Good Radio Communications Key to Successful CERT Operations


Walkie-Talkie Update!

If you’ve been following us here on the Emergency Plan Guide you know that we place communications at the top of the priority list. Without a well-designed Communications Plan and reliable, easy to operate hand-held radios (walkie-talkies), you simply don’t have a fully-functional team. Over the past three years we have reviewed and recommended several models, depending on your geography and the models available.

Sample Communications Plan

Sample Communications Plan showing Channels

In our case we have six Divisions, each with 60 homes each. Each Division operates on a channel that corresponds to the number of their Division (1 through 6) and Division Leaders communicate with Incident Command on Channel Seven. Special Teams each have dedicated channels (9-22). The image at left shows how we’ve laid out our plan for each Division.

We No Longer Recommend the Compact Motorola FV150 Radios.

One of our favorites, the low-cost (under $10 ea. In packs of two) Motorola FV150 is no longer readily available, and the cost has gone up. We bought dozens of these at nearby Target stores and ordered them from Amazon with free shipping. We favored this compact model because it was both low cost and low power . . . which meant that it was ideal for apartment, condominium and manufactured home campuses where residents were close together and line-of-sight was the dominant terrain.

High power wasn’t necessary for our Block Captains and, in fact, was a detriment in that interference from nearby users could interrupt emergency broadcasts.

However, these units did have one major flaw that became apparent with use. They presented something of a challenge for senior citizens who weren’t raised on Mario Brothers or other digital distractions. Operation of these units was simply too complex for many people.

We Also No Longer Recommend the Cobra CXT425C.

We favored this model specifically because it was higher power, albeit more costly ($16 ea.) than the Motorola. We issued these to our Division Leaders because they communicate across the campus with the Incident Command Center and Special Teams, such as Search & Rescue, Logistics and Damage Control, etc. (These units come with rechargeable batteries that will likely be a useless convenience in case of an extended power outage. We use regular AAA batteries and supply extras to all of our 70+ Team Members.)

These Cobra units are ideal for communicating between Divisions and Incident Command and, especially during busy multi-tasking, the Cobras incorporate a privacy convenience. While this extends their versatility, it’s a feature we rarely use.

The problem for us? These models are only sporadically available through Amazon at this price and, when they are, it recently has required a bulk purchase of several in order to get them. While they are available elsewhere, the price is higher and the added shipping makes the purchase unnecessarily expensive. Fortunately, we have found an alternative that serves both purposes.

The Uniden 16-Mile 22 Channel Rechargable FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radio Pair – Black (GMR1636-2C) is Both Compact and Easy to Operate and Has The Same Long Range as the Cobra.

We are, in fact, in the process of replacing all of our Block Captain’s Motorolas with these and issuing them instead of the Cobras for our Division Leaders and Special Teams Members. At less than $30 for a set of two, they are well within our budget and we recommend them for your team as well. These are actually an upgrade from the earlier version, but the only difference of any real consequence is that they come with rechargeable batteries and a dual plug charger.

Our first round of purchases were limited (by Amazon) to a maximum of 18 units. Our most recent purchase was not restricted in any way, so it may just have been a supply/demand situation.

As mentioned previously, we operate all of our radios with regular AAA batteries. Unfortunately, one of our local sources has discontinued sale of their Energizer line in favor of the new red-topped Duracells. While we have just begun testing these new Duracells, our experience with the Coppertops was not as good as the Energizers. While they both go bad if left in the units for extended periods, the Duracells seemed to corrode more often and at a higher rate than the Energizers. The corrosion usually destroys the units.

Hopefully, you find this information valuable. As we have said repeatedly, these radios are the most important purchase you’re likely to make in setting up an operational CERT program.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team

Interested in learning more about our experiences with walkie-talkies? Take a look at these pages on our site:




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