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#1 Guest_Temporary Name_*

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Posted 08 May 2019 - 12:15 AM

Hello All,

 

I am currently a licensed Amateur with a General Class license.  At the moment I do not have a GMRS license.  I am turning to this forum for some information regarding products for general public use.  Let me give a little information.

 

Last November 8th, a spark from arching 15Kw power lines set dry grasses afire in the location of Pulga along the Feather River.  Those sparks were fanned by 50 mph winds that raced up the ravine toward the town of Paradise.  Within the next several hours the fire spread nearly 20 miles destroying a whole town in its wake.  

 

A fellow ham was up in Paradise after the fire doing his day job and came to the realization that all the communities along the Western Slope of the Sierra faced the same disasterous dangers.  The other realization was that the fire moved so quickly that all communications were destroyed before the population could be notified to evacuate.  Cell towers, Land lines, internet...all of it was rendered useless not only in the area of the fire, but throughout Butte County.  

 

There are white papers out there that detail plans for neighborhoods and communities to set up Neighborhood Radio Watches.  This would use layers of FRS as well as GMRS with licensed amateurs monitoring to provide needed two way information.  It is a daunting task.  

 

Here is why I come to this forum.  After reviewing all the equipment available on sites like amazon and such, I am nowhere closer to understanding which radios would be useful for the general public.

 

At best, I imagine that a few FRS radios would be available in a neighborhood, but those have inherent TX/RX limitations in hilly and treed terrain.  I would hope that at least one person in the neighborhood would have GMRS to be able to transmit/relay needs as well as RX information regarding road closures and escape routes.

 

As for mobiles?  yeah it would be nice, but think about it...most folks, if at all are going to grab a blister pack from Wally world and be done with it and when the time comes, not know how to operate it.  

 

So, here is my question:  What several FRS radios would be recommended as the most bang for the buck.  As for GMRS H/Ts the same question applies.

 

As for mobiles, I imagine the Midland MX115 with its 15 watts and a decent antenna would provide adequate range.   

 

At the moment, there are no repeaters available in Butte County that I am aware of, or there could be one, but it does not cover all the needed areas of the county....so at the moment, we are talking about FRS hand helds and GMRS handhelds.

 

I am not looking for just one model, but perhaps several models that the public can choose from  I don't want to play favorites with one brand or another.

 

I am aware of the particular quality problems with the CCRs.  I don't know if some of the other brand names suffer the same problems or not.  

 

I think what I hope to accomplish is a list of models and for use amatuers to take them to the field to test in real life scenarios to see what does what and what can be expected with both FRS and GMRS.

 

If you can give reviews on FRS, that would be helpful as I expect most in the general public would go that direction, not wanting to spend the (low) dollars it would take to get the GMRS license.  But I would also like GMRS HT reviews as there will be a few that will go that direction.  As for mobiles.  If there are other models besides the Midland MX 115 that are comparable, I would like that information too, in case I missed it in my research

 

Thanks to all here on the board, and when I get my GMRS license, I will be back with more questions.  Until then, I will reply on this thread.

 

regards,

 

N6TDG



#2 taco6513

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 07:57 PM

I would give serious thought in setting up a repeater with a back up power source. This would give walkies increased range. The B-tech gnrs v1 and I believe Motorola makes a walkie that is repeater capable. However the Motorola battery life is poor. All a repeater needs is centrally located high ground. All users would need to be licensed. This is a neat project. Could radio link the repeaters if one was unable to provide the coverage needed.

#3 marcspaz

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Posted 09 May 2019 - 08:36 PM

My knowledge is limited in the area of "best brand/model", be it HT's or Mobile radios.  I would tend to stick with major brands... but I found that even major brands, there are differing opinions. 

 

For example, if a user has no skill to do things like soldering or programing a radio, Motorola and Midland would be my first and second choice.  However, if you are even moderately competent with a computer and soldering pencil, a whole new world opens up.

 

Based on personal experience, I would stay away from Baofeng, BTech and other divisions of that company. 

 

Midland Micro Mobile radios are okay, but they are all narrow band radios.

