by Dennis R. Garrett for The Big Lake Times, Callsign WRCQ996.
The 7.0 earthquake of 30 November 2018 was a great test of our emergency systems, with one aspect lacking: Communications.
The power was out, so landlines were down too. I contacted my neighbors by text on my cellphone to see if everyone was OK, or needed anything. But what if cellphones had been down too?
There’s a viable alternative: The FRS/GMRS Radio Service.
These are handheld radios such as the Midland GXT1000 (mention of a product does not imply endorsement). This is an inexpensive put powerful and full-featured radio that anyone can buy. The License fee is $70, go to http://wireless.fcc.gov/uls/index.htm?job=home to start the process. I have one and it’s a fine radio, waterproof and powerful, well-supported by the wireless community.
It’s not a Ham radio, but is something easily attainable by everyone in the area. I would suggest establishing a “Commo Window”, which are times that everyone can tune into the local frequency without having to be on the radio all day, unless something is happening.
If you choose the higher-powered GMRS radio, you need a license, otherwise you may be subject to fines or worse. You even get a unique callsign.
In an emergency, such as the recent earthquake, you are allowed to use any form of communication without a license: CB, Aircraft, Ham, FRS/GMRS, VHF Marine, etc. For community radio I recommend a GMRS radio that can also get on the lower-powered FRS channels. Learn to use the radio before an emergency, and get with your neighbors so everyone is on the same frequency. Observe proper radio use, such as saying your callsign and saying “over” when you are finished with your transmission so the other users know to talk. Keep your transmissions short, we refer to this as brevity. COMSEC is Communication Security, so think before you key the mike and start talking.
Whatever radio you choose, I’d suggest getting one that has both a rechargeable power pack and can use batteries, such as AA.