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G-forceJunkie
11-07-2011, 9:52 PM
I'm sure some of you radio guys can give me a perspective on this. Looking to add emergency communications with two other households in emergency situations.
House "A" are house "B" are 5.2 miles apart with a ridgeline aprox 300-500' higher than the altitudes of house A and B. House "C" is 3.5 miles from house "B" with an aprox. 200-300 ridgeline seperating them. Basically, no line of site and no real access to the ridgelines.
Question: What rig would be suitable to get decent coms between house A and B and B and C? Will GMRS do it? What wattage and antennas necessary? If GMRS will not do this, is it an easy job for ham? Proper licences would be obtained either way. Thanks.

m98
11-08-2011, 1:54 AM
Is it heavily wooded in between? Gmrs is cheaper but i think without repeaters it wont be reliable. Better bet goes to ham or maybe cb?

nukechaser
11-08-2011, 5:38 AM
Amateur radio, by far. More bands, more modes (voice, data, video, etc.), higher power if needed and more spectrum. The license is free and valid for 10 years.

Also, hams are big on disaster communications, so if "bad things happen" you can still communicate even if you are not at House A, B or C with other hams. GMRS is a nice radio service, but has more limitations as compared to ham radio.

XYZ
11-08-2011, 5:53 AM
Amateur radio, by far. More bands, more modes (voice, data, video, etc.), higher power if needed and more spectrum. The license is free and valid for 10 years.

Also, hams are big on disaster communications, so if "bad things happen" you can still communicate even if you are not at House A, B or C with other hams. GMRS is a nice radio service, but has more limitations as compared to ham radio.

FYI, the exam for a ham license is $14 or $15 for a tech and if you pass that day you can take the general exam for free. If you wait awhile and upgrade to a general license the test will still cost you.

OP - if everyone will be getting a license then ham radio is the way to go. CB is limited to 40 channels and GMRS has it's own limitations. You can get a mobile rig with 50 watts and you should be good.

GrizzlyGuy
11-08-2011, 6:01 AM
GMRS operates up at 460 MHz so it is unlikely to be effective with those ridges in between. The higher the frequency, the more susceptible the signals are to obstacles in between. Similar ham radios are available at 144 MHz (2m). That is a lower frequency and might work but I doubt it (at least not without high power). Using a repeater is likely the only way to go for VHF/UHF. If each station has line-of-sight to the repeater, then no problem.

If all of you aren't interested in getting ham licenses, then try CB radios. They operate down at 27 MHz and might be able to handle the terrain obstacles (although signals would be weak). The best possible solution (assuming no repeaters available) would be for everyone to get ham licenses and HF radios (General class license minimum for HF phone). 75/80m with low dipoles at each station would provide a reliable link 24/7, with signal levels up around S9 + 20 dB (i.e. 'loud and clear'). The idea of a low antenna is to get a high radiation angle which is optimal for short distance communications (we call that NVIS (http://www.qsl.net/wb5ude/nvis/) which is Near Vertical Incidence Skywave).

Yet another way to go if everyone intends to get licensed is to setup your own repeater on one of those ridges. If it is only necessary for B to be the "hub" and communicate with A & C, and A & C don't need to communicate directly, then B could setup a remote base on one of the ridges and use that. You said that you don't have access to these ridges, so these wouldn't really be options for you.

woodsman
11-08-2011, 6:05 AM
I have them all. Jeep and truck have CB and ham mounted with Handi-talki and GMRS backup. Also have Handi-talki and GMRS in BOB's.

Bottom line is that a good ham unit blows the rest of them away.

Quality of audio and distance is astoundingly better with ham when comparing same locations.

I have had crystal clear communication on a VX7R using simplex with 1 watt over 60 miles distance. YMMV depending on weather and terrain.

Timbob55
11-08-2011, 7:13 AM
I'm a ham, so I'm somewhat biased. Having said that, why not get both? Throw a CB in there too. GMRS and CG's are inexpensive.

mej16489
11-08-2011, 9:46 AM
FYI, the exam for a ham license is $14 or $15 for a tech and if you pass that day you can take the general exam for free. If you wait awhile and upgrade to a general license the test will still cost you.


