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I need to keep a radio station running after an Apocalypse. There is no power grid of course.

Details of apocalypse are not entirely set in stone. The only rules to this question are those annotated below.

  1. No zombies.
  2. No power grid.
  3. Those who can not listen to this broadcast slowly lose their sanity.
  4. The broadcasts played by this station keeps people from going mad (the Madness).
  5. If the broadcast stops playing, you have a few hours before you go raving mad.
  6. The only survivors are those listening to this station.
  7. Everyone else has gone all sorts of mad, raving, & crazy, losing their self identity in various ways.
  8. The station owner knows these facts.
  9. So do the survivors (eventually)
  10. The station crew must keep the station transmitting even after loss of the power grid.
  11. They must maintain all required upkeep as well.
  12. The Station must listen to it's own broadcasts to stay sane.
  13. Any thing broadcast by the tower protects against the Madness.
  14. Once you succumb to the madness there's no recovery.
  15. If it's only been couple of hours without a broadcast and you haven't fully succumbed to the Madness, you might sometimes recover slowly by listening to the broadcast.
  16. It's only this station and none others that has this effect, and those outside of its range are doomed.
  17. Broadcast Range is perhaps 200 miles.
  18. Location is a made up small town near Savannah, Georgia.
  19. The broadcast must be playing within earshot while you sleep, or you wake up mad.
  20. The station is not the cause of the Madness.
  21. As I do not know with good knowledge all of the supplies needed in detail to run a Radio Station, all I can put out at this moment is the following :

a. There are multiple nearby military bases, and they have not been too looted.

b. The mad/crazy people don't use many supplies (if any), and they make up the majority of the population. This allows for extra resources.

c. Since not everyone listened to the station, only a few people are even active utilizing supplies. So resources are not scarce.

d. Supplies with shelf lives/expiration dates are unusable in some instances.

e. This is a simple small town with only a couple of fast food restaurants, some gas stations, and a Wally-Market.

NOW BACK TO THE QUESTION:

How do I keep my radio station running and supply power and other necessities?

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  • $\begingroup$ As specifically as you can, tell us (a) where this station is located and (b) what its broadcast range is expected to be. $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 8 '18 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ Oh, and welcome to Worldbuilding.SE! When you have a moment, please take our tour and visit our help center to learn more about us. Cheers! $\endgroup$ – JBH Jun 8 '18 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ We also need to know what kind of materials and supplies are available to work with. Also, 12 and 13 directly conflict with each other. $\endgroup$ – Aify Jun 8 '18 at 1:41
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    $\begingroup$ What happens when you sleep ? $\endgroup$ – StephenG Jun 8 '18 at 1:54
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    $\begingroup$ As JBH said, welcome to Worldbuilding! You may also find Worldbuilding Meta and The Sandbox useful. Have fun! $\endgroup$ – FoxElemental Jun 8 '18 at 14:37
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In the long run this is hopeless. You do not have the population to repair things as they wear out, and the requirement to listen means you can't go very far away to scavenge stuff.

The problem is even worse for everyone else--you have to power their radios also.

Edit: Last night I had another thought: Since it doesn't matter what the station is sending out the real reason must be something unintended going out on the signal. As things break down and get repaired/replaced someday you're going to replace the wonky part that causing the unintended signal. By the time you realize what's happened it's going to be too late to save the day.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm starting to think the best work around then is to simply get rid of thd idea that the tower or amp is somehow the source of the protection effect. If I changed it to the radio announcers voice instead and made it a talk radio I could solve so many problems. But then that creates new ones... $\endgroup$ – Pecos Jun 8 '18 at 10:38
  • $\begingroup$ Excellent point, overlooked in some other answers, that transmitting is only half of successful radio. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 8 '18 at 18:54
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Well clearly the radio station is the cause of the madness due to subliminals hidden in the audio stream.

While you listen to it, it's under control but kicks into gear once it stops kinda like a drug withdrawal effect.

Keeping the station going is easy. You can have wind and solar power on site or even nuclear batteries that last for hundreds of years.

The problem with your story isn't the station but the listeners. How will everyone keep a radio going 24/7? Where are the batteries?

A minute is far far too short a time without the effects kicking in. It would be too dangerous to leave the station to scavenge food and water let alone spare parts.

Dropping your radio is a death sentence because you have no time to find another or fix it. Even trying to change the batteries is risky.

I'd recommend a at least a week which would allow survivors to travel to get spares if something breaks.

A minute means everyone would go mad before you could replace a simple fuse.

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  • $\begingroup$ Good point on the minute, I will adjust that, thanks. $\endgroup$ – Pecos Jun 8 '18 at 2:21
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If you want it to keep running then you need power. If you want it to keep running forever with no interruption, then you need a reliable source of power.

Your literally going to use back up generators. Nothing else will have close to that level of reliability.

There are three generator types I could imagine being used which would be reliable enough. Petrol, Coal and Hydro.

