Radio communication

I think I asked this before, but I can't find the thread, and maybe technology has improved since I last thought about it.

Does anyone have a recommendation for handheld radio's that can be used to communicate with my wife/family during a disaster where cell communication is down?  I don't have a HAM license, and even if I did, my wife would never get one, so I'm looking for a commercial solution.  Need about fifteen miles range from Pear Harbor.

Original Post

General Mobile Radio Service, or GMRS, may meet your requirement.

https://www.fcc*gov/bureau-div...e-radio-service-gmrs  

https://en.wikipedia*org/wiki/...Mobile_Radio_Service

The Wiki article gives more info than the FCC entry.  

You will have to register with the FCC to be legit.

FRS, Family Radio Service is shorter range but requires no license.  There are some common channels between FRS and GMRS.

http://wiki.radioreference*com...mbined_channel_chart 

 Check to see if you can actually communicate between work and home.  UHF comms are rather terrain dependent and generally line of sight.   Antennae can overcome terrain restrictions but you will have to test for your needs.

If you do choose GMRS, do a communications survey to see which channels are most heavily used, the choose three other channels and privacy codes and program them into  your scan function.  Then write them down.  This will not secure your comms but it will give an edge over the other nuggets who never bother to change from the factory default settings.

The Technician Class Amateur license is easy enough to get.  I managed it after eight hours of study at a "Ham-Cram".

Sincerely,

 

Trajan Aurelius

 

 

When violence is the local language, be fluent.

Correct. A GMRS license is a yearly thing (I think) and the HAM license is 10 years.  Test for a HAM license, no test for a GMRS.    (There was a change in regards to the GMRS thing just a short time ago-weeks or months, so check with the FCC.)

  I could never understand it- I study and take a test for a HAM tech license, which cost me $14  (as I recall) and allowed me a whole gaggle of channels, and good for  10 years.    But if I want to use a pair of those blister pack GMRS/FRS China-mart radios, it cost $80 for one year- and how many people actually get a license?     (If you want to split hairs, generally speaking a HAM license is good for the person on the license, a GMRS license is good for your whole family.)  Either way....something in there just doesn't seem right.

  

GMRS is $70 for 5 years.  No test req'd.  Uses some of the same frequencies as the blister pack radios, however the hardware is more reliable.  If you're looking for disaster comms frankly I think the FCC will have better things to do than track down 2 hand held radios.

"Experience is directly proportional to the amount of equipment broken"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-Use_Radio_Service ?

In addition to GMRS/FRS and MURS, I also came across information regarding "Direct Talk" cell phones. If I remember correctly, they performed roughly as well as the previously mentioned radio types but had some sort of security features in place.
I don't remember much about them, but there was a whole bunch of "information" out there on various "survivalist" websites and what not.

______________

"A pistol is what you carry when you do not expect a problem. If you expect a problem you can't avoid, and you are not taking a long gun, you are not very smart." - DM

 

Joined: 04Nov2007         Location: Indiana

Also a thought here that might offer an alternative- Multi-Use Radio Service. 

For some edumacation:  http://wiki.radioreference.com...ti-Use_Radio_Service  and  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-Use_Radio_Service

If you do some research and find the right programmable radios, you should be able to have the MURS channels available for practice/normal use, and be able to monitor GMRS/FRS and HAM nets... and transmit on them when the shit demons start coming out of the toilets.  At least, that's the concept that I came up with when I was looking at this problem a few years ago. 

I'm far from a commo SME, so I'm sure that plan is full of holes somehow, but it's served me well on several multi-vehicle family road trips so far.  I've got several handhelds to pass out to various 'elements' and I run a mobile unit in my truck.  One day if the gov't ever stops moving me around, I might throw an antenna up on whatever house I'm in to work into my commo plan.

Range wise, I'm not sure if you'd get the full 15 miles you want on the handhelds right out of the box, but you probably could if you got creative with antennas or base stations.  Again, not an expert.