 

 

As a side note.  I would never discourage new users, but you are much better off with 10 meter radios and 100-200 watt amps. to cover the distance you are talking about.  I live in an area where there is rugged terrain all around and I can talk simplex, ground wave, 40+ miles with 120 watts RMS. 

 

In my opinion, most UHF radios you will get for FRS and GMRS are the wrong equipment for the job you are talking about without a repeater.  You are going to be limited to a mile or two with handhelds.  Even mobiles are heavily restricted in rugged terrain.  At high elevation line of sight, you can get 50 miles or more with mobile simplex GMRS.  Say from a 3,000 ft ridge down into a town in the valley.  However, at sea level and low line of sight, you are looking at more like 3 to 5 miles due to ground wave propagation issues at that frequency spectrum.

 

Just an opinion.



#4 Guest_Temporary Name_*

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 03:02 AM

All of this I know, reagarding repeaters and height, etc.  We are talking about the general public that for the most part has no real understanding of how radio works, narrow/wide band, etc.  They know FRS and CB radios.  By law, CB is limited to 4 watts.  No amplifiers allowed.  Ten meter requires an amateur license to operate.  More in likely a no go there too.  

 

We also know about the limitations of FRS radio and quite frankly GMRS H/Ts.  Perhaps we will have to re-think other ways to get information to the public in the case of a disaster.  Remember, this fire and others like it spread 20 miles in less than a day.  It consummed all modes of communication in a matter of a couple of hours.   Other fires last year burned repeaters on mountains; whether they are self powered or not doesn't matter when the flames approach.  

 

Simplex relay is the best bet, even with the limitations.  To give you an example,  I could not reach my friend trapped in the center of Paradise as the entire town burned around them.  I could talk to "Larry", via simplex who was at a higher elevation and could relay conversation to "Ron."  This was over a distance of 25 miles plus using a 5 watt Yaesu FT 60 from Oroville to Forest Hill back down to Paradise. 

 

Thanks for the tips on Midland.  For GMRS, it might be the way to go for some.  

 

regards,

 

N6TDG



#5 berkinet

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 06:43 AM

Two people have already given you the answer to your question: One or more repeaters, possibly connected together using simplex links.  This will give you wide-area coverage without the need for iffy message relaying. A single well placed repeater could easily cover 300 to 400 square miles.  Motorola GR1225s are available for around $500 (make sure the finals are good) and MTR2000s for not much more. Personally, I'd go with the MTR2000. You can also build your own out of a pair of half decent HTs.

 

If you do decide to build out a repeater network DO NOT BUY THE MIDLAND RADIOS. They only do narrow-band and for best performance, you will want to take advantage of the GMRS rules and use wide-band for your repeaters.


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#6 Corey

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 06:52 AM

Several of our GMRS repeaters provide 20+ miles of portable coverage, if you can find a good high spot for a repeater a used part 90 repeater with some good front end filtering and a preamp will give good portable performance.  MURS VHF on the other hand can be used without a license and can legally have external base antennas with no restrictions on ERP but limited to a transmitter power of 2W.


Just My $.02

 

Corey

 

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#7 Guest_Temporary Name_*

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 03:16 PM

Thanks for the information thus far.  I will be passing this thread along to others for consideration in plan development.

 

Regards

 

N6TDG



#8 PastorGary

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Posted 10 May 2019 - 06:56 PM

Jeff - Please consider a GMRS license - Also, please consider registering here at the Forum so you can interact directly with our members without your 'guestc posts' being placed in Approval Queue by our software each time you post.



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Posted 10 May 2019 - 07:55 PM

Hello Senior Moderator,

 

I have no problem with getting a GMRS license and will be doing so.  Spend much of my time on the road doing county and state fairs.  I am trying to iron out the inherent problems with FRS and even GMRS to try and formulate a proper plan for Neighbor Radio Watch.  It is a layer of radios with licensed amateurs end eventually LEO on the other end.  

 

I am looking at this:  http://radio-relay.o...ATION-v2017.pdf   and try and fit this into local and different communities.  

 

Quite honestly, it would be easier if everyone had the minimum of a tech license, but reality is that only a very few would consider a GMRS license.  If anything, mostly FRS would be used and those will not hit repeaters.  Think human nature.  

