At a meeting with the DR Officials and rest-stop captains, the most common perception from a communication stand-point on the ride was the difficulty some rest-stop captains experienced trying to communicate with “their people” and the “hams” at the communication point (i.e.: two different physical locations). We explained that our members usually needed to remain by their radios (and that means their automobiles) to insure reliable communication to Turtle Rock Park. So, it was agreed upon to try the FRS radios to help facilitate the communication between the hams and the captains without having to physically send an individual from the captain to the hams and vise-versa.
This means you would listen to the FRS radio for info from the captain OR you could contact the captain to ask them to report to your station and talk with Turtle Rock Park directly. This again, would save our members from running around the rest stop and keep you in direct contact with the rest-stop captain regardless of physical locations.
It’s up to you, but we would like to address the perception that we are not always at the ready. I realize a second radio provides additional headaches in coordinating your information, but it does help one train to pass traffic from one medium to another under emergency conditions. Indeed, it appears much of the information will soon be transmitted via the Internet in the not to distant future. We as hams will need to relay that information in the field with our “tried and true” communication skills on our VHF or UHF radio systems.
As to the concerns and questions voiced by some TARA members, I’ve researched the FCC rules (part95) and general interpretations on the use of the FRS/GMRS type radios you may purchase at various stores in the U.S.
Bottom line: Even if your radio is a dual service FRS and GMRS radio, you will NOT need a license to operate it on channels 1 through 14. Here’s a summary of the legalities:
The differences between FRS and GMRS radios:
FRS or Family Radios Service radios are compact, handheld, wireless 2-way radios that provide very good clarity over a relatively short range. FRS radios operate on any of 14 dedicated channels (1-14) designated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) expressly for FRS radio usage. In order to comply with FCC standards, FRS radios have a maximum allowable power of 500 milliwatts (or 1/2 watt). FRS radio transceivers and their antennas may not be modified to extend their range.
1) Unlike with CB (citizens band) radios and most other 2-way radios, there is no license required to use an FRS radio.
2) There are no fees for usage, airtime or per-call charges. (Aside from the cost of batteries, they are virtually free to use.)
GMRS or General Mobile Radio Service radios operate on any of up to 8 dedicated channels (15-22) designated by the FCC. GMRS radios typically have power ratings of 1.0 to 5.0 watts and have a maximum allowable power of 50 watts.
are very similar to FRS radios, except for a few important distinctions:
1) GMRS radio use requires you to purchase an FCC operator’s license.
2) GMRS radios generally achieve greater ranges than FRS radios.
3) While FRS radios may not legally be altered, GMRS radios may legally be outfitted or retrofitted with optional antennas, car antennas or home antennas to extend their range. For more information, please visit the FCC online at FCC.gov. Note: Some GMRS radios (those with non-detachable antennas) will not accommodate antenna alterations. If you intend to alter your GMRS radio, please take care to choose a radio with a detachable-style antenna that accommodates your needs.
FRS/GMRS dual-service or "hybrid" radios:
FRS/GMRS 2-way radios are simply dual-service, or "hybrid," radios that provide access to both the FRS and GMRS bands, utilizing FRS channels (1-14) and GMRS channels (15-22). Use of a dual-service radio’s GMRS bands requires an FCC operator’s license. Dual-service radios may be used without an operator’s license, if only the FRS channels are used.
Privacy codes are used to effectively expand the number of channels by adding 38 CTCSS (Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System) codes. For example, in the case of FRS radios, instead of having just 14 channels from which to choose, with these sub-channels you are effectively provided with 14 x 38 CTCSS codes, or 532 available channels. This makes it much easier to monitor a channel in crowded use areas. The term "privacy code," however, is a bit misleading because choosing a given code does not exclude interference from additional users on that channel.
FRS radios do not require a license to use:
"If you operate a radio that has been approved exclusively under the rules that apply to FRS, you are not required to have a license. FRS radios have a maximum power of 1/2 watt (500 milliwatt) effective radiated power and integral (non-detachable) antennas."*
GMRS radios require a license to use:
"If you operate a radio under the rules that apply to GMRS, you must have a GMRS license. GMRS radios generally transmit at higher power levels (1 to 5 watts is typical) and may have detachable antennas."*
FRS/GMRS dual-band radios require a license if you use the GMRS channels:
"If you operate a (dual-band) radio under the rules that apply to GMRS, you must have a GMRS license."*