FRS/GMRS and MURS frequencies for emergencies?

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Haertig

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I'm wondering how many here are set up to use these frequencies in emergencies? Are they useful?

My son recently bought a pair of Baofengs for emergency use. Since I was set up with CHIRP on my computer, I programmed them for him. Since he doesn't have a HAM license, I put in the main repeaters in our area, but in receive-only (no transmitting) mode. And I also put in the five MURS and 22 FRS frequencies for him. I gave him transmit capability on the FRS and MURS. That's legal for MURS (I think), but not exactly legal for FRS. FRS radios technically cannot have a detachable antenna, which the Baofeng does. Also, a GMRS radio (which uses the same frequencies as FRS) cannot have the capability to transmit on other frequencies outside of the GMRS band, which the Baofeng does. So I guess I made some "accidental programming errors" when I set up his radios.

Anyway, after doing this Baofeng programming for my son, I started thinking about my own radio capabilities. I have a HAM license, so my Yaesu FT-60R is set up with all the local repeaters, some commonly used simplex frequencies, etc. I just now added the FRS/GMRS and MURS frequencies. The FT-60R, being a bit more respectful HAM radio than the Baofeng, has a wide receive range but a transmit range limited to only HAM frequencies (the way things should be for an FCC compliant radio). So I can listen to FRS/GMRS and MURS on the FT-60R, but not transmit. Does anyone think these frequencies are very useful in emergencies? Important enough for me to have transmit capabilities on them?

I do have a Baofeng, but due to the horrible quality control and inconsistency of the things, my Baofeng is a dog. You can barely hear any audio output even with the volume on full. And it's sensitivity is horrid. I can hook up an outside J-Pole to the Baofeng, tune it to the same frequency as my FT-60R with it's small whip antenna, and the Baofeng will be silent on a busy frequency while the Yaesu is chattering away with full quieting. My Baofeng is basically a paperweight. I would consider buying another one, praying to get one that passed some shred of quality control, and use that for FRS/GMRS and MURS transmissions. But I'm wondering if FRS/GMRS and MURS transmission capability is even worth pursuing in the first place. Especially considering that any Baofeng purchase is a wild gamble - will I get one that works, or won't I? On the plus side, Baofengs are only about $25, so not a large expenditure.

Any thoughts?
 
I use 'em even when there aren't any emergencies. My Wouxun UV9PX is unlocked and set up with local ham repeaters as well as GMRS repeaters (I have a GMRS license as well as a ham license). And I have MURS and FRS in there, too. Since GMRS licenses are only $35 and don't require taking a test, maybe your son should consider getting his license. Most repeaters near me do require you have a valid GMRS call sign.

In light of the fact the FCC doesn't come down on people using frequencies on non-type approved radios, I don't feel terribly bad about it. Besides, don't abuse them and you'll be fine.

The various Baofengs I purchased have all been rock solid and perform well. YMMV. I haven't measured spurious emissions; I'm sure they aren't clean like my more expensive HTs.
 
Yep. I have a dozen Bafengs set up for FRS etc. Given that FRS radios are ubiquitous among the general public it seems like no brainer that this will be the main way people communicate post SHTF, given that not one person in a thousand has a Ham license but there are little kids walkie talkies that you can talk to on FRS.

I even have mine set up to broadcast on the weather channels so in a pinch, I could reach anyone on one of those emergency radio's or older cars with them built in.
 
Yep. I have a dozen Bafengs set up for FRS etc. Given that FRS radios are ubiquitous among the general public it seems like no brainer that this will be the main way people communicate post SHTF, given that not one person in a thousand has a Ham license but there are little kids walkie talkies that you can talk to on FRS.

I even have mine set up to broadcast on the weather channels so in a pinch, I could reach anyone on one of those emergency radio's or older cars with them built in.
Preparing for severe crises should include radios that can transmit offband.......but even possessing such a radio makes most Hams flip out.

But that question really determines if the person involved is a ham that thinks that being so makes them a survivalist......and a survivalist that looks at offband radio comms as a useful capability in a severe crisis.
 
Preparing for severe crises should include radios that can transmit offband.......but even possessing such a radio makes most Hams flip out.

The irony being....in an emergency, it's legal to use any band.
 
