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Radio Communications

Radio Communications Guide

Radio Communication Basics

 

The Light Foot Militia recommends that all members obtain a handheld (mobile) HAM Amateur Radio supporting the following frequency range and become familiar with its operation *before* you need it:

VHF:136.000 MHz through 174.000 MHz (Rx/Tx)
UHF:400.000MHz through 480.000 MHz (Rx/Tx)

In the US, all Amateur Radio Operators (HAM) must obtain a license in order to broadcast using a HAM radio from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). However, a license to own a HAM radio and listen to and broadcast from FRS, MURS and GMRS frequencies is not required.

 

 Licenses can be obtained by studying and taking a test administered by members of your local Amateur Radio club for a $15.00 fee. Around 35 test questions are pulled from a pool of around 250 questions which can be studied online. (for instance at this site hamlicenseflashcards.com)Additional useful information can be found at the following locations:

Please review the following sections for more information regarding radio operation and selection:

Recommended Radios
Basic HAM Operational Elements

Radio Operation
Frequencies

Recommended Radios

The Light Foot Militia recommends that all members obtain a handheld (mobile) HAM Amateur Radio supporting the following frequency range and become familiar with its operation *before* you need it:

VHF:136.000 MHz through 174.000 MHz (Rx/Tx)
UHF:400.000MHz through 480.000 MHz (Rx/Tx)

Optional USB to Radio programming cables for either of the following units allow the use of programming software which makes it easier to program in hundreds of pre-set channels into memory and program multiple radios in a group identically. Additionally, most Mobile HAM radios have detachable antennas which allows the use of larger, full sized and ground mounted full wave antennas for better performance if necessary

There are many low cost *mobile* HAM radio's available in a wide range of prices but we recommend members have at a minimum one of the following. These can be purchased directly from sites such as Amazon.com. Current prices as of 11/01/2016

Baofeng UV-5R Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz - 5 Watt Transmit - $26
Baofeng UV-5R+ Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz - 5 Watt Transmit - $30
Baofeng UV-5R V2+ Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz - 5 Watt Transmit - $33
Baofeng BF-8FHP Dual-Band 136-174/400-480 MHz - 8 Watt Transmit - $64
Baofeng UV-5R Extra original UV-5R battery - $8

   

PRO's
  Low cost
  Works very well and does everything you need it to.
  Small package
  Long rechargeable battery life (36 hrs)
  Removable antenna
  Easy to clone programing channels

CON's
   Not water resistant

 
Optional Antennas can greatly improve transmit and receive range.

 

XP-669C 7.5-Inch - Dual Band SMA-F Antenna For Baofeng Radios - $11

Also available in 11.5" - Available at Amazon.com
   
   

KB9VBR Antennas - 2 Meter amateur radio J-Pole Antenna - $34

Available at Jpole-Antenna.com
   
   

MPD Digital - SMA Female to PL259 Female RG58 Adapter Cable - $19

Available at Amazon.com
   
   

Nelson Antennas - Deluxe Roll Up J-Pole/Slim Jim Antenna - $28

Available at Ebay.com
   

Basic HAM Operational Elements

Operating a HAM radio is very basic and although the levels of knowledge of HAM radio operation is unlimited; here are some of the basics that will get you going.

1. Bands and Frequencies

Amateur Radio (HAM) uses bands and frequencies in the following ranges:

VHF Band:136.000 MHz through 174.000 MHz (Rx/Tx)
UHF Band:400.000MHz through 480.000 MHz (Rx/Tx) 

  • Bands basically just identify separate radio frequency 'ranges'.
  • Modern HAM radio's are usually 'Dual Band' meaning they are designed to transmit and receive on both frequency ranges.
  • Usually you just select the frequency range you want to use (Band) and input the exact frequency you want to listen on using the keypad on the radio.
  • Modern radios allow you to save a hundred or more preset frequencies (channels) which you can access in 'Channel' mode.
  • Modern radios allow you to 'scan' either the entire frequency range or scan the preset 'Channels' range.

