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I work for a disaster group.  During the first few days to a month of some disasters, think Hurricane Michael in Panama City, there is no telephone, no cell service, no communication.  The group likes/tries to use FRS radios, but obviously there is a range limit. 

I showed them my Wouxun 805s, that are good performers and solidly built and they liked them, at the price.  I am proposing building a repeater in a box and putting the antenna(ae) on top of the tool trailer to be used for that first month, or so.

For this sort of emergency, how do I legally pull this off without spending hundreds on each HT and many thousands on a portable repeater?  I have not yet identified a place in Part 95 that allows it.  Is this a business radio situation?  Are there decent business HTs for $100?  This is a charity org and we can't afford to lose $300 HTs. 

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1 hour ago, Coffeemaker said:

I work for a disaster group.  During the first few days to a month of some disasters, think Hurricane Michael in Panama City, there is no telephone, no cell service, no communication.  The group likes/tries to use FRS radios, but obviously there is a range limit. 

I showed them my Wouxun 805s, that are good performers and solidly built and they liked them, at the price.  I am proposing building a repeater in a box and putting the antenna(ae) on top of the tool trailer to be used for that first month, or so.

For this sort of emergency, how do I legally pull this off without spending hundreds on each HT and many thousands on a portable repeater?  I have not yet identified a place in Part 95 that allows it.  Is this a business radio situation?  Are there decent business HTs for $100?  This is a charity org and we can't afford to lose $300 HTs. 

The rules regarding GSMR are clear regarding who can hold a license. Organizations are not eligible - period. That doesn't prevent the organization from buying the radios and passing them out, BUT each user must be individually licensed. The organization can buy, install and run a repeater but they cannot hold a license. The repeater can be set up as a community resource for any user licensed for GMRS. The repeater cannot be used on FRS frequencies as they are not permitted for FRS use. 

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I will not touch the licensing part of that question as it seems covered.  For equipment, I know some won't like the recommendation, but check out Boefang.  They make a totally part 95 compliant version of their UV5R that runs under $25 a radio.  A Retevis repeater seems designed for your intended purpose.  Get yourself a good antenna and a mobile mast to be able to put it up and down with, and you'll be in good business to cover a local town in need.

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I think you all have good comments... the way I see it is GMRS is for your family, farm and neighbors who have a license and permission to talk on your repeater.  Ham is more local, regional and national.  Now I do like Zello to talk with others in the USA.  I have made several new friends in remote places.  

Yes I have my Ham ticket and really only use it to speak to local club members in the club repeater.  You just have to find what you want to do to serve others and go for it.  

MacJack  

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2 hours ago, SkylinesSuck said:

For equipment, I know some won't like the recommendation, but check out Boefang.  They make a totally part 95 compliant version of their UV5R that runs under $25 a radio.

In addition to the UV5R variant (Radioddity/Baofeng UV5X) mentioned above, there is also the Radioddity GM-30 and the "Pofung" (Baofeng) P15UV, which appear to be essentially the same radio, the Pofung P11UV, the Retevis RT76P, and the BTech GMRS V-1, all of which are advertised as being "repeater capable," meaning they can be used with a repeater, not as a repeater. All of these have a front panel display and most have a front panel keypad so you can manually enter frequencies or other programming data. There are also a number of less sophisticated radios that don't have a display or full keypad, but can be programmed to work with repeaters, too. Retevis has several such models.

If the goal is to equip the group with inexpensive handheld radios, there are numerous options. Obviously, if pay a bit more, you'll most likely get a higher quality radio, but that might put you outside of your price range.

I'll also second the suggestion of the Retevis Repeater (RT-97), as it is an almost all-in-one solution (with the exception of the antenna and the battery / power supply). The RT-97 could be easily deployed anywhere you have a suitable antenna and power source.

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11 hours ago, MacJack said:

I think you all have good comments... the way I see it is GMRS is for your family, farm and neighbors who have a license and permission to talk on your repeater.  Ham is more local, regional and national.  Now I do like Zello to talk with others in the USA.  I have made several new friends in remote places.  

Yes I have my Ham ticket and really only use it to speak to local club members in the club repeater.  You just have to find what you want to do to serve others and go for it.  

MacJack  

Certainly can see where GMRS has a place in your individual disaster plan potentially.  At a family or neighborhood level it could very well make more sense to use it since it requires no test and is much less of a hurdle to get everyone on board. 

The reason I bought up ham was it sounds like the original poster is talking about providing emcomm for an organization which requires some imposed formality if not actual conformity with Red Cross and FEMA training, procedures and infrastructure, which local amateur radio groups may have already in place.  So while he may have to get his ticket but that opens up a huge world of options.

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One thing to note, you mentioned putting an antenna on top of the trailer. If you don't get a good antenna on a mast significantly up in the air, you aren't going to get a lot more range than you would simplex to simplex.  If you were just thinking a magnetic antenna stuck to the roof, it's not worth it.  