All costs associated with getting an amateur radio license (or lack thereof) are imposed by Volunteer Examiners and their associated Volunteer Exam Coordinator. The license itself is free (unless you request or renew a vanity callsign)

meaty-btz
11-08-2011, 9:48 AM
I currently run GMRS, but I am a flat-lander so they go and go and go.

One thing I have noticed in recent years is a massive fall off on CB/GMRS traffic in general. Anyone else notice the airwaves going quieter?

redrex
11-08-2011, 12:18 PM
Our solution is this.

GMRS for the Tribe. That is I have enough radios for the family and friends. We use them all the time. Right now a license is $85 for 5 years but there is a recommendation to do away with the license.

We have an emergency CB in both cars and at home. These are never really used, for just-in-case.

Ham. I have not yet gotten around to this but in the not so distant future I'd like to get my license and have a couple hand sets and a couple base stations. The idea. Groups can go out with one hand set and they can communicate in the group via GMRS.

GMRS is just cheaper then Ham, easier to use and it works great. I've gotten clear signal between two moving cars in the interstate that are 3 miles apart and I've also used it inside a very large concrete and steel building to a distance of about 200 yards. Believe me, you would be hard pressed to find a situation that had more interference.

XYZ
11-08-2011, 4:43 PM
All costs associated with getting an amateur radio license (or lack thereof) are imposed by Volunteer Examiners and their associated Volunteer Exam Coordinator. The license itself is free (unless you request or renew a vanity callsign)

Well if you want to get technical :). Bottom line it'll cost you to earn a license.

G-forceJunkie
11-08-2011, 4:57 PM
Thanks for the comments, It won't be as easy I hoped for :)

ExtremeX
11-08-2011, 5:23 PM
Amateur radio, by far. More bands, more modes (voice, data, video, etc.), higher power if needed and more spectrum. The license is free and valid for 10 years.

Also, hams are big on disaster communications, so if "bad things happen" you can still communicate even if you are not at House A, B or C with other hams. GMRS is a nice radio service, but has more limitations as compared to ham radio.

+1

I was an FRS guy for too long, and dabbled in CB too. Ham radios are the most flexible, powerful, and IMO a very very high end solution for us consumers. If you can get over the hurdle of the exam, its well worth it.

The only other option you have is MURS
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-Use_Radio_Service

I adopted MURS instead of FRS/GMRS because most of my friends or family cant/wont be bothered to do the Ham licence thing, nor are some of them interested in radio communications from a technical standpoint. You have to be a little bit of a nerd to really appreciate what hams can bring to the table.


With the distances you mentioned, MURS will work for you, because of the flexible antenna setups the FCC allows. 2 watts max, but im sure any ham will tell you, you can do A LOT with a little power if you have a decent antenna setup. The only other downside is you cant... legally, use ham radios, you must use a Part 95 type radios, most of this has to do with frequency bandwidth, like those commercial Motorola radios you might see police or costco employees using. Most of these radios are programmed and left alone, so you don't have the ham type flexibility.

http://sites.google.com/site/mursradio2/mursradiocertificationforpart95

I have a few of each types of radios... but I know one thing... with my Ham radio, I can MONITOR all bands, and depending on which radio I have with me, multiple frequency's simultaneously. Transmitting out of band is illegal, which is why I have more than just a ham radio. And even thought I try to avoid them like the plague, I still have an FRS radio in my pack, just because they are common.

Edit: Asside from buying the correct radios, there is no licence or cost to using the MURS bands... So, I have about 4 radios in a pelican case for friends / family. Often used for camping and road trips, but its a fool proof setup. High startup cost, but these radios are built like tanks if you buy something decent.

Radio:
https://www.hamcity.com/store/pc/viewPrd.asp?idcategory=61&idproduct=2250

More Options: Some will need to be programmed
https://www.hamcity.com/store/pc/viewCategories.asp?pageStyle=m&ProdSort=0&page=1&idCategory=61

You can use a home or car mounted antenna to extend range.

GrizzlyGuy
11-08-2011, 6:14 PM
With the distances you mentioned, MURS will work for you, because of the flexible antenna setups the FCC allows. 2 watts max, but im sure any ham will tell you, you can do A LOT with a little power if you have a decent antenna setup.

MURS radios operate at 151 and 154 MHz so OP's intervening ridges will affect them in virtually the same way as they would a ham 2m radio at 144-148 MHz: they are unlikely to work over that path without using a repeater.

