A working group of Saratoga hams met with Crystal and Charles during January to examine problems that the Saratoga CERT division have had with FRS radios and to propose solutions.  The FRS radios have two problems: (1) FRS is intended to be a short-distance and low-power radio service with coverage of no more than a mile, and (2) our particular FRS radios are cheap and probably do not live up to that modest coverage goal.  There seems to be three practical solutions to our division’s communication problem:

1) Invest in to top of the line FRS radios that will meet the maximum allowed coverage allowed by the FCC.  Advantage – no license needed and the radios, even good ones, are plentiful, easy to use,  and relatively cheap. Disadvantage – the range is inherently limited due to FCC restrictions on the radios.

2) Move to a GMRS radio service (General Mobile Radio Service) set up.  GMRS radios use roughly the same frequency range as do FRS, but much higher power is allowed.  Advantage: the resulting range can be 2-5 miles, and the GMRS radios are only slighltly more expensive than FRS radios.  Disadvantage: each individual/family would need an FCC license – no test needed, but a small fee is required.

3) Move to a commercial radio license (as does Campbell CERT).  This would require the city of Saratoga to get an FCC license.  The good news is that relatively cheap imported radios are available for this band.

Don Steinbach will be proposing radio coverage tests for the 3 different solutions in conjunction with Jeff Walker, Peter Melhus, and Brent Hailpern.  Our goal is to have a recommended solution by the end of February.