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Volume 31, Issue 4

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 When ABC's "Good Morning America" debuted in their new Times Square studio on September 13, one of the program's main features - a huge electronic billboard outside the studio - was nearly a no-show.

 The 122-foot by 48-foot electronic sign is designed to engage the show's daily visitors and viewers. The billboard can accept real-time video feeds and broadcast-quality graphics. The integrated Sony JumboTron' screen broadcasts ABC's special event entertainment and information through the day in a wide screen format. The electronic billboard contains 2,300,000 LED's (light emitting diodes), making it the largest curved LED billboard in the world.

During the premiere broadcast, the new electronic billboard played a major role in showcasing "Good Morning America's" new studio. But a huge thunderstorm that occurred days earlier almost ruined the sign - and the show's hopes of using it.

The problem was that the front of the gargantuan sign was designed to take the abuse of bad weather; the back of the sign was not. To make it worse, the sign had not been properly enclosed.

 The back of the sign (the brain), composed of myriads of connections for power, circuit boards, and fiber optics, was exposed to a torrent of rain. The billboard had been installed before the studio roof was intact. Water streamed down the front of the building and down behind the sign - a financial tragedy in the making.

Water seeped between the light panel and the protective barrier for the circuit boards. Every board got wet. To complicate matters, the rushing water picked up acidity from the tarred roof, further endangering the backs of the circuit boards with corrosive properties.

Pentagon Technologies was summoned on Monday afternoon, September 6, giving Labor Day a new meaning to their technicians. Atlanta-based Director of Pentagon's Disaster Recovery Division, Bill Williams, was on Times Square the next morning. Hours later, five fully-equipped specialists were ready to handle a bear of a job.

"What we did first," says Williams, "was establish a recovery protocol and obtain approval to proceed. The union removed the panels of the monster sign - then we set up our decontamination recovery station."

Twenty 4' x 4' foot light panels were disassembled, cleaned and rebuilt. Forty-eight light clusters were removed (300 screws per panel); gaskets had to be lifted, cleaned and dried. Light clusters were then replaced with a bead of silicone caulk for added protection. Once the front panel had been rebuilt, it was flipped and all ribbon cable and circuit boards were removed and chemically cleaned. Boards were completely reassembled, reconnected and replaced. Additional silicone conformal coating was applied to prevent a breach of environmental hazards.

 The remaining 275 panels were cleaned in place using a compressor, with everything described above as part of the tedious process.

With the cleaning and re-assembling completed, the complex diagnostics of the computer programs that provide video, text, and graphics could then be run.

"Our response is always dictated by the client's operational requirements," says Williams. "It took our guys four long days to complete the job, but well within the seven days allowed by ABC. It took skill, agility and determination to negotiate the scaffolding and confined spaces. I'm proud of our boys."


Joe Scibetta works with Pentagon Technologies, a subsidiary of MPW Industrial Services Group Inc. Pentagon specializes in disaster recovery, cleanroom cleaning, equipment cleaning, technical services, and more.