G-forceJunkie
11-08-2011, 7:07 PM
Thanks. I initially excluded CB just because the usual bs that seems to dominate those airwaves. The 5 mile strech between house A an B includes going over Interstate 5 where the trucker traffic is always heavy. But if the frequency is within a range, I may give it a shot. I doubt household B or C would be interested in getting a ham licence. My requirements are not to call out for help, but inital communications between households say directly after a natural disaster. "Are you guys ok, what do I need to bring over" that sort of thing. We went through the 1994 Northridge earthquake without outside coms (and power or water or ability to extract due to collaposed overpasses and bridges) for several days. We now have 3 households with differing levels of equiptment, rations, etc. House A is the armory, House B is the rally house, usually has the greatest cache of food and water and best defendble position, and house C is the least prepped and has 2 toddlers. As of right now, imediate action plan after a disaster is house A travels to B (via duelsport motorcycle) for info while B travels to C. Coms would simplify this situation.

paul0660
11-08-2011, 7:21 PM
I don't understand most of this. I was a trucker and wore out some CB rigs, but don't think I ever talked to anyone more than a couple miles away.

My question is, do you need a ham license to buy ham gear?

thenodnarb
11-08-2011, 7:22 PM
Thanks. I initially excluded CB just because the usual bs that seems to dominate those airwaves. The 5 mile strech between house A an B includes going over Interstate 5 where the trucker traffic is always heavy. But if the frequency is within a range, I may give it a shot. I doubt household B or C would be interested in getting a ham licence. My requirements are not to call out for help, but inital communications between households say directly after a natural disaster. "Are you guys ok, what do I need to bring over" that sort of thing. We went through the 1994 Northridge earthquake without outside coms (and power or water or ability to extract due to collaposed overpasses and bridges) for several days. We now have 3 households with differing levels of equiptment, rations, etc. House A is the armory, House B is the rally house, usually has the greatest cache of food and water and best defendble position, and house C is the least prepped and has 2 toddlers. As of right now, imediate action plan after a disaster is house A travels to B (via duelsport motorcycle) for info while B travels to C. Coms would simplify this situation.
Trukers mostly stick to 1 channel. I think its channel 19. You have 39 other channels to communicate on. I was playing with my CB recently and tried for nearly an hour to find someone on any channel. I found nothing. I live near a freeway too, and only occasionally heard some chatter from truckers. In my experience the only people who still have CBs are truckers and off-roaders. So, if a CB can make it, I would say that you don't have a problem with the limited number of channels available.

meaty-btz
11-08-2011, 7:39 PM
Trukers mostly stick to 1 channel. I think its channel 19. You have 39 other channels to communicate on. I was playing with my CB recently and tried for nearly an hour to find someone on any channel. I found nothing. I live near a freeway too, and only occasionally heard some chatter from truckers. In my experience the only people who still have CBs are truckers and off-roaders. So, if a CB can make it, I would say that you don't have a problem with the limited number of channels available.

Indeed, even on the highways not as many truckers even using CBs. Radio has been QUIETER the last few years. Most trucking companies and dispatches and towing use Direct Connect with cellular. Cheaper by far and goes more places.

ExtremeX
11-08-2011, 9:16 PM
My question is, do you need a ham license to buy ham gear?

No you don't, but the second you TX you are breaking the law...

Even with that said, for a disaster situation, SHTF planning or if you are just someone that likes to own cool gadgetry, there really isn't a reason NOT to own a ham radio, or a good digital trunking scanner. At a bare minimum if you get a good multi-band radio you can use it to monitor the news, local repeaters, police/fire/emergency services or whatever, but you can also get a good digital trunking scanner and accomplish the same thing.

Even if you don't have a licence, get a radio, just in case, but do it with the intention of getting your licence. The amateur radio community doesn't take kindly to pirates.

ExtremeX
11-08-2011, 9:25 PM
MURS radios operate at 151 and 154 MHz so OP's intervening ridges will affect them in virtually the same way as they would a ham 2m radio at 144-148 MHz: they are unlikely to work over that path without using a repeater.

Understood, but SOMETIMES, radio waves propagate in a way that even when it seems like it may not work, it does.