 

If there is a way I can register here until I get my GMRS call, then excellent.  I look forward to chewing the fat with you all here in trying to develop something that is scaleable and can be adapted for local use.  

 

To be honest, I will probably not filing for my license until after October, end of the fair season.  But I will be getting one as I plan on loading up the wife and I with mobile units for travel.  (She has no interest in amateur radio...wives...)

 

 

 

Regards,

 

N6TDG



#10 berkinet

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 04:07 AM

...
I am looking at this: http://radio-relay.o...ATION-v2017.pdf and try and fit this into local and different communities.

Quite honestly, it would be easier if everyone had the minimum of a tech license, but reality is that only a very few would consider a GMRS license....

Thank you for sharing the link to the Emergency Preparedness series. However, after looking it over, I have to say it seems based on a number of unstated assumptions - many of which I believe are untrue. There also seems to be an implied prejudice towards a hierarchical communications model and the use of amateur radio.

The fundamental problem with any system that relies on ham radio is the requirement for licensed operators at every operating location. As you noted, getting people to get even the most basic Technicians license is a non-starter. There is also some assumption that Part 97 operations will offer a richer set of communications options. However, in practice. unless you live in some very isolated area, and particularly for the type of system you say you want to create, the only Part 97 options would be VHF (2M) and UHF (0.7M). When you add an uneven terrain, into the mix the difference between VHF and UHF is pretty much nil.

Because GMRS allows repeater operations, as far as practical operations go, it is pretty much the same as Part 97 UHF. The main differences lie in the options available for linking repeaters via radio. GMRS is limited to use of the assigned GMRS channels for radio links, amateur is not. However, in a semi-isolated area like the Sierra Foothills that should not be a problem.

If you use GMRS you can flatten the model shown in the Emcomm Doc you linked to and allow communications directly between the Community coordinators and the emergency service providers. Though, you may still need to provide staffing for the service provider sites as they will probably be unwilling to manage communications back to the community. At $7 per year ($70 for 10 years) cost is really not an issue. Or, looking at it from another view, if $7 a year is keeping people away from your system, you have some serious issues to deal with before you even think about radio.

What I have written above is not simply theoretical. Take a look at BeCERTAINN in Berkeley, CA. This organization which provides pretty much what you describe in your first post, but just within the city of Berkeley, now has over 40 GMRS licensed participants, most of whom got their license for the sole purpose of participating in BeCERTAINN.

Hams have a, rather unfortunate, predilection for making things more technically and organizationally complex than they need to be. For immediate response emergency systems that is the opposite of what you want. You want simple and easy with the least amount of equipment and the smallest number of operators and transactions necessary to make the system work. As shown in the emcomm doc, it takes 4 people, two of whom must be licensed hams, to pass a message from a home to a service provider. By basing a system onGMRS, that number drops to two or three and no ham licenses are needed.

I strongly suggest that GMRS + maybe one of the following, FRS/CB/MURS/Paper-notes/voice, is what you really need.
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#11 Guest_Temporary Name_*

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 02:53 PM

I strongly suggest that GMRS + maybe one of the following, FRS/CB/MURS/Paper-notes/voice, is what you really need.

 

 

 

Funny, just last night on the way to the ham club meeting, my neighbor and i were talking about CB and MURS.  Tera makes a GMRS/MURS radio.  I like MURS for the VHF ability to get through the treed and hilly terrain over UHF.  The possibility of interfering with local businesses (think Walmart, etc) does present a con.  I will go the BeCertainn to check out what Berkeley is doing.  Portland has the BEECN program which is geared toward earthquakes. I imagine the program in Berkeley is geared toward that too, regarding its sits along the Hayward Fault.  

 

Funny, after the quake of 1989, the Powers that Be put out fancy flashy mailing materials to tell the folks in the Bay Area that the next quake was expected along the Hayward or Rogers Fault within the next 30 years.  Well its been 30 years.  

 

Not wanting to wander here, but what equipment does your group recommend for the average user.  

 

Rergards,

 

N6TDG



#12 marcspaz

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 03:20 PM

I strongly suggest that GMRS + maybe one of the following, FRS/CB/MURS/Paper-notes/voice, is what you really need.

