Skip to comments.Vanity: Need Freeper help with commo gear (CB/SSB/FRS/etc) for local family
Posted on 04/26/2011 9:59:16 AM PDT by DCBryan1
Due to last night's storms in Central Arkansas, our family found out the HARD WAY just how important communications (commo) is when the power goes out, telephone lines get blown down, the cell towers are destroyed, and we are left in the dark with multiple tornados inbound.
Anyways, I wanted to solicit Freepers help on unconventional communications with family such as Citizen Band (CB), FRS, GMRS, etc. I am going to attend our Central Arkansas Ham Radio meeting next month and see about going "one step further" to get my ham radio license. Please read below for my situational needs.
My particular situation is:
..... that I have several family members in Little Rock,
....we all live and work within 30 miles of each other (Little Rock, North Little Rock, Conway, and Jacksonville),
.....and we are all on board to upgrading our commo with each other,
.....I was tasked into looking into CBs or other commo gear for the family, and
.....all five households are are receptive to buying their own base stations/auto/& or mobile gear.
I have seen several different brands of CBs such as Ranger, Galaxy, Uniden, Midland, Radio Shack, etc and have no idea of their reputation or your personal observations. Which ones suck? Which don't? etc.
1) What are the most reliable companies NOT needing a ham license?
2) What features should I be looking for with my situation above?
3) Which ones can I add (legally) accessories to to either enhance or boost power and reception?
4).....and if the law becomes mute, what are some things I can do to boost power, range, or reception? From what my visit with Radio Shack personnel stated today, the FCC is very timid on enforcing the CB-alteration laws and some electronics that are "illegal" openly advertise in direct contradiction to FCC laws....
5) Police/Fire/EMS scanners.....should we buy stand alone scanners, or do rely on a "all in one" or "swiss army knife" type units?
Anyways..... Thanks for your help in getting my immediate family up to speed on commo gear.
Thanks and FReegards!
That is like asking ‘which gun should I get’ but you have some mail on its way!
That storm scared the snot out of you, didn’t it?
CB radios and FRS do not transmit/receive 30 miles.
Power first. Does no good to have comm’s if you have no power to work them.
The tornado that went through here two weekends ago was within 2 miles of here and we didn’t have any damage - BUT - we have Time Warner Digital service and that went down for about 24 hours taking Phone, Cable TV and Internet with it. Cell phones were OK.
We have a 5 Kw generator and it will run my computer setup, the entertainment center, frig & either window A/C unit or floor oil heater plus a couple of lights.
Had a trunk scanner and with it could follow where the bad spots were in town. With cable out we hooked up the regular antenna (rabbit ears) and got the regular ABC & CBS channels.
Interesting subject; one I’d like to know more about. We take cell phones, cable TV and the internet for granted, not wanting to believe that, in the immortal words of Buck Owens: “Pfffft! It was gone!”
The worst part was 0 power, 0 commo, and knowing that there were four (4) more tornados heading up the traditional Interstate 30 cooridor. Finally was able to text message that we were ok...but were in the dark for a while. THAT is what is scary.
I live in Memphis and we are going to get hit with the same storm that Little Rock did last night. Im on oxygen and I’m concerned.
iPing for later.
Pete, do “old fashioned” rabbit ears work? Do they receive a signal even though they aren’t HD antennas?
Along with your generator for the power FReepers need to think about a supply of gas for it also. I have a 6.2Kw generator and the 5 gallon tank does not last very long. I think we got something like 10 hrs out of the generator’s 5gal. tank. We ran a frig, TV w/satellite a couple of lights and a couple of fans and a coffee maker. We also ran a small microwave with other loads turned off. I keep at least 20 gallons of gas, treated with Sta-Bil, in reserve at all times. You will need oil also. Used the generator for two weeks after Katrina. I would not expect the wide spread power outages like after Katrina or an ice storm for a tornado but having a couple of days of gas for the gen set would be wise.
Let's start with CB, limited to 5 watts by law.
THe law? 47 CFR 95 Subpart D
More here http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=operations&id=cb
Amplifiers - NO
Users may not raise the power output of their CB units. That would be unfair to the other users sharing the channel by raising the level of radio noise. You must not attach a “linear,” “linear amplifier” or any other type of power amplifier to your CB unit, Moreover, you must not modify your CB unit internally. Doing so cancels its certification and you forfeit your authorization to use it.