Ive had some pretty interesting results in the past using 2 meter, in non line of sight usage.

I'm just saying, since its base to base, if you can get it done with a nice high gain antenna on the roof and 2 watts, its worth a shot considering MURS is the next best thing to ham.

Unless this terrain just isn't going to allow, im only making the suggestion since I have no idea what the OP is looking at.

To the OP: regardless of what your other bases are doing, get ur ham ticket, its worth it. Worst case scenario, they can listen to your broadcast, you can have some fun as a ham, and you never know, they might eventually come around after seeing what YOU can do with it. Its not until my friends saw what was possible, I was able to convert a few of my friends.

Unless its really bad, Ive seen most repeaters up and running even during power outages and other issues, its too powerful of a tool not to have.

kemasa
11-09-2011, 9:58 AM
Well if you want to get technical :). Bottom line it'll cost you to earn a license.

This is not quite accurate. There are some VECs which don't charge anything at all, so it is free to take the test and the license is free. Now, these VECs are rare, but do exist.

FYI, the exam for a ham license is $14 or $15 for a tech and if you pass that day you can take the general exam for free. If you wait awhile and upgrade to a general license the test will still cost you.


Incorrect, see above, but also there are VECs which charge less than $14. A local VEC charges $5, for example.

No you don't, but the second you TX you are breaking the law...


Not quite accurate. If it is an real emergency, it is not illegal.

mej16489
11-09-2011, 1:29 PM
I would recommend the OP contact a local amateur radio club or ARES group and test his scenario using 2m rigs at 50 watts with magmount antennas on a cookie sheet indoors.

I think this will very likely overcome the terrain - its an opportunity to 'both see if it works' and give some local hams (especially ARES) an opportunity to test and learn.

I was the Director of Communications for Rim of the World Rally for about 5 years. This event covered hundreds of square miles, using hundreds of strategic locations, staffed with amateur radio volunteers all over the Angeles and Los Padres National Forests. Generally speaking, line of sight will tell you what 'should work'; but it doesn't always tell you what 'won't work'

XYZ
11-09-2011, 4:49 PM
This is not quite accurate. There are some VECs which don't charge anything at all, so it is free to take the test and the license is free. Now, these VECs are rare, but do exist.

Incorrect, see above, but also there are VECs which charge less than $14. A local VEC charges $5, for example.
.

I'd be interested to know which VEC's don't charge in California. Can you provide a list or link since they are rare but do exist?

Darklyte27
11-09-2011, 7:09 PM
Ham, i use to be a GMRS kid but when I got into ham its much better.
I have hand helds, mobiles and base station rigs.
ive talked to people in the neighboring cities to people in other countries.

GrizzlyGuy
11-09-2011, 7:13 PM
I would recommend the OP contact a local amateur radio club or ARES group and test his scenario using 2m rigs at 50 watts with magmount antennas on a cookie sheet indoors.

I think this will very likely overcome the terrain - its an opportunity to 'both see if it works' and give some local hams (especially ARES) an opportunity to test and learn.

That's a good idea. If the ridges aren't too close or too high it just might work. If the local hams can bring out some yagis... even better.

G-forceJunkie
11-09-2011, 8:15 PM
Already contacted local club and will be atttending their next meeting. If I can dig a couple of, I am thinking about giving SSB CB with directional antennas a shot.I would recommend the OP contact a local amateur radio club or ARES group and test his scenario using 2m rigs at 50 watts with magmount antennas on a cookie sheet indoors.

kemasa
11-10-2011, 8:23 AM
I'd be interested to know which VEC's don't charge in California. Can you provide a list or link since they are rare but do exist?

I am not sure if there are any in CA, but I did find one in PA.

http://larcmdorg.doore.net/vec/


The Laurel VEC
Testing New Hams Since 1984 - Still Free of Charge


Feel free to contact all the VECs and see what they charge as I have pointed out one that does not charge anything:

http://wireless.fcc.gov/services/index.htm?job=licensing_5&id=amateur#VECs

There are several VECs in CA, I know that Greater L.A. Amateur Radio Group was charging $5.

mej16489
11-10-2011, 10:10 AM
There are several VECs in CA, I know that Greater L.A. Amateur Radio Group was charging $5.

