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GMRS Ideas Please

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KMD877-KMG983

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(Feel free to point me to an existing thread or threads if these questions are already covered.)

First off, I'm really glad to see that there is a GMRS section on this board. This is an issue that I have been looking into and my sense is that I'll probably get good information from this group.

I'm retired fire service and since moving out to a rural region I've ended up being asked to provide some organization and training for an all volunteer large animal emergency response team. Since we're not technically law enforcement, SAR or Fire, it would be extremely complicated to get authorization to use those channels, and even at that it would be limited to low power HT simplex. So for now we use FRS HTs that work pretty well in close quarters, but we have to rely on cell phones for coordination to team rendezvous or incident staging, keeping track of each other if individual units are assigned out of the team when at staging, etc.

Mobile telephones tend to get a bit unreliable when you're called out to a 3,000 acre fire in an urban area (e.g., Reno) and quite literally 10,000 people are being evacuated. Try to get a cell channel with all that urgent citizen call load on the network. GMRS simplex appears to be the most practical option as it could allow person-to-person close range communications using HTs and reasonable distance mobile-to-mobile communications. There is also a need for HT users to be able to hear the mobile broadcasts as there may be critical personal safety information that needs to be heard by all.

Am I off base here or would it be practical to acquire (and license) GMRS mobile equipment to use with FRS portables that overlap onto GMRS channels?

Looking for ideas. Thanks in advance.

":O) Willis
Stagecoach, NV
 

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nonperson

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Are you all a local governmental organization? If so you may see if you can share radio frequencies with the local public works agency.

The GMRS is doable but every it's more for family and friends. A FCC license is required to legally use the GMRS frequencies. However one license will cover each family member or close relative in a house hold. Friends and others would have to get their own licenses. The license(s) also allow you to use more power and repeaters if needed. The FRS only frequencies do not require a license and are very low powered with very limited range as you have all ready experienced. And yes GMRS users can communicate with FRS only users.

Another option is MURS radios. With MURS you are allowed to use up to two watts, no license is required and you have five frequencies to choose from all in the VHF band. You can set up a base station, use HTs and use mobiles (if you can find them) but again you are limited to only two watts.
Then of course there is all ways HAM radio but you ALL will need a license to use it. :)
 
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KB7MIB

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Another possibility would be acquiring a business/industrial (Part 90) license for the group, or signing a contract with a local SMR owner who has wide-coverage repeaters in the area. Good luck!
 

KMD877-KMG983

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Thanks for the response.

Thanks for the ideas.

First off, we're all a bunch of retired geezers. We had to turn in our FD / LE / MIL communications gear on retirement. Plus, I was really dumb and let my HAM ticket expire (former N6VZT.)

In our situation, whomever is the strike team leader in an incident would have access to appropriate SAR channels however where our communications strategy breaks down involves individual units, many from different jurisdictions and in some instances different counties with different radio communications skills sets (what traffic is appropriate, propagation issues over distances, etc.) It's tough, for example, for us based in central Lyon County to get someone authorized in Douglas County to come up on our frequency.

What we did in CoCo County back in the day was integrate with the Amateur Operators. I was at the time the FD District Communications Officer. Although I generally worked on the line, my "additional duties" involved fire communications. The HAMs got a van donated and the fire agencies and local Amateurs worked together to build a MACS (Multi Agency Command Support) unit. That was really cool as I would get reassigned off the engine to go to interesting incidents such as SWAT / hostage situations, search and rescue calls, terrorism drills, disasters, etc. Although I was stationed in the Oakland / Orinda hills, I lived in a rural area and handled large animal evacuation at my end of the county. When we got calls, I had FD and amateur radio mobiles and HTs on board and we'd tap out the MACS unit that would respond and issue FD HTs from the radio cache. We'd operate on what was ordinarily the county's training channel. It actually worked great.

So now I've moved from a county with a population of over a million people to "Just-beyond-the-middle-of-nowhere, Nevada." Great place to live but people and resources are limited and spread out over a huge area. Lots of dead zones in the cellular network. LOTS of mountains to screw with low power propagation. Because of my career experiences a decade or so ago I'm asked to improve the efficiency of large animal evacuation operations because nearly everyone out this way has a horse or two... or a dozen. If any of y'all read about the wildfires in Reno (the ones where 10,000 people are evacuated tend to make the national news) you'll understand how we have a significant wildfire problem out here.