 

Great suggestion.  Great summary of your post too.

 

You reminded me of two items I would like to touch base on again, as well as expand on something else you touched on.

 

First... for non-licensed options, CB radio should not be over looked.  It is still HF and when configured properly, you can get outstanding simplex communications, even with the low power restrictions.  I have a Galaxy CB with AM and SSB.  I have a properly tuned antenna transmission line and a perfect match on a 1/4 wave ground plain antenna (113.5").  On AM with 1 watt RMS carrier and 2 watt RMS modulated power, on a properly tuned system, I am getting 13-15 miles in rough terrain.  On SSB, with 11 watts peek power, I am able to talk 22-26 miles, depending on the weather conditions, in that same rough terrain.

 

The second item is, don't be afraid to include a GMRS repeater; even if repeaters in the area have been destroyed in the past.  When I was an emergency volunteer, I had a two dedicated, stand-alone mobile repeaters in my truck.  One VHF and one UHF.  I could either run them from wherever I parked, or I could dead-drop them anywhere with their own batteries and then drive to where I needed to work.  Each unit was in a vented container that kept weather off of it, twin 115 amp sealed lead-acid batteries and a 35' portable antenna tower with an omnidirectional antenna AND directional beam antenna to support local repeater comms and long-range point to point comms.  The portability is a very affordable add-on to any low power repeater. 

 

On 10 watt low power with 50%-60% duty cycle, they lasted for days before the batteries needed to be recharged.  Even 50 watt mode, they would run on batteries for more than 24 hours before needing to be recharged.

 

 

 

 

HAM Response -

 

I used to be an assistant emergency coordinator with ARES and answered directly to our local county government Emergency Coordinator.  I am NIMS and ICS certified.  I think one of the reasons Amateur Radio emergency response seems overly complex for first responder support is because groups and services like ARES are NOT first responders. 

 

ARES and groups like them are focused on supporting multiple municipality, mass casualty events and we bring in all aspects of technology to support extended operations in extended responses.  The Northeast Blackout of 2003 and Katrina are great examples.  We provided phone, video, internet, radio, formal traffic, responder escorts, etc.  We had to be not only self sufficient, but able to provide a service in areas and conditions that are worse than being in wilderness with no outside resources.

 

In a situation where OP is discussing... none of that is initially needed and grossly over-complicates the main objective of notification of an inbound crisis that is either occurring or about to occur.  That is why the ENS was created.  A simple alert system on commonly used platforms; radio, TV and smartphones.  Once the event has occurred, that's when the more complex solutions need to be brought in.


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#13 taco6513

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 03:52 PM

Have you considered getting a Land Mobile license in VHF low band? The signal would travel much better in your terrain than GMRS. You could test out the range with HAM 6 meter equipment. If it works there are lots of low band equipment for sale on E-bay. Your people would not need a license as needed on GMRS. I would try to run simplex. You could set up a low band repeater but the base antenna needed are kind of pricey. WRCW870.



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Posted 11 May 2019 - 06:06 PM

Once again, I want to thank all the responses here thus far.  They are thoughtful answers to a difficult questions, which is what equipment to use to set up a Neighborhood Radio/Fire Watch program for the general public.  



#15 BoxCar

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 06:59 PM

About the only people in California on VHF-L these days under 90.20 are the CHP.


Old and wise infers you were once young and stupid


#16 Guest_Temporary Name_*

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Posted 11 May 2019 - 09:13 PM

What I have written above is not simply theoretical. Take a look at BeCERTAINN in Berkeley, CA. This organization which provides pretty much what you describe in your first post, but just within the city of Berkeley, now has over 40 GMRS licensed participants, most of whom got their license for the sole purpose of participating in BeCERTAINN.

 

Took a look at what you guys and gals are doing there in Berkeley.  Can you drop me a line?  I am good on the Zed.

 

N6TDG
 



#17 BoxCar

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:36 AM

I have followed this thread since it began and would like to state my take on the issues brought forward. 

