Radio Communications — The Vital Link


More on radios/walkie-talkies

We began dealing with communications a couple of weeks ago. We introduced the idea of using FRS/GMRS Mobile Radios (think “walkie-talkies”) to communicate between team members of a Community Emergency Response Team. (FRS = Family Radio Service.  GMRS = General Mobile Radio Service.  The main difference is that FRS is shorter range than GMRS.) (You can read that introductory Advisory here.)


Walkie-talkies work when phones won’t.

A properly-structured CERT organization has a hierarchy, with Block Captains (responsible for say, 10 homes) and Division Leaders (covering several Blocks) assigned according to the geography of the community.

The CERT organization also has Special Teams such as Search & Rescue, First Aid & Triage, Logistics, Damage Assessments and Communications.

All these teams can communicate via radio if the phones are out.

The beauty of the FRS/GMRS Radios is that they have 22 numbered channels, each on a different frequency. Some of the more sophisticated models have a number of “Privacy Codes” that allow a number of people to hold separate conversations on the same channel.

Low-power radios are best for CERT teams.

Contrary to normal logic, you want to equip your people with the lowest-power radios that still transmit over the immediate community you’re in. The reason is to avoid interference from adjacent communities but still be able to reach across the terrain in your area. It’s a careful balancing act that requires a lot of thought and testing to see which units work best for you. If you have a relatively small, compact area, most of your people could be outfitted with the small Motorola, Model FV150 radio.  It is sold in pairs for under $20 and has a realistic range of just under ¼ mile.

Your Division Leaders and Special Teams Members might use a larger radio, such as the Cobra CXT425 or similar which has the Privacy Codes capability and a practical range of almost a mile. This unit sells for about twice as much as the small Motorola unit, but you don’t need as many and the people using them have greater responsibility.

While these larger units have rechargeable batteries, you’re better off using disposable batteries as recharging batteries can be problematic in emergency situations.

One of our most popular pages is the REVIEW OF WALKIE-TALKIES. If you are considering purchasing radios for your family or your neighborhood CERT team, check here so you can be sure you are getting what you need.

What about ham radio?

We’ll deal with the Amateur Radio Service and the ARES in a separate post. If you have someone in your group that has a ham radio license – or is willing to obtain one – you will have a distinct advantage in an emergency as the Amateur Radio Emergency Service works closely with the local authorities and the Red Cross.

Joe Krueger
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team




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