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2 hours ago, SkylinesSuck said:

One thing to note, you mentioned putting an antenna on top of the trailer. If you don't get a good antenna on a mast significantly up in the air, you aren't going to get a lot more range than you would simplex to simplex.  If you were just thinking a magnetic antenna stuck to the roof, it's not worth it.  

In my personal experience, using mobile with 1/4-wave on a flat SUV roof at least quadruples the range of HT to HT.

And regarding Baofeng (Btech, Pofung) - stay away from these. In a disaster situation you need your radio to actually work, with extended duty cycles, with interference from other radios nearby.

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30 minutes ago, axorlov said:

In my personal experience, using mobile with 1/4-wave on a flat SUV roof at least quadruples the range of HT to HT.

And regarding Baofeng (Btech, Pofung) - stay away from these. In a disaster situation you need your radio to actually work, with extended duty cycles, with interference from other radios nearby.

There is indeed two factors at play. 

Foremost you are 100% on point about maximizing your station's potential and getting a good antenna on a good ground is paramount.  No HT is going to be ideal and even if it's radiating well just the fact that it's being held by a bag of meat absorbing RF at a bad angle is going to cut your range.  That 5 watts is doing more work warming you up than radiating useful signal. 

The original point was line of sight.

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Two HTs at 4 feet can expect a range of about 5.6 miles (2.8 miles each) absent any obstructions.  Moving one station to 6 feet high increases this to 6.3 miles (3.5 miles plus the HT's 2.8), so less than 1/2 mile improvement.  Putting your trailer antenna on a crank up 30 foot tower increases this to 10.6 miles (the 30' tower will now have a range of 7.8 miles). 

The original point is valid, though.  Going from an HT at 4 feet to a truck roof at 6 feet isn't going to make much difference in increased coverage and especially when you're blocked by terrain and buildings. 

If there's houses with roofs 15' or 20' high the handhelds and mobile still won't go more than city blocks while the antenna on the 30' tower will be more likely to work out to at least a couple of miles since it's eliminating half the obstructions.  Getting an antenna into the clear makes a big difference.  This is still true with an HT.  Having one HT user simply walk up a hill or stand on the roof will do more than pushing more power into a perfect antenna on your truck roof if you're between buildings.

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17 hours ago, WRNA236 said:

Maybe I'm speaking out of turn but why duplicate efforts?  Chattanooga and Tennessee generally have a pretty good amateur radio organization.  Why not get in touch with them?  Assisting communities with emergency communications is one of the key reason ham radio and clubs exist and not only legal but cited in the FCC rules that we are for that.  They'll probably already have all the infrastructure in place, fixed and linked repeaters, portable power and mobile repeaters, periodic practice drills with willing sheriffs and counties EMS, etc.

http://www.tnares.com/

https://www.w4am.net/local-ares-info/

 

 

All true, but we don't work in Chattanooga often (once).  We need communication from our work base to several work crews in the field and from coordinator to coordinator.  Sites are most often some random town in TX, LA, or FL.  We'd have to have an amateur operator sitting/working with each crew and at the work base.   Once the cell systems are repaired, phones work better, but until then, we'd like to be self sufficient.

 

As for height, I may be able to put the antenna on a nearby building, but we will always have the tool trailer when a big disaster happens. 

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1 hour ago, Coffeemaker said:

 

All true, but we don't work in Chattanooga often (once).  We need communication from our work base to several work crews in the field and from coordinator to coordinator.  Sites are most often some random town in TX, LA, or FL.  We'd have to have an amateur operator sitting/working with each crew and at the work base.   Once the cell systems are repaired, phones work better, but until then, we'd like to be self sufficient.

Gotcha.  I was just basing the TN ARES example on your call sign.  Most States and counties have an emergency management plan that's similar, though.  Do you work with FEMA and local agencies (e.g. within some sort of NIMS/ICS structure) or is it a stand-alone situation? 

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3 hours ago, WRNA236 said:

The original point is valid, though.  Going from an HT at 4 feet to a truck roof at 6 feet isn't going to make much difference in increased coverage and especially when you're blocked by terrain and buildings. 

 

I'm going to state it again: HT to Mobile with 1/4-wave at 6 ft on a flat roof has 4 times the range (I'm being conservative) of HT to HT. In some cases significantly more, like in rocky canyons. Witnessed, tested, proven. Besides the wave absorption (line of sight, obstacles, yada yada), there are wave interference, diffraction, reflection and scattering are taking place.

That is all true, of course, if you do not use Baofeng. With Baofengs on both ends courier on a bicycle provides much more reliable comms.

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2 hours ago, axorlov said:

I'm going to state it again: HT to Mobile with 1/4-wave at 6 ft on a flat roof has 4 times the range (I'm being conservative) of HT to HT. In some cases significantly more, like in rocky canyons. Witnessed, tested, proven. Besides the wave absorption (line of sight, obstacles, yada yada), there are wave interference, diffraction, reflection and scattering are taking place.

That is all true, of course, if you do not use Baofeng. With Baofengs on both ends courier on a bicycle provides much more reliable comms.