  • Petrol: Scavenge around and take petrol from gas stations and cars. This should last you a while and you can probably use anything oily as you start to run out
  • Coal: Coal or wood, basically a steam engine. There should be plenty of vegetation you can use and plenty of bodies you can try burn. You could probably also use oil or gas if you really need to.
  • Hydro: Build an engine run by a stream or multiple streams. This would probably more long term than coal and petrol but it really depends on your location and the weather.

You would also throw in a couple of batteries that can last an hour or two so if anything goes wrong or anything is sabotaged you have some time to fix the problem.

Now your probably wondering why not renewables like solar or wind. You could use solar or wind, but it has to be in conjunction with a back up power source above because you can't guarantee that solar or wind will be reliable enough on its own. You can have a massive battery if you want, but a weeks worth of run while you need to power a radio station 24/7 is going to be difficult. A weeks worth of ran could take out your solar and with your batteries degrading over time your not going to last as long over time. With wind your going to have problems if the wind speed is too high or low when you will need to shut them off so you don't damage the turbine.

You could also go nuclear or geothermal, but I don't think your radio station staff will even know where to start with that stuff.

If you happened to have a large Dam, I would go with hydro, it should be able to support you for an extremely long time, but all power sources will fail over time if they are not maintained and aren't constantly refueled.

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    $\begingroup$ 50kw is the maximum transmitter output currently permitted in the USA. A 75kw petrol generator (since you need more than just the transmitter) consumes about 145 gallons/day, or about 53,000 gallons the first year while the crew builds the more-permanent steam engine. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jun 8 '18 at 2:41
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The easiest short terms solution would probably be diesel or gasoline generators. The other solutions offered are great, but have the requirement of needing a long time to install. Unless the station owner rigged the broadcast tower weeks before the madness began, I doubt anyone would be sane long enough to get anything done.

Portable generators, however, can be found in hardware stores, garages, and construction sites fairly easily. Fuel for them would also be easy to find (at first). Just siphon the gas tanks of abandoned cars. This wouldn't be a permanent solution, mind you, but its a great way to keep everyone sane enough to look for a permanent solution.

Before I move onto some of those long-term ideas, I agree that emergency batteries would be a smart idea. If one of the survivors is cleaver enough, maybe they would rig up an array of car batteries and a transformer. Its not exactly elegant, but it could buy everyone a couple hours while the generator is being repaired or replaced.

Okay, long term ideas:

  • Tap into an existing power source. The main grids may be down, but the hydroelectric dam or modern windmill didn't stop turning motion into electricity. Then again, both of those do tend to break when not maintained. I guess this depends on what skills the survivors have.
  • Build a steam generator. Yes, this is a technological step backward, but it allows the survivors to get power from felled trees, decimated houses, bags of barbecue charcoal, and literally everything else than can burn. Plus its a lot easier than trying to divert a river or run miles of cable. That being said . . .
  • Get a PA system installed, aka the announcements you hear in schools and supermarkets. This would cut down on the number of handheld radios (and handheld radio batteries) needed, as it could share the same power source(s) as the radio tower itself. Strapping speakers to the outside of the tower would be a good start and establish a base-camp, but the long term goal would be a network that covers the entire town and whatever lands are being used to farm.

Lastly, classical music is a good choice, but the station owner has some other options. For example, you could try to rule the group like a cult leader by broadcasting a "magic spell", which is just a recording of his own voice saying meaningful-sounding nonsense. Or maybe he is of a more traditional religious mindset and broadcasts hymns, only stopping when the group starts persecuting the unbelievers in their midst. Maybe the broadcast starting out as continuous SOS with their coordinates and switched to something more pleasing to the ear when it became clear no help was coming. Just spit balling some plot points, really.

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Power

PV cells, windmill, and watermills are all viable options for the medium term.

PV cells will work as is for some time, especially if you can scavenge and trade for replacements, and store these replacements safely for long term. There will be a bunch lying around in various installation; especially in Florida, not too far from your location. However, there is no real good answer for generating power at night, or storing power overnight, so this might not work.

Windmills and watermills can provide electric power with primitive dynamos. The wind and watermills themselves are decidedly ancient technologies, and with sufficient technical expertise, they can be kept working just with masonry and wood, although iron/steel parts would be better. On the minus side, Savannah is low and flat and none of the nearby rivers will be good for power generation. It also isn't generally windy, but when it does get wind it is a hurricane.

Honestly, I'd head upriver to the Piedmont (Anderson, SC or at least Augusta) to get enough flow power in the rivers to effectively generate power.

Radio equipment

A radio transmission antenna is just a piece of metal, so that can be maintained with near-medieval blacksmithing skills. That part isn't a problem.

Transmission range is just a function of power and frequency. The radio doesn't have to be AM (amplitude modulation) unless you want it to be; the advantage of using AM and FM in the established frequency ranges (in the US at least) is that off-the shelf radios can pick up their signals. But a frequency tuner is a very simple electric device, easily modified with a soldering iron (some labeled resistors from Radio Shack or an ohmmeter would be handy, though). There isn't a need to restrict yourself to those frequencies; the motivation to change frequencies is to get better signal transmission. For example, in the HF range, sound quality goes down but transmission distance goes way up.