Licensing a GMRS station / stations isn't a problem and I'm an advocate of legal use of the airwaves. However we still might run into propagation issues unless we got permission to use GMRS repeaters, and the repeater channels aren't accessible by the FRS (disposable) handie talkies.

Another thought is to try to get primary team members to get their HAM tickets. With the advent of no-code licenses, that might be doable, then we could work out a communications plan with the local ARES folks and repeater clubs. Back in the day we were pretty good at cross-linking repeaters when necessary to provide coverage during emergencies and perhaps those technologies exist out here.

I've just been out of the game for a while, have never really looked into GMRS, and I feel like a complete novice again.

I do really appreciate the comments being posted as it helps me figure out which options are not practical and which ones to continue to pursue.

":O) Willis

(And yes, the MACS van in the photo is a teensy bit overloaded with gear.)
 

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nonperson

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If I understand GMRS correctly you can set up your own repeater system using one of the unused repeater frequency pairs in your area or use one of the existing ones with the repeater owner's permission.
 

ramal121

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First of all, I feel your pain. I know some of the communications geeks from CoCoCo and the entire county was was (is) very receptive to alternate/emergency communications. Moving to the sticks presents some overwhelming radio issues.

It sounds like like you are covered with on scene communications, but that goes as far at that goes. Wide area and long distance coordination is a whole 'nother ball of wax. The best bet would to be crowned some kind of official county title and have permission to use a secondary local government channel. You may have to share it with local OES or the puppy patrol but will give you a high level repeater to use. This will require a little bit of political glad-handing to accomplish. The result would be a channel (sort of) all your own (if they get the radio techs to give you a separate PL tone). This way you have most of the costs already expended and future costs are county borne.

If you want to pursue an individual system, then GMRS is something to look into. You could , say, throw up a repeater on McClelland peak for coverage into the Reno/Carson area, but you'll have to supply the equipment at a cost of couple of thousand of dollars (or more) plus the monthly site rental. And above that, to be legal, all of your members will have to get a GMRS license in addition to the one that covers the repeater to use it.

Ham radio is an option, but remember it would be a volunteer agreement to utilize any infrastructure and all members would have to fork over $15 and pass a test to be able to use a radio. Years back, there was a UHF linked system that had McClelland, Peavine, and Pond peaks that had great coverage around Reno, but the trustee is long gone and I don't know if it still exists.

Anyway, looks like you have a challenge before you, and if there are any questions, make some noise and we'll see if the posters can help
in any way...
 

Freqincrazy

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Murs Base and Handhelds

I am not an expert by any means on this topic, however I am retired and live in a very fire prone area and listen to the scanner of the long hours and the many neighboring towns called in to support the effort of fire fighting.

I suggest this site for Murs:
Home Security Store | Wireless Security Systems, Alarms and Security Camera Store

And a GRE scanner that has a multi-color Led to monitor groups or indivdual frquencies.
Colors can make it easier to identify your "team" while being in sync with firefighters you are trying to work with, especially at night.
 

KMD877-KMG983

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Thanks for all the ideas, everyone. Ramal, you seem to know the geography well. BTW, as another KFAT fan you might get a kick out of the fact that I discovered I moved not far from Travus T. Hipp. However since you're familiar with McClellan Peak, you might already know that. He lives darn near in the shadow of the peak, at least in the late afternoons.

We go out on horse calls all the time, the most recent being this past Monday, so I'm thinking that the Animal Services channel would make the most sense. We might have an "in" there since I'm on the Animal Services Board. (That's how I got into this mess in the first place.) But it would have to be cleared through the County Administrator and S.O. I believe they use Rawe Peak but that should still be good for coordination. We'd run simplex once joined up at Staging. I first need to figure out who else is on that channel. It appears from the forum's frequency list that the only "close neighbors" are Storey County (who probably shares the repeater) and Placer County (CA,) although with all the cutbacks there's hardly anyone left that would need to talk on the radio.

- - ... ... - - de Willis
 

bikinjohn

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Too bad you can't hop on the NSRS. They have NVEnergy and Union Pacific on there, surely something involving SAR could be on it too
 
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