I'm going to agree again, I believe you.  An HT is suboptimal.

The 4 foot to 6 foot part was to the point made about a portable tower.  Moving an antenna two feet up to your roof can't going to break the laws of physics or uncurve the Earth.  You can sometimes get a tropospheric duct or other oddity like a weird diffraction to see over the horizon but you can't count on that from an emergency comm standpoint.  And in the case of a tropospheric a 200 miles path isn't much use when you need 10.

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I'm sorry, but I will disagree on both of your points axorlov.  I am not trying to be rude here, so please don't take offense.  Comparing your HT @ 4' to a mobile with a 1/4 wave antenna @ 6' and also 5 watts (hell, even 50) is not going to conservatively quadruple your range, especially in a suburban environment.  You claim that as proven fact but it's not.  And the Boefang hate here is just over the top ridiculous.  Are they as good as our local favorite (also Chinese) Wouxans?  Not by a long shot.  Not reliable?  Complete fantasy.  Please share all your horrible experiences with them breaking or not functioning adequately.  I will venture to say there would be no significant difference in performance either.  Considering the price point OP is shooting for, I'd say they are a very good idea. He already started $100 per handheld was out of the question.  What else could you recommend?

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4 hours ago, SkylinesSuck said:

I'm sorry, but I will disagree on both of your points axorlov.  I am not trying to be rude here, so please don't take offense.  Comparing your HT @ 4' to a mobile with a 1/4 wave antenna @ 6' and also 5 watts (hell, even 50) is not going to conservatively quadruple your range, especially in a suburban environment.  You claim that as proven fact but it's not.  And the Boefang hate here is just over the top ridiculous.  Are they as good as our local favorite (also Chinese) Wouxans?  Not by a long shot.  Not reliable?  Complete fantasy.  Please share all your horrible experiences with them breaking or not functioning adequately.  I will venture to say there would be no significant difference in performance either.  Considering the price point OP is shooting for, I'd say they are a very good idea. He already started $100 per handheld was out of the question.  What else could you recommend?

Allright, let's set aside the Baofeng hate, although they are not as good as other brands. It's a topic for another thread.

My point was that much more efficient antenna + much better receiver of mobile radio (that is not BTech) + 6' elevation will hear your 4W HT at 4x times the distance that your normal HT hears your 4W HT. Actually further. And 40W from your mobile through much more efficient antenna will allow your HT to hear at 4x times the distance, comparing to HT to HT range. This effect is repeatable and reliable. I performed this experiment several times, in residential area, in the Sierra foothills, in the dense forest. I never performed it in a clear flat field. In residential area my range is 5x.

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I'll elaborate. As WRNA236 pointed out, the HT-HT distance is not limited by curvature of earth in residential areas. It is limited by the fact that they are HTs with all the drawbacks. Removing these limitations on one side, quadruples the distance, easily. From 1/2 mile (reliable range in residential area HT<->HT) to 2 miles at very least (reliable range residential area Mobile<->HT).

And don't knock down bicycle courier. 1 mile in residential is a roughly 10 minute round trip, with all the obstacles and curb-jumping. What would you rather take at 1 mile radius: non-working radio comms or reliable comms with 10 minute delay?

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On 7/7/2021 at 3:13 PM, WRNA236 said:

Gotcha.  I was just basing the TN ARES example on your call sign.  Most States and counties have an emergency management plan that's similar, though.  Do you work with FEMA and local agencies (e.g. within some sort of NIMS/ICS structure) or is it a stand-alone situation? 

 

We are peripheral to any IMS/ICS.  They find and forward us work.  I regularly call the local Emerg Mgt Agency for updates and info on the areas needing help.  So, the answer is a little of both.  We partner with a local church and send out volunteer work crews from the church.  We provide the volunteers with tools, meals, showers, laundry and sleeping quarters at/in the church.  We almost have the capability to setup in a parking lot and run alone, but that's not the best way to do it.  As we are not officially part of the ICS, we don't get their comms.  Plus, what we need is our own link to our work crews and our base and between "Black Shirts". 

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On 7/6/2021 at 5:21 PM, WRNA236 said:

Maybe I'm speaking out of turn but why duplicate efforts?  Chattanooga and Tennessee generally have a pretty good amateur radio organization.  Why not get in touch with them?  Assisting communities with emergency communications is one of the key reason ham radio and clubs exist and not only legal but cited in the FCC rules that we are for that.  They'll probably already have all the infrastructure in place, fixed and linked repeaters, portable power and mobile repeaters, periodic practice drills with willing sheriffs and counties EMS, etc.

http://www.tnares.com/

https://www.w4am.net/local-ares-info/

 

Very true!  They also set up hospitals with radios and antennas, I saw 10 antennas on a hospital and wondered why it had all of those antennas.  I googled it and found out that Hams work with public health and safety to get them set up with coms on many bands in case of disasters.  I do not know how many people need to be licensed at the hospital, but I am sure that there is at least a few.

Hams are my hero, and soon I will be one of them LOL!!

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