 

First of all, I am saddened by the losses the wildfires brought to this section of Northern California. We have some very near and dear friends that lost everything in Paradise so the news of this particular fire and its aftermath struck a very deep and meaningful chord with my wife and me. Our friends have moved on, they decided they didn't want to rebuild and, with California property tax laws the way they are probably couldn't afford to and remain.

 

While the idea is sound, the primary issues already brought forward still remain. Like Part 97, Part 95 is a licensed service and that in itself is the biggest barrier. Just as the amateurs wouldn't appreciate flocks of casual users flooding their 2 meter spectrum with both licensed and unlicensed users keying up on almost any available channel and causing problems, the issue of attempting to integrate the FRS users with GMRS repeaters has just as much potential for problems as opening Part 97 airwaves. FRS radios have some very tight restrictions regarding their equipment and channel usage. Their radios are non-programmable so they could not use a repeater with its offsets. Their equipment physically cannot be modified as antennas must be permanently attached and are quite poor in their operation limiting distance to around a kilometer under most conditions.

 

Yes, GMRS capable radios are easy to procure and are very inexpensive at the lower tiers. But often, these same low-cost radios are also enabled to operate in the 2 meter spectrum which is the other half of the Part 95/97 conundrum. There is nothing stopping a person from pushing enough buttons, or doing a little Internet research, to find out how to enable Part 90 or 97 frequencies. This has the potential to recreate the CB problems of the 1970's where you could pick up a 10 meter CB, tweek a couple coils and suddenly increase the transmit power between 3 and 6 dB. It wasn't long after that crystal boxes became available and phase-locked loops were reprogrammed to add extra channels along with linear amplifiers boosting output power from less than the typical 4 watts to more than 1000.

 

The most basic assumption which was made in this proposal was that people would play by the rules, but we saw how well that worked with CB. It doesn't. Why would I spend the licensing fee when my next door neighbor just bought a radio and fired it up without bothering to fill out a form and send in an "unnecessary" payment just to talk to my friends and the police didn't come to his door. Amateurs have been spared a lot of the issues surrounding readily available inexpensive equipment for many years. Now, some of the mystique surrounding ham radio is peeling away with the readily obtainable Technician license and low cost equipment. My feeling is the only thing stopping, no slowing down the repeat of the CB craze is the relative obscurity of the service and advertising the service with its potential benefit in an emergency or disaster situation will only fuel the craze from "to be prepared" to isn't this great fun and so easy to get into.

 

One needs to remember, it wasn't the hand-held walkie-talkie that drove the CB fiasco, it was the mobile easily installed into your vehicle giving you the greater range and mobility.


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#18 berkinet

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Posted 13 May 2019 - 09:45 AM

... Our friends have moved on, they decided they didn't want to rebuild and, with California property tax laws the way they are probably couldn't afford to and remain....


I will limit my comments to this incorrect assertion about California property tax law making it too expensive to remain. I am no fan of California's prop13 tax limits which place the major burden of property taxes on new homes and recent purchases. But, the fact is your friends would not have seen their taxes raised. Don't believe me. Here it is in the words of the organization that came up with proposition 13 in the first place. https://www.hjta.org...rights-dont-be/
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#19 WRAM373 - Richard

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Posted 06 June 2019 - 09:58 PM

N6TGD -
Here’s a PowerPoint presentation that outlines the approach you’re suggesting in order to work within the realities of most people not wanting to deal with complicated equipment or licensing: http://radio-relay.o...al-Approved.pdf

Home page of National SOS Radio Network: [url="""]http://radio-relay.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/NSOS-Hamwatch-PPT-TR-003-Final-Approved.pdf'[/url]> http://radio-relay.o...al-Approved.pdf

Video interview of parent organization: https://www.hamradio...y-international

Less Ham Radio-centric organization: https://www.reactintl.org/#

See what may work for your needs & discard the rest!

Good luck!

- Richard WRAM373/KJ4ZTY

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Posted 08 June 2019 - 12:04 AM

Thanks Richard...  I think I have seen some of this before, but will digest again.  We have gotten the Fire Safe Council involved and they will be coming to a presentation in July at our local ham club.  Ideally, I would like to have the local GMRS folks take the lead.  There may very well be a blend of amateurs and GMRS folks and that is fine.





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