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Last night there was a severe thunderstorm. The Digital TV signal went out entirely.

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Firespirit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 05:16 PM
Original message
Last night there was a severe thunderstorm. The Digital TV signal went out entirely.
A severe thunderstorm producing pretty much everything except tornadoes passed through my area last night rather unexpectedly. We just pick up the free signals, no $100 cable or satellite bill for financial reasons, and this was the first major storm to come through since we installed those converter boxes.

The electricity never went out during the storm, somehow. However the digital signal, on all channels (we're able to pick up 10-12) went out. With analog it would have been fuzzy, but you at least would have been able to see and hear if, for example, they announced a tornado warning. With the digital transmission, there was nothing. Evidently this is how the technology works; you get a perfect picture or a black screen.

I could disconnect the digital box and pick up the analog signal last night to find out if, you know, it was OK to walk around in the house, or if I needed to get to the tornado shelter spot. Next spring, next tornado season, when TV goes fully digital, no one will have that luxury. Looks like you'll have to pay to get public safety information, and if you can't, then when your area is being hit by a storm and it decides to drop a funnel when the poor man's DTV signal is out, you're SOL.

As far as I am concerned, it is a public hazard. No matter how nice the picture, or how many bells and whistles DTV may have when it works, if it makes it harder to broadcast public warnings to EVERYONE with TV -- not just those who can afford cable -- it is a downgrade.

Is there any way to get the FCC to mandate more robust DTV signals be used?
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2KS2KHonda Donating Member (508 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 05:18 PM
Response to Original message
1. Just get a decent antenna.
Edited on Sun Aug-03-08 05:20 PM by 2KS2KHonda
It ain't rocket science.
edit: The better converter boxes have analog passthrough.
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Firespirit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 05:27 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. It's a $60 antenna, and I guess you missed the part about no spare cash just lying around.
There's this thing on called a downturn, and it's actually affecting many people's wallets.

Your deep, abiding concern is noted, however.

Also, analog pass-through won't help when all TV broadcasting goes digital, next year, right before tornado season. Last night wasn't a huge deal. Next year is a very serious concern for me.
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2KS2KHonda Donating Member (508 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-04-08 12:35 PM
Response to Reply #2
17. Sorry I didn't intend to be rude! My partner deals with these situations for a living
and I often help...the price of an antenna doesn't necessarily correlate with how well it will work. Some are marketed as "digital" or "HD" antennas which is just sales hype...all TV antennas work exactly the same way! It is true, though, that receiving digital broadcasts -does- require a better one than for analog because as you pointed out the signal is either pretty much perfect or not there at all! We find that almost all problems are one of the following:

antenna is simply not "strong" enough - (too small, not enough elements, etc.) for the location
antenna not pointed properly (especially if you are a long way from the transmitters)
loose, corroded or improperly installed cabling from antenna to TV






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Mojorabbit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 05:29 PM
Response to Original message
3. I am worried about this too
esp now that it is hurricane season. We have small tv's that are battery powered for when we lose power so that we can find out what is going on, ie where to get ice etc... I think it was a bad idea myself to do this without some sort of back up.
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ngant17 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 05:31 PM
Response to Original message
4. I keep a shortwave radio for emergencies
but I would think any old AM or FM radio would work for picking up important broadcast information, especially with regard to weather.

A tuned antenna for radio and/or TV is always a good idea, too.

Often, an old-fashioned landline phone will still keep its signal even when AC power is out. Because AT&T companies supply the 48 volts DC signal themselves over the phone line, so as long as there is the voltage, you will have a voice connection. So having some emergency numbers for information purposes might be helpful.

Granted TV video signal may be important in emergencies for hearing-impaired and someone needs the closed-captioned text, but for the rest of us, audio will suffice for getting immediate access to information in emergencies.
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Firespirit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 05:37 PM
Response to Reply #4
6. I'm afraid I may have to set aside a fund for a weather radio
This pay-to-survive world makes me sick, however, especially since so many financial safety nets have been gutted.
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kestrel91316 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 06:02 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. A selection of hand-crank weather radios for your perusal:
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SmileyRose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 07:02 PM
Response to Reply #6
10. I've seen battery powered ones at Best Buy for about $10.
The hand crank kind at Sports Authority in the camping department run about $20. I realize that is a lot of money for some people but if you have managed to afford to switch to DTV before there is an actual need to do so then you might be able to eventually come up with the $10 or $20 to keep your family alive. :)
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Firespirit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 07:52 PM
Response to Reply #10
11. I didn't realize they were that cheap
We got two rebate coupons for the boxes, so they ended up being very cheap, and $20 for DSL is obviously not a problem... just can't justify cable in a household where no one really watches much TV in the first place.

