Emergency portable local radio communication

Poppy

Flashaholic
Joined
Dec 20, 2012
Messages
8,504
Location
Northern New Jersey
When the cell towers are out, I would like to communicate with friends and family within a five to ten mile radius reliably (within hilly territory) and perhaps up to fifty miles away. I would like to be able to limit the distance so as not to hear conversations hundreds of miles away.

It would be good to hear the local police and maybe, be able to communicate with them.

Recommendations?
 

alpg88

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 19, 2005
Messages
5,456
It does not really matter ham, gmrs or frs, or cb, range is all about wattage. repeaters are nice if you can connect to them, or even have them where you are.
hills are not an issue if both are on the same side of the hill, if a hill is between them pretty much no band is getting thru, then you must have a repeater.
Sat phones are the best if you willing to pay service plans which are not cheap.
 

LEDphile

Enlightened
Joined
Mar 8, 2021
Messages
327
Note that anything with more reliable range than a couple miles is going to require an FCC license in the US. For the unlicensed bands, CB is going to get you the longest range (especially around hills), followed by MURS, followed by FRS. The 900Mhz ISM band radios (Motorola DTR series) are a bit better than FRS for line-of-sight communication, but I suspect will fare less well in hilly terrain.

You won't be able to legally transmit on the frequencies your local emergency responders use, at least not without their express permission, and your ability to monitor the channels will depend on the age of the radio system they are using. Many newer radio systems encrypt the communications, but older ones can usually be monitored as long as you know the frequencies.
 

michaex

Enlightened
Joined
Nov 28, 2019
Messages
353
Location
Canada
Garmin InReach? Cheaper than a satphone, uses Iridium satellites and works well. But no voice communication, only messaging. Works really well from my experience.
 

alpg88

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 19, 2005
Messages
5,456
Gmrs license is like a fishing license, you buy it, no tests, it covers your entire family, and costs about 70 bucks for 10 years iirc.
Ham license requires a test, like drivers permit, but study materials are available free online, for someone who knows electricity, and possesses common sense it is piece of cake, and you can do it over the zoom. iirc it is also under 100 bucks, you get your callsign after the test, which you are able to change after like a custom license plate.
In case of real emergency you can use any bands with no license. you may be able to talk to police in such case if they use simple analog radios, and their system does not require specials signal, aka tone to transmit, otherwise they wont hear you, if they use digital radios, you are out of luck.

 

KITROBASKIN

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 28, 2013
Messages
5,647
Location
New Mexico, USA
Interesting information!
There are other satellite emergency devices available, with the ability to begin and end subscriptions pretty simply I understand. It would be great to hear from members regarding actual use. How effective is texting?
 

DRW

Enlightened
Joined
Mar 27, 2022
Messages
376
Location
Michigan
It would be good to hear the local police and maybe, be able to communicate with them.
You will need a scanner to hear the Police. Check this website https://www.radioreference.com/db/ to find out if the police in your area are using encryption. If they are - you will never hear them. If they are digital, and this is very likely. They are probably using P25 digital encoding. Very few scanners do a good job of handling P25 simulcast, Uniden SDS100 will ($650). The website DB will tell you about simulcast in the area of interest.

You should not even try to talk on the Police frequencies. No good will come from it.

GMRS with good radios and antennas is my suggestion. You are not going to have to worry about hearing other stations 100s of miles away.
 

KITROBASKIN

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 28, 2013
Messages
5,647
Location
New Mexico, USA
Oh, upon further thought, not sure those satellite emergency communicators suit your scenario. I know so little about them but thinking they are not able to text with another satellite device. Additionally, the satellite receiver that interfaces with others requires electricity, so if the area where the receiver loses power, satellite is useless.

I had a satellite radio years ago, limited utility because of complications with the service.
 

alpg88

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 19, 2005
Messages
5,456
aren't those satellite devices talk directly to a satellite? If they need a relay station wouldn't it defeat the entire purpose?
 

KITROBASKIN

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 28, 2013
Messages
5,647
Location
New Mexico, USA
aren't those satellite devices talk directly to a satellite? If they need a relay station wouldn't it defeat the entire purpose?
Emergency device sends signal to satellite. Satellite sends signal to ground receiver. Ground receiver connects with communication network. Ground receiver requires electricity to function. This is my understanding.
 

