. Itâs necessary that any cable that runs over sidewalks, hallways, or other places where there will be pedestrian traffic has a covering such as a heavy mat, which is light, or a special flat cable trough, available from office suppliers. When going up stairs, sometimes cables can be run up the railing supports, not the rails, which keeps them off stairs and railings as well. Itâs debatable whether three or four cables side by side are better than the same cables wrapped up in one bundle. It seems no matter what you do, somebody will find a way to trip over them. Visibility then, is a big issue. Using Day-Glo orange paint to paint stripes on cables while coiled will enhance visibility, as the paint will mark the cable every few feet.

Bright colored crepe paper is also a good cable marker. Itâs cheap, and can easily be wound/tied on cables to make them visible, and is even strong enough to suspend light cables safely. Itâs also light and easy to carry. After all is done, it rips easily and can be disposed of in a short amount of time.

Going through doorways? Doorways are also cable cutters. Try using a 12-inch section of 2-inch PVC pipe which has a split/channel cut into one side to facilitate cable entry, and use that as the item the door will whack when it closes. You can even place station stickers or logos on the pipe for added visibility.

nÊContact Hazard: Cables are routinely dragged on floors, sidewalks, and street gutters, places where all the bad stuff on the planet seems to end up. This includes animal body waste as well as vehicle fluids, exhaust particles, and other hazardous chemicals and compounds. Many technicians wrap cables with bare hands, exposing themselves to these materials, as well as small sharp particles, dirt, grime and bacteria. Hand contact is one of the most frequent means of spreading disease, and contaminated hands can spread it literally anywhere. At the very least, protective gloves should be used, with hand washing, even with bottled hand cleaners, a routine part of the live shot wrap.

Cables are everything good and everything bad for anyone who needs to use them. Itâs a matter of common sense, however, to understand the big picture when using them. If stations can afford to do so, wireless communications can save cable setup time, help avoid dangers, liability, and the universal hassle for all who understand cable÷cable spaghetti!