Better antennas - yes
There are no height restrictions for antennas mounted on vehicles or for hand-held units. For structures, the highest point of your antenna must not be more than 20 feet above the highest point of the building or tree on which it is mounted, or 60 feet above the ground. There are lower height limits if your antenna structure is located within two miles of an airport.
Keep in mind the bigger/better/taller your antenna, the better your LOS comms will be. The risk of weather damages rise as well.
SSB? - very much yes. Makes the radio usable over a much longer range/YMMV.
Modification of radios? Read about “Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture” from the FCC website. You make the choice, you take the risk. As for me, it just ain't worth it.
FRS - likely no. Very low power, no external antennas and so on. Great for the park or yard, not across the town.
GRMS - Maybe. 5 watts, high gain antenna and noise free FM. Needs a license (fill out boxtop, send in the cash)
See if your dealer can give you a names(s) of local users to see how they work in your AO.
Commercial FM comms (SMR) Your call - Rent the radios, pay for access. Not as expensive as it used to be as cellular has made inroads, look for SMR service in your area. Talk to them. See of you like the deal.
Scanners. Check local laws, in some places having a scanner in your car/truck is illegal. Otherwise, good to have. May be a tad expensive if the local PD/fire/EMS is APCO 25 or trunked or both. Check with the local outlet, ask for a demo before you buy.
Finally - ham
LEast cost, best equipment, etc, etc. The test is now no code, 35 question multiple guess. Check with local ham club. Might even be fun.
Good luck. Remember, I'm just another guy on the Internet, so do your own homework!
Do you have any bottled oxy?
I hear ya, dude. I was huddled in my closet with my two kids for a long while too. It makes you feel helpless.
You need to head out for somewhere safe if you can. Don’t take chances with your life.
A decent antenna will work. It doesn't have to be HD specific. An example is the guy who came to hook up my Dish Network. He took a spool of thin gauge wire, unwound about two feet of it, and just shoved it into my "Antenna in" port on the back of the set. He just did it to shows us how the HD Dish signal looked, vs. antenna. Several of the local channels came in loud and clear (regular digital and HD). Some didn't show up at all. All those that did come in had far better resolution than the Dish signal ever gets.
Hi Coldwater: is there a hospital nearby where you can sit in their ER waiting room until the storm passes?
I don’t know if the hospital will allow you to do that, but perhaps your doctor can help swing-it for you. You will definitely be safer there than at home, it sounds like.
We keep the vehicles pretty well topped off. They are our back gas supply. The truck alone holds 27 gallons. Keeping it in the spare vehicles also helps rotate it and keep it fresh.
By keeping an eye on the news (Hurricane / Ice Storm) we fill up a 5 gallon can a couple of days before the mad rush. If nothing happens we dump it in one of the cars.
Being in the city and in a neighborhood with underground utilities we’ve never been out of power more than two days.
Buy and license two-way (used in construction, law enforcement etc.) in the vhf band.
That 30 miles will be absolutely reliable.
Amateur radio license (Ham)can be obtained in a shorter time than you may think. Passing the test to having a call sign assigned to you can be as little as 7 days. Check if there are any one day license preparation and testing events in your area or do your own study on line and find a testing session near you. The local Ham Club will help you.
As far as comms go; Amateur radio offers the most flexibility and the best chance to stay in touch with the family group.You need to assess what you all want to do and the funds that it will take.
Amateur (Ham) radio offers several modes to communicate through. (VHF&UHF) FM simplex, (VHF&UHF) FM repeaters,High Frequency (HF) Single Side Band (SSB), VHF,UHF,HF packet radio, and don’t forget CW—morse code. Plus legally up to 1500 watts of RF power if needed on many bands.
Setting up effective communications will require practice and proficiency with your Ham radio equipment.
You all will need to practice. You need to become proficient at establishing communication with your family members.
Write down what yo want to do with regard to family communication and determine the best mix of Ham equipment required to accomplish the task.
Did I mention you will need to practice with your equipment?