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Rescuing Electronic Gear After The Flood

Not long ago, Queensland endured some of the worst flooding on record. During this time I was offered the opportunity to recover some radio receivers that would otherwise have ended up as landfill.

by Robert Googe

The equipment concerned was ex-Army communication receivers, Rohde and Schwarz ESMC 0.5-650MHz, about fifteen years old. The receivers were stored in a shed that that went to the roof in floodwater and remained so for a day or two.

The owner had picked them up at auction and was in the process of selling them on a popular internet auction site.

Electronics gear, especially the older stuff, is like artwork – its beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

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Just as they were about to be auctioned off on the internet, the once-in-a-lifetime flood decided to wreak its havoc (for the second time this life- time!). Some of these Rohde and Schwartz receivers were consigned to the scrap heap . . . but I couldn’t resist having a go at trying to clean some of them up and get them going!

Where some would have turfed these straight on the scrap heap, the magpie nature in me couldn’t resist a challenge. Rohde and Schwarz equipment is well built and has a good name, so I picked up six of the better looking units to take home and repair.

The rest were consigned to the pile of ruined memories on the footpath outside, like the contents of so many other flood-affected houses in our area.

If you are going to try this sort of flood recovery of electronic equipment you need to pick your targets. Some things, like speakers and gear with non-removable batteries can be a lost cause.

As with most flood events, the effects on equipment change with many different factors. Floodwater might be clean, like rainwater runoff or a broken pipe; the flood event may only last a few minutes or even seconds.

In this flood, the water was brown, silt-laden (and who knows what else) and lasted a day or two, the water backing up a small creek that led to the local river.

The longer gear is submerged in the flood water, the more it will accumulate silt and muck. The last local flood of this calibre was in 1974 and most places were flooded for a week or more. After that length of time immersed in flood water, equipment recovery gets very difficult.

Each situation requires its own assessment as to the worthiness of an attempted recovery and special consideration needs to be given to high voltage and mains-powered gear.

Never try to power up electrical equipment that has come in contact with water until it has been fully checked by a suitably experienced person.

And remember your personal hygiene: flood water can contain all sorts of contaminants, from industrial chemicals to raw sewage. If you are at all suspicious about any contaminants, use gloves and wash your hands! Even a face mask might not go astray.

Having never really attempted flood recovery before, it was time to sit down and have a think about how to go about this.

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