--Dave

 

"Do not touch anything unnecessarily. Beware of pretty girls in dance halls and parks who may be spies, as well as bicycles, revolvers, uniforms, arms, dead horses, and men lying on roads -- they are not there accidentally."

Yup, too slow on the draw.  FastSS beat me to the punch while I was typing.

--Dave

 

"Do not touch anything unnecessarily. Beware of pretty girls in dance halls and parks who may be spies, as well as bicycles, revolvers, uniforms, arms, dead horses, and men lying on roads -- they are not there accidentally."

IMO spend a lot of time reading the radioreference and related resources on MURS. The FCC does some odd shit, and I believe MURS radios need to be type certified. I've not found GMRS/FRS radios that do MURS, or the other way around.

That might be different if a HAM license is in play. I didn't get too far into that information as it doesn't apply to me.

______________

"A pistol is what you carry when you do not expect a problem. If you expect a problem you can't avoid, and you are not taking a long gun, you are not very smart." - DM

 

Joined: 04Nov2007         Location: Indiana

There is some confusion on MURS certification. Most seem to be of the opinion that a commercial part 90 is ok as long as power and antenna provisions are followed. Some insist must be part 95 approved. IMHO, don't see anyone being cited for using a part 90 radio. MURS is much better than FRS. Both are licensed by rule.

GMRS allows more power and the use of repeaters. You may find a repeater owner that will allow you to use their repeater. The repeater may or may not be available in hard times. License covers your family no test, just pay for the license. There is also some differing opinions on the use of part 90 radios. Almost all with exception of bubble pack radios are part 90. FCC has never to my knowledge cited or warned anyone about using part 90 radios.

Amateur radio is great IF you can get your family members licensed. It is not that hard to to pass the Technician test. Technician gets access to all frequencies above 50 MHz. 6 meters is great for simplex mobile comms and there is very little traffic. Not very good for handheld radios due to the size of an efficient antenna.2 meters is better for handhelds.With a little more work a General license allows HF access on all bands.License is good for 10 years and is free. Morse code is no longer a requirement. If you take the practice tests online repeatedly you will see all of the questions in the pool and can memorize the answers without learning anything about radio.

 

Sorry forgot to mention range. 15 miles with FRS or MURS is not going to happen unless one of you happens to be on very high ground with line of sight and on a clear frequency. Anything handheld is not going to get that range without a repeater except for ideal line of sight. GMRS mobile to a well situated base or mobile maybe.

6 meters mobile to mobile or mobile to base could provide that range. 

One way to study for the test is to download the test questions and answer from the FCC.  Yes they are posted for free.  There is a pool of questions from which the tests have a portion.  For example, if there are 40 questions on radio procedure, only 8 will be on the test.  Study only the correct answer.  When you see the question on the the test only the correct answer will seem to be the answer to choose.

Sincerely,

 

Trajan Aurelius

 

 

When violence is the local language, be fluent.

If you looking at getting a HAM license you can take a cram course which will get you through to get your license. However, I highly recommend you take a class through your local HAM club. This will give you a good support base where you can go for questions after you get the license.  The club I belong to will loan you equipment to try out. 

Yep but if you truly want to do it right you need a general license. 

IMPORTANT NOTE

For those who want to remain off the grid if you get license  and call sign there is a directory with name and address of every ham license......it is public record open to everyone. Just saying

As for the HAM stuff, I would say go for it, because you can use stuff like autopatches to make phone calls and other cool stuff before big disasters.

That said, the FCC tossed in a little blurb about 'emergencies' and you can pretty much transmit on whatever in an emergency. Something to remember, and almost all of us here have a .mil/.leo background, so we know radio rules.

For a handheld, get a Baofeng. The little bastards are around $40, a programing cable is $20, and the program (CHiRP) is free. You can program ALL of the GMRS, Marine VHF, MURS, FRS, CB (new and old), local LEO/EMS etc. onto one radio.

I also have one in my truck (Juntai JT6188) that does all of that too, for $75.

These radios are NOT bullet proof like a Kenwood or an iCom (I have those too, sealed in ammo boxes), so don't expect them to be. But, they're essentially cheap enough to be disposable.

