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FRS GMRS Radio Operating Tips and Technical Explanations: Part IV

Other options available with FRS GRMS radios and how to use them continued.

    I covered some information back in the main article about the channels. I'll briefly go over this again and then break it down in more detail. When you select one of the 22 channels available, you can only use the FRS channels from 8 to 14 without an FCC license. These channels will handle most of your needs for short-range communications within several miles. If longer range is needed, then its recommended to get a license that is available by simply applying with an application through the FCC, either by their web site, or by calling 1-888-222-2322 for a mailed application.

    If long range is needed such as 10 or more miles, or your terrain in your local area is diverse, then the GMRS available channels from 1 to 7 and 15 to 22 should do the trick. These frequencies allow maximum power from your handheld portable or base camp radio to be used when necessary to complete your communications.

    So again, channels 8 through 14 are pretty much open for almost any kind of communication.

    But remember, anyone in range with other FRS or common police scanners can hear your conversation. Normally this is not a problem but if things do happen and there is a national emergency then keep this in mind. Not all who could be on the air is a friend. Reports have been made from Los Angles and other parts of the country where a motorist needing assistance was assaulted or killed when calling out on CB radios for help. Sort of like a wounded dove waiting for the fox that is driving by in the area and monitoring the common channels. Now this is not going to be the case in most instances. But again, if times become uncivil please just be aware of any issues that could make you vulnerable! In Part-5 I'll have a solution to this possible problem. And how, only the person who you link up with, can communicate or hear you. Total privacy maybe what you prefer, so see Part -5 for Digital radios.

    So remember for the GMRS user channels 1 to 7 and 15 through 22 require an FCC license, or only low power usage at .5 watts or less is allowed for the unlicensed. This set of frequencies has available 5 watts of power on some hand-held radios and as much as fifty watts for mobile or base station usages. And has the ability to operate on mountain top repeaters that can retransmit your signal for longer distances. That's pretty exciting but obviously is going to cost more in equipment. I'll briefly cover that option in Part-6.

    Now, lets look at antenna height and location to receive and transmit the maximum distance. Most antennas are in a vertical or horizontal position. If you hold your radio correctly in your hand the antenna will be pointing straight upward. This is the vertical position, to hold your radio sideways will give you a horizontal position. What does this all mean? Well, the wave or signal once its polarized vertically (Holding straight up as in normal use with the antenna pointing up) when it leaves your radio and heads toward your partners radio, will operate best if its received holding the radio vertically upward as well. So if you hold your radio upright and your partner holds it sidewise, this could make or break you in completing your transmission. Sometimes in canyons and mountain areas you may actually need to turn your antenna one way or another because the wave having to travel in a non-line-of-sight may alter itself and turn from vertical to horizontal. So experiment and stay away from metal objects that are polarized vertically like light poles. They can block your signal. Height is one way to resolve bad transmissions. You may need to climb higher on a trail or go to the second floor of a building to become more of a line-of-sight transmission in order to complete your contact. So keep all this in mind.

By Scott Hensler 0/12/2013

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