This is my presentation for new CERTS. Please feel free to comment:. firstname.lastname@example.org
In a disaster I am going to secure my family and home. Then I’ll check on my neighbors. I would also like to know your status. In my world I would turn on my two-way communication device and give a shout out to other CERT’s to let them know my situation and availability. This would be similar to a phone tree without dialing. If the incident is catastrophic I may be called in to one of the local Emergency Operations Centers to operate on the County’s emergency network. The EOC’s are the next level of support for CERT’s. You will contact your local EOC with information about damage, requests for fire, police or EMT. No one can predict the state of our telephone systems. They may not be functioning or they may be reserved for emergency responders. Having our own comm. network will allow us to react faster and do the most good for the most people.
We have three types of radio communication available. FRS, Family Radio Service, GMRS, General Mobile Radio Service and Amateur (HAM) Radio.
The General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is in the 462 - 467 MHz spectrum. The most common use of GMRS radio is short-distance, two-way communications using small, portable hand-held devices that function similar to walkie-talkies that can connect to a base station or other hand held radios.
Similar services include the Family Radio Service (FRS) and the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS). FRS radios are limited to 500 milliwatts according to FCC regulationsChannels 1 to 7 are shared with low-power interstitial channels of GMRS. Channels 15 to 22 operate at normal 5 watt power. A license is required for those channels.
FRS rules permit only +/-2.5kHz maximum deviation (Narrow Frequency Modulation). FRS stations on channels 1 through 7 may communicate with GMRS stations on those shared channels; the GMRS stations may use up to 5 watts of power, while the FRS stations are restricted to 500 milliwatts (half a watt).
FRS radios must use only permanently attached antennas, such as walkie-talkies; there are table-top FRS "base station" radios that have whip antennas. This limitation intentionally restricts the range of communications, allowing greatest use of the available channels. The use of duplex radio repeaters and interconnects to the telephone network are prohibited under FRS rules, unlike other radio services.
FRS manufacturers generally claim exaggerated range. The presence of large buildings, trees, etc., will reduce range. Under exceptional conditions, (such as hilltop to hilltop) communication is possible over 60 km (37 mi) or more, but that is rare. Under normal conditions, with line of sight blocked by a few buildings or trees, FRS has an actual range of about 0.5 to 1.5 km (0.3 to 1 mile).
Amateur radio (also called ham radio) is the use of designated radio frequency spectra for purposes of private recreation, non-commercial exchange of messages, wireless experimentation, self-training, and emergency communication. The term "amateur" is used to specify persons interested in radio technique solely with a personal aim and without direct monetary or other similar reward, and to differentiate it from commercial broadcasting, public safety (such as police and fire), or professional two-way radio services (such as maritime, aviation, taxis, etc.).
When so activated, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service will consist of only those amateur radio operators who have previously registered with State and local governments to provide emergency radio communications for them in times of emergency. Other amateur radio operations might be suspended and operations under the RACES rules might be restricted to certain frequencies within the amateur radio bands.
In addition to wartime communications, operations under the RACES rules can provide or supplement communications during emergencies where normal communication systems have sustained damage. It may be used in a wide variety of situations, including natural disasters, technological disasters, nuclear accidents, nuclear attack, terrorist incidents, and bomb threats.
In the past, actual RACES station licenses were also issued to civil defense organizations. To prevent abuse of station licenses by officials who were not licensed amateur radio operators, limitations on the duration of non-emergency operation and stations that might be contacted were incorporated into part 97.407. Such RACES station licenses are no longer issued, and any operations under the RACES rules would now use licensed amateur radio operators as control operators.
Now that you know the differences in the systems available I want to talk about their uses. The FRS radio is just what it says, it’s a radio for family’s to use while camping or hiking where the distance between them is less than a mile or two. Within those limits the FRS equipment is suitable for communicating. Another upside is no license requirement. Most of these units have many functions that only confuse most users. It is most common to set a channel, set the call feature to on so the paging alert will sound when someone is trying to contact you and the vox (voice operation) is off. Everyone will meet on an agreed channel. This channel should be locked to prevent accidental changing. You should always carry a replacement supply of batteries. Always change all batteries at the same time. You will have two main controls: the push to talk switch for transmitting your voice and the receive audio volume/off-on control. GMRS radios are very similar but have more power and greater range. A high/low power option allows for saving battery power. Low power operation uses less battery and allows for longer periods of use between battery changes. But…you must have a license for GMRS.
From the FCC:
Any individual in the United States who is at least 18 years of age and not a representative of a foreign government may apply for a General Mobile Radio Servie license by applying and paying the license fee (currently $85.00). No exam is required. A license for a GMRS system is usually issued for a 5-year term. Prior to July 31, 1987, the FCC issued GMRS licenses to non-individuals (corporations, partnerships, government entities, etc.). These licensees are grand-fathered and may renew their existing licenses.
That’s more than the cost of becoming a HAM and buying a radio. If you’re up to the challenge, you can take a “ham-cram’ course to get a Technician license. It’s a day long study hall that teaches the answers to all of the questions asked on the ham test. You learn the answers, take the test, and, you’re a ham. The test has 35 questions.
The FCC Technician License exam covers basic regulations, operating practices and electronics theory, with a focus on VHF and UHF applications. Morse code is not required for this license. With a Technician Class license, you will have all ham radio privileges above 30 MHz. These privileges include the very popular 2-meter band. Many Technician licensees enjoy using small (2 meter) hand-held radios to stay in touch with other hams in their area. Technicians may operate FM voice, digital packet (computers), television, single-sideband voice and several other interesting modes. You can even make international radio contacts via satellites, using relatively simple station equipment. Technician licensees now also have additional privileges on certain HF frequencies. Technicians may also operate on the 80, 40 and 15 meter bands using CW, and on the 10 meter band using CW, voice and digital modes.
Once you’ve obtained your license you will be able to purchase a hand held or base station radio. The base station allows you to uses equipment with more power than the hand units. A typical UHF or VHF base station may have output power as high as 100 watts. The typical hand unit has 5 Watts maximum. That 5 Watts will put you in contact with other operators as far away as the Sierras and 50 or more miles to the north and south of Richmond. If you take your radio on your travels you can tune to repeaters in your local area and link to many places.
For those who chose to become HAM’s there are amateurs/CERT’s who have knowledge and will assist you with programming your radio with the necessary channel information for Contra Costa CERTS and R.A.C.E.S.