Bart

"I've got an 8 man team and we're at the Michael Jackson Theater. There's a thousand people in there. We'll protect them."

Unit 792, 01Oct17

I was traveling in Southern California on a trip and needed up talking to a guy who had a small handheld ham radio. I asked him if it really was worth it. He told how he was able to use his handheld to phone his wife from northern Italy. So with everyone using cellphones why have a ham, redundancy. In a major disaster you may  not be able to depend upon that smartphone you just spent $1,000 on.

Part 97 : Sec. 97.403 Safety of life and protection of property


No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station of any means of radio communication at its disposal to provide essential communication needs in connection with the immediate safety of human life and immediate protection of property when normal communication systems are not available.

Part 97 : Sec. 97.405 Station in distress


(a) No provision of these rules prevents the use by an amateur station in distress of any means at its disposal to attract attention, make known its condition and location, and obtain assistance.

(b) No provision of these rules prevents the use by a station, in the exceptional circumstances described in paragraph (a) of this section, of any means of radio communications at its disposal to assist a station in distress.

---------------------------------

It's not that life is so short, it's that you're dead for so long.

The .45-70 is the only government I trust

"I was raised in a place called America...
It's gone now, I wish you could've seen it"
- Moustache_6 quoting a WWII vet

 

Joined: 1/30/06 3:34 PM - Location:MA

marauder4 posted:

 

That said, the FCC tossed in a little blurb about 'emergencies' and you can pretty much transmit on whatever in an emergency.

Just to clarify, emergency being immediate/ imminent threat of life ,and no other legal means of communication.  Health and welfare (honey are you Ok, meet me at place x) does not qualify.

If your family is in trouble, do what you need to do, regardless of possible consequences.

Using handheld Baofengs on GMRS frequencies, without a license is illegal. Even if you are using them daily, if you stay off of repeaters and don't intentionally agitate people, the chances of being caught, much less fined, are practically zero. Get on repeaters without permission, especially if unlicensed, someone has motivation to find you. 

MURS, if you stay low power nobody will be looking for you or what type of radio you are using. Commercial type accepted radios are not much more and would be legal. Same with Itinerant Commercial Color Dot frequencies. Very seldom does anyone ID with a call sign. Low power and you would be unnoticed with daily use.

Hams are very protective of their frequencies, intrude at your own risk. True emergency, life threatening, they would be most likely be glad to help.

Public Safety, really at your own risk, unless you are a member of the agency. Even if true immediate life threatening, if any other means/ frequency was possible, expect legal trouble.

VHF Marine, might be tempting given the OPs location. Proceed with caution. True emergency, summoning help probably no consequences. Other uses could be problematic, definitely daily use would likely get you in trouble.

Please understand, the above is not advocating illegal radio use. More along the lines of a risk assessment.  I am a licensed ham, use MURS with Part 90 radios radios within legal power for use with non-hams. I do not operate illegally.

 

Just to clarify, I wasn't saying to operate outside of a license. You still need a license for things like operating on HAM frequencies, and you REALLY SHOULDN'T operate on Public Safety frequencies.

I was just pointing out an equipment option is all. The issue obviously isn't the radio used, but the frequencies.

Bart

"I've got an 8 man team and we're at the Michael Jackson Theater. There's a thousand people in there. We'll protect them."

Unit 792, 01Oct17

I just picked up a few Icom F21 radios on Ebay for pretty cheap. They are 16 channel, and I intend to program them to GMRS freqs and get my license. I've used the Icom's in the Army and I know they can take a beating. For $50 w/ charger, battery and antenna, they seem like a better way to go than the cheap bubble pack radio's at Wally World.

"Never underestimate the predictibility of stupidity" RIP SSG Brad King. KIA April 2, 2007.

Getting a HAM license is easy. I took the technician test without taking a real class, I just took the practice exam at QRZ dot com about 80 times. It was enough memorize enough answers to win. I've got SME's to take care of the actual radio shit, I just needed to be licensed to hit the button on an HT or mobile rig. Its not a hobby for me.