PhotonWrangler

Flashaholic
Joined
Oct 19, 2003
Messages
14,609
Location
In a handbasket
Emergency device sends signal to satellite. Satellite sends signal to ground receiver. Ground receiver connects with communication network. Ground receiver requires electricity to function. This is my understanding.
This is correct. Having said that, a satellite ground station that handles any important traffic will have a UPS/generator backup system.
 

michaex

Enlightened
Joined
Nov 28, 2019
Messages
353
Location
Canada
You can text directly from one Garmin InReach to another one. It doesn't use any ground infrastructure. Grab a solar panel and you're safe in terms of battery. It's reliable and allows for suspension of subscription if not used. Bear in mind it's not like regular texting - there are delays since device checks for messages every X minutes (it's not connected to the satellite continuously).
 

hamhanded

Enlightened
Joined
Dec 16, 2003
Messages
400
Location
PNW
It does not really matter ham, gmrs or frs, or cb, range is all about wattage. repeaters are nice if you can connect to them, or even have them where you are.
hills are not an issue if both are on the same side of the hill, if a hill is between them pretty much no band is getting thru, then you must have a repeater.
Yes, the total wattage out makes a difference but the frequency and antenna configurations matter just as much. This is why a 1200 watt microwave oven run with the door open would barely be detectable down the street, but a 50 watt HF radio can be heard around the world.

Also, about the hill in the way: with the right antenna setup, the sky itself can be your repeater: see NVIS radio.
 

alpg88

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Apr 19, 2005
Messages
5,456
Yes, the total wattage out makes a difference but the frequency and antenna configurations matter just as much. This is why a 1200 watt microwave oven run with the door open would barely be detectable down the street, but a 50 watt HF radio can be heard around the world.

Also, about the hill in the way: with the right antenna setup, the sky itself can be your repeater: see NVIS radio.
Well, all things being equal, power is what gives you range, Yes i'm aware of skyway propagation, but it is not possible with portable radio, it has neither enough power, nor large enough antenna. portables are usually 2-5Watts,with some up to 25watts

Best emergency radio is , imo, ham radio, it can be tuned to wide range of frequencies, unlike frs, gmrs, cb which have 20+ channels with set frequencies, ham radio is basically a scanner that transmits. the only downside is you need a license, but only to transmit, to own and listen you do not need one. My cheap uv-5r picks up all my local services pd, fd, ambulance, noaa....... pretty much anything in range i can pick up. including all walkie talkie channels.
 

scout24

Flashaholic
Joined
Dec 23, 2008
Messages
8,869
Location
Penn's Woods
Poppy- Where you are located most if not all police will be encrypted or trunked. Local municipal agencies (DPW, etc.) may still be using frequencies you can pick up with a scanner or handheld with a decent antenna. Communicating WITH any of the local agencies will be ill advised under any circumstances. Nothimg handheld will accomplish what you're trying to do even within the 5-10 mile range without repeater infrastructure. Take a look at the BivyStik, it's a satellite device that uses your smartphone to send and recieve text messages like the Garmin InReach, above. All things considered, probably the cheapest, easiest to use solution to your query.
 

scout24

Flashaholic
Joined
Dec 23, 2008
Messages
8,869
Location
Penn's Woods
So, that allows text with 911, and just allows pings with other users (who also need a $1000 phone) with your location? Genuinely curious, not bashing.
 

KITROBASKIN

Flashlight Enthusiast
Joined
Mar 28, 2013
Messages
5,647
Location
New Mexico, USA

¨The ACR Bivy Stick offers a more flexible pricing structure than similar products, allowing users to pay for only the months they use the device, with no annual contract or activation fee required. The easiest option is an unlimited fee of $49.99 per month. There are also two different Credit plans: 20 Credits for $18 per month or 100 Credits for $40 per month. The Credits do not expire, so they can be saved for times of high outdoor activity. One Credit is the equivalent to one SMS message, one tracking interval, one location request, or one basic weather report, while SOS and preset messages are unlimited.¨


Looks like about $250, 3.4 ounces
Amazon reviews: 78 ratings, 64% 5 stars, 12% 4 stars, 9% 1 star
 
Top