GLAARG is the cheapest in SoCal that I'm aware of. I believe they also have a policy that the charge covers 'as many exams as you can fit within the time allotted for the exam session.

When I got my original license I did my Novice, Tech, General and 20 WPM code in a single session.

mej16489
11-10-2011, 10:21 AM
That's a good idea. If the ridges aren't too close or too high it just might work. If the local hams can bring out some yagis... even better.

Oddly enough, I've seen 50 watt mobiles with simple mag-mount antennas pull off some pretty amazing results.

On paper, one of the worst case scenarios I encountered was the need for comms between a station in Bouquet Canyon Road/Quarry Road out to the end of 6N16/San Francisquito Road. Its a 3 mile path at about 2400' with a couple ridges in between at 2800' and 3200'. Both end are in canyons, one side is quite steep.

I full expected to need a portable repeater to cover that area...at a minimum yagis to some sort of mutual focal point down the canyons... didn't need any of that I was astounded...

kemasa
11-10-2011, 10:41 AM
GLAARG is the cheapest in SoCal that I'm aware of. I believe they also have a policy that the charge covers 'as many exams as you can fit within the time allotted for the exam session.


Most have a policy that you can keep taking tests until you fail, then you have to pay again to take another test. The group that I test with (VE) is under the ARRL VEC and that is the policy.

Bobby B.
11-10-2011, 11:23 AM
GLAARG is the cheapest in SoCal that I'm aware of. I believe they also have a policy that the charge covers 'as many exams as you can fit within the time allotted for the exam session.

When I got my original license I did my Novice, Tech, General and 20 WPM code in a single session.

I don't know if it's still this way, but when I got my tech lic. in 97 it was only $4, reason given was that the club was a non-profit. I've been meaning to check if it's still that way because I've long wanted to upgrade to general.

This was in Long Beach, test given at Long Beach State. Nice folks too.

mej16489
11-10-2011, 12:19 PM
...Long Beach...

That reminds me...is anyone here a true old salt that was licensed pre VE days when you had to go to an FCC field office to get tested? I wanted to get my license really bad when I was a kid, but my parents wouldn't take me...I think the closest testing for me was only a couple of times a year in Long Beach.

I had a great Elmer as a kid even though I didn't get licensed then - K6DY - I just missed grabbing his call-sign when the vanity program started.

BillCA
11-10-2011, 1:24 PM
The proliferation of cell phones has greatly reduced traffic on CB and even HAM radio in the last 20 years. For casual conversations it's just much easier to use a cell-phone. Coverage is excellent and costs are convenient now.

If you can pass the test for a (no-code) Technician license that will give you access to voice communications on;
6 meters (50 - 54 mhz)
2 meters (144-148 mhz) very popular
1.25 meters (222 - 225 mhz)
70 cm (420 - 450 mhz)
33 cm (902 - 928 mhz)
23 cm (1240 - 1300 mhz) (1.2-1.3 Ghz)

Low cost single-band hand-held radios put out 5w and can cost less than $140. Most popular are 2-meters and 70-cm (420mhz).

Most popular dual-band hand-held radios are 2-meter/70cm (VHF/UHF) and are not terribly expensive (under $200). The Yaesu FT60R also acts as a wide-band scanner (air, police/fire/ems, and many other frequencies). A tri-band radio (6m/2m/70cm) hand-held runs about $350 and a quad-band radio (10m/6m/2m/70cm) mobile (35w/50w) runs about $450.

Automotive-mounted or base radios go to 50w but can cost a little more. Coupled with a good antenna you can get some good short-range propagation even over hills, depending on the depth and proximity to the shielding hill.

Repeaters are the way to go, but they can be expensive unless you buy a used one that's still in good shape. Power can be provided by the grid, generator and/or solar-charged batteries.

Before that, I'd experiment with trying some kind of signal reflector. Even a simple large sheet of metal positioned on a hill to reflect the signal into the next valley might work for short ranges (1-5 miles).

G-forceJunkie
11-10-2011, 4:55 PM
Interesting. For the record (since there seems to be some local people) in my situation, House A is in Castaic, House B on San Francisquio a mile past Copper Hill and House C is in Saugus half way up Plum Canyon.Oddly enough, I've seen 50 watt mobiles with simple mag-mount antennas pull off some pretty amazing results.