"Here I abandon peace and desecrate law. Farewell to treaties. Fortune it is you I follow... From now on, war will be my judge."

Communications.

The recent fires in the North Bay area of California have highlighted the need for multiple communications paths.  The fire moved rapidly and knocked out a number of cell towers.  Land lines worked but a lot of people do not have this service anymore.  This will probably be the norm in future disasters.

I suggest that if you have to bail out, send a text to your group, family, friends, etc, telling them why you are bailing and when you expect to resume communications.  Set up an SOP so that your family can tell you when they have reached your family rally point, evacuation center or other safe place.

Register with Safe and Well dot org ( www.safeandwell.org ) and tell your group.  Government authorities generally legally prohibited from telling you if someone has been evacuated.   

Nixle is another service that provides emergency alerts.  www.nixle.com.

Many government agencies have Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Exercising these communications paths is important.  Check them out once in awhile to make sure they are still current.

Sincerely,

 

Trajan Aurelius

 

 

When violence is the local language, be fluent.

There are two ways, as a civilian, to have Over the Horizon communications that you can RELY on.  First, Inmarsat phones.  International Maritime Satellite phones, well they use Satellites.  In that, you aren't relying on anything around you locally (that could have been destroyed by whatever local disaster you've experienced) to have comms.  Of course, satellites are subject to their own issues and hiccups, but generally are pretty reliable (it's how they earn their money).  Down side:  phones themselves can get pretty expensive (Iridium 9505 for right around $1k), but so can the bill for talking on them ($2 a minute and up).  You can get pre-paid cards to load on the phone, to be used only in emergencies.   But who has $1K+ lying around that they don't mind investing  "Just in Case" ?

The 2nd reliable OTH comms would be HF/HAM.  A little more work up front, in the form of getting your license and learning how to use the equipment, but then a solid performer from most other aspects.  HF radio communications is a science, NO doubt about it.  You will have to learn things like "what makes a frequency?" and how does that apply to antennas, to electronic theory/OHMS law, to antenna theory/construction and how does it apply to improving your communications.  What about Amplitude Modulation and Frequency Modulation (AM/FM)?  You'll learn a little bit about atmosphere and how that effects your signal.  In other words, there IS a lot to learn. 

CB radios simplified HF/HAM to a certain extent, in that they were easy to install and easy to use (comparatively).   Unfortunately, it also meant that people had the expectation of all radio communications to be that simple and easy to use.  The "Nice" thing about HAM radios is, you can install them in your car to be portable.  I'm not talking about the VHF-HI and UHF-LOS HAM freqs (that everyone is talking on repeaters with), I'm talking about a vehicular HF radio (that basically replaces your CB).  You can run the radio normally with a long whip antenna, but then can throw out a field expedient antenna when required/desired to communicate further (providing you stop the car and find a suitable location first).  

Although, having 1000 watt amplifies at a built up base station is definitely nice (and makes up for poor performing antennas and/or operators, to a certain extent), there are years and years of Service members talking on HF radios with little more than 20 watts +/-.  With HF comms, with a properly propagated frequency, and a properly constructed antenna, you can talk around the world.

Just some food for thought.

 


If it's a Pain in the Ass....you're doing it WRONG

I don't make policy, only suggestions, take them as such.

 

Joined: 8/5/05    Location: 20 miles west of Gettysburg, PA

 

 

Cytez posted:
[Great,comprehensive write up ]

 

One thing I will mention is antennas. Cytez said, correctly, "a properly constructed antenna". That does not necessarily mean an expensive one, or one on a huge tower. I spent about $25, made a three band (10/15/20m) wire antenna, put it in the attic of my townhouse, and contacted from Russia to Midway and from Svalbard to Argentina. This book - https://www.amazon.com/ARRLs-W...s-ARRL/dp/0872597075 - is worth it's weight in gold.

---------------------------------

It's not that life is so short, it's that you're dead for so long.