I bring this up because there is a reliable source of high quality, high power, high reliability radio equipment near Savannah: Fort Stewart, home of 3rd Infantry Division. Military personnel radios are just perfect for this job: they are super rugged, have parts on hand, manuals for repairing them, and last forever. I can tell you first hand that as a radio technician in the Marine Corps, ~2004, we pulled Korean War era radios out of the junkyard and had them serviceable within a day. These things hadn't been powered in 30 years, but they started right up, and were able to transmit clearly from Florida to Hawaii with a bit of cleaning.

VHF radios are only going to be line of sight, and both traditional AM and FM ranges are VHF. To get a 200 mile line of sight you are going to have to built some real tall towers, especially with all the trees in Georgia; probably not feasible post-apocalypse. HF radios will give you that range on the cheap by bouncing signal off the ionosphere. Military HF radios that you might find include the PRC-104, which is man portable, and the GRC-193 which is usually vehicle installed.

The size of the radio itself doesn't really matter, you will need to rig up some amplification system to get the signal strong enough out the antenna. I could go into detail here, but suffice to say that any old electrical engineer that paid attention in class can probably make this work, once you have a stable power source (from a watermill).

Conclusion

Totally doable! The limitation in time is when the military radios start breaking down. As long as you get a good sized cache of them (and there are plenty of other very large military bases within a few days travel of you; Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort; Fort Benning in Columbus, GA; various Naval Bases around Jacksonville, Fl; Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina, etc.), you could expect at least some of the radios to last > 50 years.

After that, you are on your own with the Madness, but suffice to say the radios should last as long than the people alive at the time of the Apocalypse.

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  • $\begingroup$ I guess it doesn't have to strictly be AM then! $\endgroup$ – Pecos Jun 8 '18 at 13:07
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Any car with an alternator is effectively a portable generator and before the petrol runs out you should be able to get a diesel engine running on vegetable oil and animal fats. In the long run you'll be better off relocated to the nearest hydroelectric power source, if you do some research you'll be surprised how common they are.

I had an idea like this a while back, I figured some eldritch god or whatever was attacking humanity and although it couldn't overcome our conscious minds it could manipulate us subconsciously. Music drowned out its influence much like wearing headphones drowns out someone trying to speak to you, without music people become increasingly unstable as the god plays on their fears, insecurities, anger and paranoia. It's possible to recover from the god's influence, it's like having a bad friend trying to convince you that your girlfriend's cheating on you. If you know he's full of shit you'll recover easily, if there's some truth to his accusations or you're insecure his influence may have permanently damaged your relationship.

Someone's ability to resist the god's influence depends upon their willpower and emotional maturity, people who fall to its influence become unpredictable and violent, or kill themselves.

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POWER:
- An array (big enough) of solar panels to get energy from the sun in the day.
- Eolic generators (wind turbines) to get energy at night (and day also).
- An array of rechargable batteries to have a buffer.

FOOD:
Assuming there are no Walmarts available, you will need:
- An orchard big enough to provide the broadcasters with vegetables and fruits.
- A little farm (perhaps chickens and a cow or a goat) to have milk and eggs.
- The animals will also be feed with the production of the orchad.
- If you have no water, you will also need to dig a water well, or build an atmospheric water condenser. Have you seen how the water drops from an air conditioner? That is the basic process. You can see an example here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6w0-RkDnLA
- Also a big container and a plumbing system to gather water from the rain and store it.

RECYCLE EVERYTHING
- Since there will be no stores around, you must reuse and recycle as much as you can.

And of course, without electricity you will need fuel to burn (for light, heat and cook). You can cultivate potatoes to get alcohol. Details here: http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1755-1315/73/1/012003/pdf

And finally, soon or later you will eventually need to scavenger the surroundings in order to find spare parts for your survival machines.

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Easy solution? There is river in Savannah, and you can use watermill scrapped from e. g. nearby open air museum combined with some gears to power up dynamo, you can have 2 wheels, and being able to switch which one powers broadcast, for maybe routine conservation, it sounds like too much? You do not need to power Savannah in georgia, you only need to power broadcast from Savannah in Georgia, also you might lower usage by leaving oceans without broadcast and sending signal only over land. and survivors could use dynamo+battery combo to power up radio recievers on their side, this might seem hard, until you realise that bike will do.

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I'd like to throw my 2 cents in, but I'd need a start.

Say, 'apocalypse'.

What happened, EXACTLY? Asteroid? Nuclear war? Epidemic? Without understanding how badly was the environment affected, the lack of power grid is the LEAST of the problems. We need to know what stripped civilization on a global scale and see if there are the conditions to operate so that the broadcast can continue.

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  • $\begingroup$ As detailed above, everyone went mad and ceased to function except for those who were listening to this radio station. Picture a planet full of the worst a sanitarium has to offer. That Madness is the apocalypse that shut down civilization. $\endgroup$ – Pecos Jun 10 '18 at 0:40

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