On paper, one of the worst case scenarios I encountered was the need for comms between a station in Bouquet Canyon Road/Quarry Road out to the end of 6N16/San Francisquito Road. Its a 3 mile path at about 2400' with a couple ridges in between at 2800' and 3200'. Both end are in canyons, one side is quite steep.

I full expected to need a portable repeater to cover that area...at a minimum yagis to some sort of mutual focal point down the canyons... didn't need any of that I was astounded...

GrizzlyGuy
11-10-2011, 5:55 PM
That reminds me...is anyone here a true old salt that was licensed pre VE days when you had to go to an FCC field office to get tested? I wanted to get my license really bad when I was a kid, but my parents wouldn't take me...I think the closest testing for me was only a couple of times a year in Long Beach.

:oji:

Yeah, my mom and I got up at 3 AM for the 4-hour drive to the FCC office in San Francisco three times: once for my General, again for my Advanced and finally for my Extra. There were no Q&A books so you actually had to study and learn the material to pass the tests based only on a broad syllabus from the FCC.

I remember my Extra test the best. I was 16 and doing around 35-40 wpm at that point. The FCC always did the code test first. I walked into the test room and all the other hams in the room looked real nervous. I was wearing my varsity letterman jacket, I leaned my chair back, kicked my feet up onto the desk, and casually took a few notes during the 20 wpm "QSO" they send and then test you on. I even threw in a few theatrical yawns and stretches for good measure.

Yeah, I was a real smart-arse back in those days... :43:

nukechaser
11-10-2011, 8:51 PM
FYI... the "no-code technician" license is only 35, multiple choice questions. One of the good practice websites is http://www.aa9pw.com/ where anyone can take a practice test. The questions are rotated from the authorized question pool from the FCC. One could even take this test over and over and they'd see every question possible. Kind of a poor-man's study guide.

I suggest everyone at house A, B and C give it a try. They might be pleasantly surprised!

mej16489
11-11-2011, 9:11 AM
Interesting. For the record (since there seems to be some local people) in my situation, House A is in Castaic, House B on San Francisquio a mile past Copper Hill and House C is in Saugus half way up Plum Canyon.

I think there is a high probability of it working with on either 2m or 70cm (144MHz or 440MHz) using a mobile rig with magmount antennas - it might not even require that the antennae be outdoors. There are also some really reliable repeaters with backup power on Oat Mountain which everyone should be able to hit with simple HTs. Barring an EMP hit, repeaters up there will likely be running long enough for you to at least coordinate getting together.

You mentioned you already talked to a local amateur club - they should take care of you just fine :) I'd come help myself, but I don't have the available time to help in the foreseeable future.

redrex
11-11-2011, 9:40 AM
I'm sure some of you radio guys can give me a perspective on this. Looking to add emergency communications with two other households in emergency situations.
House "A" are house "B" are 5.2 miles apart with a ridgeline aprox 300-500' higher than the altitudes of house A and B. House "C" is 3.5 miles from house "B" with an aprox. 200-300 ridgeline seperating them. Basically, no line of site and no real access to the ridgelines.
Question: What rig would be suitable to get decent coms between house A and B and B and C? Will GMRS do it? What wattage and antennas necessary? If GMRS will not do this, is it an easy job for ham? Proper licences would be obtained either way. Thanks.

OK, As I said before I use GMRS and not ham. But I do have some experience in another radio technology... WiFi :) I have done all sorts of wifi setups and you can do some cool stuff with it. It's basically line of sight and I have seen long distance challenges done out in the dessert where they are getting 33 miles out of it.

I was doing a setup at an auto auction once where we needed to go around another building and we used yagi directional antennas to bounce the signal off of the big glass front of the showroom to another building that was not in line of sight.

Lastly, and I'm sorry I can't find the article, I remember reading a blog from quite a while ago about a guy who lived in the bay area, but was to far from the central office for dsl. And he was behind a ridge so he couldn't get wifi but what he did was take two yagi style cantennas and made a passive repeater with them. Then hiked to the top of the ridge, climbed up a tree about 20' and mounted them there. With that he was able to steal wifi from the starbucks in town!

Now I'm not sure if something like this will work for your radios but I know it works for wifi. Two laptops, a couple of voip phones and your are set.

It's just a thought :)