The .45-70 is the only government I trust

"I was raised in a place called America...
It's gone now, I wish you could've seen it"
- Moustache_6 quoting a WWII vet

 

Joined: 1/30/06 3:34 PM - Location:MA

During the sunspot cycle in the 90's I worked Easter Island "bicycle mobile" on 10M voice from the midwest...

------------------------------------- "A True Warrior knows neither Left or Right"  Looking for a doc who can fix my allergies.. Stupid People and IED's...

HF is certainly the best for over the horizon. For the OP's situation, getting his family into the science of HF and a General license might be difficult. Technician allows 6 and 10 meters which would probably be good for the range he is talking about. Technician has 10 meter privileges, but only SSB for voice. FM is much easier for those not into radio. During high sunspot activity, the Novice portion can be very crowded. 6 meter skip is fairly rare and the band is practically empty in most areas and FM is allowed for Techs. 6 meter simplex frequencies programmed into a mobile would easy for the family with minimal training. A quarter wave whip for six meters is efficient and not huge on the vehicle. Six meters is far superior to 2 meters or 70cm for simplex. There is a reason many utilities and Highway Patrols are still operating VHF low.

The FCC has dumbed down the General test so much that just about any 6th grader can pass it. 

One of the OPs concerns was that his wife wouldn't get her license.

My wife wasn't interested in getting hers until she went to a local Hamfest with me and realized that not all Hams are old dudes bent over a keyer in a shed. 

About the time she saw the 3rd or 4th relatively hot 20 something year old girl .. she walked over to a table and bought a study guide.

There is something to be said for situational jealousy..

------------------------------------- "A True Warrior knows neither Left or Right"  Looking for a doc who can fix my allergies.. Stupid People and IED's...

I know this isn't really a radio question but it concerns comms.

 Does anyone have experience with GoTenna? I am waiting for a rural assignment where there are quite a few radio and cell dead spots. I'm thinking of getting a couple of Mesh sets for short range communication with partners, as well as a contingency communication method for family in a crisis. 

------------

"One of the nice things about being around other soldiers is they will suffer your bullshit gladly, knowing sooner or later you will shut up and listen to theirs." - Jim Morris, War Story

 

"The military was strange like that. In the middle of the night you run into a major problem that requires you to put your faith in someone you never met before and probably would never see again. But that person knocks himself out to do his job and helps you get on with yours." - Harold W. Coyle, Team Yankee

JW104 posted:

I know this isn't really a radio question but it concerns comms.

 Does anyone have experience with GoTenna? I am waiting for a rural assignment where there are quite a few radio and cell dead spots. I'm thinking of getting a couple of Mesh sets for short range communication with partners, as well as a contingency communication method for family in a crisis. 

I think the GoTenna and other commercially available mesh devices are still in their infancy but you can expect this technology to boom within the next couple of years. My main issues with these mesh devices now are the relatively short range. If you were in an area where you could hang stationary nodes above obstacles to get reliable coverage, like on some private property, you would probably get some interesting results. If you check out the imeshyou.com website, your town might have other users that have stationary nodes. In my travels and exploration, I saw that Chattanooga TN has a stationary node on a tower on top of a mountain, which is always on and powered by solar, which should give some pretty awesome area coverage. 

I use a Garmin InReach satellite messenger. I have the powered RAM mounts in my car and the Garmin turns on and charges so I can track the vehicle location and communicate anytime I'm in the vehicle. The InReach does require a monthly subscription but it also allows me the ability to text worldwide from the app on my iPhone. This means I can send regular text messages via satellite to anyone. The downside (if you care) is that it will send your present position in the message. The upside is that I control the satellite interface, so I can send messages to and from anyone who can receive an SMS message without them having any special equipment. This works great if you are out of service range but you want to get a message to someone who has cellular service (Think localized disasters or remote area travel). 

I'm on the fence about a mesh solution personally, based on the need for more popularity in my area. If I lived in downtown ATL or somewhere with a lot of users I would already have one but for now, I'm holding off until I see which way the market goes. 

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