Everyone has seen these walkie-talkie things at Wal-Mart or Radio Shack. Most likely they are the FRS/GMRS variety of radios. They make claims of up to 20 miles with regard to the distance you can communicate. In Reality these radios in most conditions are go for about 1/2-1 mile on the FRS frequencies and maybe 2 miles if your lucky with GMRS. The reason being these are "line of sight" radios. If you are on the ocean or on the salt flats in Utah or communicating from the top of one peak to another you may achieve those distances that are claimed on the packaging.
Regardless these little radios have their place and are extremely useful for short range communication. I have a few pairs that we use when camping or communicating car to car while traveling. It definitely is worth picking up a set.
GMRS radios require a license. From the FCC's website:
"FRS/GMRS Dual Service RadiosSome manufacturers have received approval to market radios that are certified for use in both the Family Radio Service (FRS) and the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS). Other manufacturers have received approval of their radios under the GMRS rules, but market them as FRS/GMRS radios on the basis that:
Some channels are authorized to both services, or
A user of the radio may communicate with stations in the other service.
Radios marketed as "FRS/GMRS" or "dual-service radios" are available from many manufacturers and many retail or discount stores. The manual that comes with the radio, or the label placed on it by the manufacturer, should indicate the service the unit is certified for. If you cannot determine what service the unit may be used in, contact the manufacturer.
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 ½ watt (500 milliwatt) effective radiated power and integral (non-detachable) antennas. 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."
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The license is easy to get an requires no test or anything. It costs $80 for a 5 year license and the call sign you are issued can be shared amongst family members...unlike HAM radio for example where everyone speaking requires a unique call sign.
FRS/GMRS frequencies are:
Channel Type Frequency
1 FRS / GMRS 462.5625
2 FRS / GMRS 462.5875
3 FRS / GMRS 462.6125
4 FRS / GMRS 462.6375
5 FRS / GMRS 462.6625
6 FRS / GMRS 462.6875
7 FRS / GMRS 462.7125
8 FRS 467.5625
9 FRS 467.5875
10 FRS 467.6125
11 FRS 467.6375
12 FRS 467.6625
13 FRS 467.6875
14 FRS 467.7125
15 GMRS 462.5500
16 GMRS 462.5750
17 GMRS 462.6000
18 GMRS 462.6250
19 GMRS 462.6500
20 GMRS 462.6750
21 GMRS 462.7000
22 GMRS 462.7250
The main difference between the two mentioned above is the trasmit power allowed in each service. 1/2 watt for FRS and up to 5 watts for GMRS, obviously the more transmit power...the farther the range of communication.
You will notice the first 7 channels are shared between FRS and GMRS. You MUST use your callsign if operating a GRMS radio on those frequencies to remain legal if you are using more than 1/2 watt of power. You cannot operate GMRS on the FRS only frequencies at all, they are strictly reserved for FRS.
You can find tons of information regarding FRS and GMRS on the FCC's webpage.
These liitle radios should have a place in your families disaster readiness plans. You won't be able to communicate over long distances but you will be able to communicate quite well if your remain within a 1 or 2 miles of each other...farther with a clear line of site. The other benefit of these radios is that they are really inexpensive at this point. Don't waste your money on a set of FRS radios...make sure to get the combo FRS/GMRS variety. They will be a bit more expensive but will give you more options.
Remember get a license if you plan on using GMRS to be legal. Your entire family can share one call sign so in perspective it really is inexpensive for a 5 year ticket.
...that is all.
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