These weather radios, do the broadcasts describe in realtime where the spots of bad hail, winds, rotation, etc., are? The local TV station puts up hi-res radar maps with these features labeled. It's incredibly useful. I know how to find these radars online as well, I'm something of a weather geek, but DSL goes out in bad weather and I don't want to be dicking around with the modem (and computer motherboard!) when there is lightning. Any notice of a warning is better than nothing, of course, but I'm just wondering how much detail they go into on the NWS broadcasts.
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SmileyRose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 08:40 PM
Response to Reply #11
12. This is what I have
http://www.hurricanestore.com/product159.html - mine can be powered multiple ways, has a pretty decent flashlight and can even charge my cell - I got mine directly from the Red Cross but that link is the same thing I have. We use it all the time for camping.

I have never used the NOAA weather alert feature but I believe it only tells you what the national weather service watches and warnings are. Which usually included information like "the national weather service has issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Bartow county from 5:23pm to 6:45pm. This storm may produce cloud to ground lightening, heavy rains, winds exceeding 50mph and hail. The storm is currently located 4 miles east of Rome and is moving in a northeasterly direction at 35mph. If you are in the path of this storm take shelter."

You get what I mean. -- the same basic thing they put on the TV scroll bar or when they break into AM radio with weather alerts.
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Retrograde Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 05:32 PM
Response to Original message
5. What would you do if the power were out?
Do you have satellite or cable? Or are you referring to broadcast? If you have satellite, then the dish has to be able to see the signal: I've found that heavy rainstorms sometimes interfere with reception for the same reason that I can't see across the street in those conditions.

If you're worried about emergency updates radio is a better source than TV. There's a reason emergency preparedness guidelines tell you to include a battery powered radio rather than a TV.
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Firespirit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 09:47 PM
Response to Reply #5
15. I said in the post that there is no cable or satellite
It takes a really bad storm to knock out the power where I am; typically 80 mph winds, in which case it is a "get to shelter" situation anyway, because that might as well be a tornado. When Hurricane Ivan passed over as a strong TS/minimal hurricane, power never went out.

The digital signal, however, is apparently quite weak.

I just don't think it's asking too much for the new technology to be as robust as the old. We really don't need to go back to the bad old days when people's only warning about a tornado was what they saw (or perhaps heard, if it's night) coming for them. When the Weather Service began broadcasting warnings, the death toll dropped precipitously. I suppose our brethren ( :puke:) across the aisle have some kind of social Darwinist outlook towards natural disasters, of course they do, but we're better than that.
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dweller Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 06:27 PM
Response to Original message
8. when i was shopping for converter boxes
the clerk told me it would go out in a storm much like the satellites do. They knew it would.

i haven't bought the box yet.
dp
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KatyaR Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 06:55 PM
Response to Original message
9. This is what I've been saying,
but all these naysayers keep telling me to quit worrying. It's hard to quit worrying when you live in the middle of Tornado Alley.

Luckily most TV stations here also broadcast their audio over local FM stations when the weather's bad. I guess that's some consolation.

I keep hoping that this will be cancelled or delayed, but I guess the stations have spent too much money for that to happen.
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SmileyRose Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 08:47 PM
Response to Reply #9
13. The purpose of going digital
is to free up the analog channels for emergency personnel. This was a real problem with 911 and can only be solved by getting them more bandwidth. That's my understanding anyways. I think the gist of it is that Digital uses less of the bandwidth than analog does, and the extra will be returned the government to be used however they like. This means they can set aside a better bandwidth all over the country for emergency personel that is currently used in some markets for TV - and some of the extra bandwidth can be leased out for other reasons.

This from CNN explains it pretty good.

http://www.cnn.com/2006/TECH/07/13/digital.tv/index.htm...
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lynnertic Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-04-08 10:07 AM
Response to Reply #13
16. oh, I thought they were going to sell the bandwidth to cellphone co's.
I am usually mistaken.
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tammywammy Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Aug-03-08 08:58 PM
Response to Original message
14. You should get a weather radio
If the power goes out your tv's not going to work regardless if it's analog or digital. I'd suggest investing in a hand-cranked or battery operated weather radio for severe weather.
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Cessna Invesco Palin Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Aug-04-08 12:44 PM
Response to Original message
18. Several things.
1) Buy a battery powered radio. This is good advice for anybody in an area prone to natural disasters of any kind.

2) This only affects digital satellite broadcasts, not cable.

<i>Is there any way to get the FCC to mandate more robust DTV signals be used?</i>

Those satellites cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 million apiece, I believe. You can't just mandate their replacement.
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