I have some Befongs with multiple freqs from different bands set up. But from my experience FRS and MURS just arent that useful outside of close range. I plan to do most of our comms on ham bands with high quality antennas
 
I have read that the MARS/CAP mod on an FT-60R opens up transmit capabilities on the FRS/GMRS and MURS frequencies. On the FT-60R, this mod appears to be the removal of a single surface mount resistor. You can desolder that resistor if you have the appropriate (small) soldering iron and the skills necessary. A lot of people seem to just pick at the resistor with the corner of a razor blade until they physically break the solder joint and can flick the tiny resistor off into the unknown.

I would do the mod in a heartbeat on a $21 Baofeng. But I am hesitant to do it on my $155 Yaesu. I have read some reports that a few who have done this mod had subsequent problems programming their FT-60R via CHIRP. I pretty much doubt that this is a true problem, but still, I'm not sure I'd want to risk even a low probability event just to gain transmit on these frequencies. I can receive them just fine now, just no transmit. I could just buy a Baofeng for the infrequent need to transmit there. I've had my FT-60R scanning the GMRS and MURS channels randomly over a couple of days. There have been a few rare transmissions, but these frequencies are mostly dead. And there are several GMRS repeaters in my area. To be honest, the HAM frequencies are mostly dead as well. Except for two times - the typical commute times to/from work, and the various routinely scheduled nets. Outside of those times I'm sure there are probably many people monitoring, but no significant rag chewing is going on. But for emergency communications, you don't want a ton of people blabbering on the frequencies - you want them all for you and your family/friend's exclusive use! Excepting the case where you just want to listen and see what others in the area might be saying about the emergency.

I've never really done much side-by-side comparison of my Baofeng and my Yaesu, other than a couple of reception tests. But over the last few days I've determined that you definitely get what you pay for. I'm not knocking the Baofeng too much, but the Yaesu is clearly superior. In lots of little areas - like when you put both radios in scan mode over the same frequencies, the Yaesu scans them at least twice, maybe thrice as fast. Audio quality and output level on the Yaesu blows the Baofeng away. Basic things like adjusting squelch and flipping through setup menus are lightning fast on the Yaesu, a real drag on the Baofeng. But the Baofeng is functional (my particular specimen is a dog, but in general at least some of them are functional). For an emergency-only radio that will rarely actually be used, the Baofeng is probably king, because it is so cheap that you can equip everybody with one. You can have seven Baofengs for the same cost as one Yaesu. And if you buy seven of the things, you're probably gonna get at least a few that work. The construction of the things is amazingly solid for something that costs under $25. I would consider it quite solid at any cost. Just be sure and test it well while you're still in the Amazon 30 day period when you can return it. I wouldn't buy one and leave it squirreled away in it's box in a closet somewhere, figuring you'll just figure out how to work it (if it works) when an emergency unfolds and you need it.
 
I was working with the head of the State Troopers of our region on an EPIRB project. The FCC often put beta testing in our region as it is so lightly populated with almost no radio traffic to mess with. I told the trooper that the marine EPIRB’s were already on the market. He got rather upset and said that he would arrest me if he caught me using a marine EPIRB on land. I told him he’d have to rescue me first. I’d made my point, it wasn’t necessary to mention it isn’t illegal to use ay radio equipment in an emergency.

I’ve got radios that will transmit on all the above frequencies. Every time I talk to a ham they tell me how they wouldn’t talk to me as I don’t have a license. Ham’s live for the day they get to be involved with a real emergency. Every ham out there would talk to Satan if he sent out an S.O.S.

While I was crossing the Atlantic I had my SSB on and heard a sailboat, that had been dismasted in the Caribbean. I was trying to contact a station in Canada. Various boats along the East Coast were trying to relay with no luck. I’m 2/3 across theAtlantic and propagation is perfect that day for me to relay. The information got relayed and stress was relieved on both ends. If I’m on the radio I’ve got a good reason. I’m not overly fond of the phone either.

All the native villages have a marine VHF channel that everyone keeps on. Even with inland villages there are a few VHF marine radios to choose from at the village store. No FCC employee is both brave enough and stupid enough to go out to even one of these villages to write tickets.

Personally, I’d set the kid up to broadcast on as much as possible and tell him to avoid transmitting, on certain frequencies, unless it is an emergency. YMMV
 

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