The following radio types use frequencies within the Amateur Radio (HAM) spectrum:

   • FRS (Family Radio Service) - Common walkie talkie 0.5 watt max - No License Required
   • GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) - Long range walkie talkies 5 watt max - FCC License Required
   • MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) - Marine radios 2.0 watt max - No License Required
   • Police, Fire & Rescue, City Services (Usually in the UHF range 400.000 and above)
   • HAM Frequencies DO NOT include CB (Citizens Band) radio frequencies.

• HAM radio's can be set to the same channels that FRS/GMRS/MURS use and those radios can work with HAM radios.
• Most 'Mobile' HAM radios broadcast at 5 watts max (limited by FCC), which is higher and broadcasts further than most other radio types.

You will need to pay attention to which frequencies you broadcast on and stay away from frequencies used by local City, County and State departments. We suggest you do some homework and find out which frequencies are in use in your *local area*. Broadcasting on a government channel can result in fines. However during WROL, of course use whatever predetermined frequencies work for your group.

Many Amateur Radio (HAM) operators use software to program hundreds of channels into the memory of their radios. One free version is called CHIRP located at http://chirp.danplanet.com which can be used, with an optional USB to radio cable, to program the Baofeng UV-5R+ and Wouxun KG-UV2D and many other manufacturers and models.

2. Frequency Step

The frequency 'Step' is basically the amount of space between frequencies. Modern radios allow the frequency step to be set as low as 2.5kHz to as high as 50kHz. We recommend that you set it to 2.5kHz. This setting basically only affects the granularity of the frequency you can set on the radio and the granularity of the frequencies scanned when scanning for traffic on frequencies in scan mode.

Examples:

  • If the radio's frequency step is set to 25kHz and you try to put in frequency 150.011 the radio would round down and set the freq to 150.000.
  • If the radio's frequency step is set to 2.5kHz and you try to set it to 150.011 the radio would round down and set the freq to 150.010.
  • If the radio's frequency step is set to 25kHz if you enable 'Scanning Mode' to scan for traffic, it will skip from freq 150.000 to 150.025 to 150.050 etc.
  • If the radio's frequency step is set to 2.5kHz and 'Scanning Mode' is enabled, it will skip from 150.000 to 150.002 to 150.005 etc

3. Transmitting (Tx) and Receiving (Rx)

Radios 'Listen' on the 'Receiving' (Rx) frequency and 'Talk/Transmit' on the 'Transmitting' (Tx) frequency.
Those frequencies *can be different* from one another, usually only when talking to a Repeater station.

There are two modes of transmitting and receiving:

• Simplex - To receive and transmit on the same frequency. - (Person to Person communication)

• Duplex - To receive on one frequency and transmit on another frequency.  - (Person to Repeater communication)

  • Most modern radio's have the ability to use Simplex and Duplex modes.
  • Duplex mode is usually only used when transmitting to a 'Repeater' station which will re-broadcast your transmission.
  • Duplex mode is not a 'setting' but is controlled by the 'Frequency Shift' and 'Frequency Offset' set on the radio for the frequency in use.
  • Duplex mode can be used on different Bands so that Dual Band radios can hear on one band and transmit on another at the same time.
  • Most radios also have a 'High' and 'Low' Transmit power setting which controls how much power is used when transmitting. (Higher power, longer range)

3. Frequency Offset and Frequency Shift

Frequency Offset - controls the frequency that the radio 'Transmits' on. Frequency Offset is usually only used with 'Duplex Mode' when transmitting to a repeater station. For example; if a Repeater station is Transmitting on 147.000 with an Offset of -0.600; it means that the repeater has a negative offset of 0.600kHz and it is *Listening* for radio transmissions on frequency 146.400 which is 0.600kHz below its Transmission frequency. When it hears a transmission on frequency 146.400, it will re-transmit them on 147.000.

Frequency Shift - specifies to 'Transmit' to the Repeater above (+) or below (-) the frequency the Repeater is broadcasting on using the value specified in the 'Frequency Offset' setting.

Frequency Shift setting can be set to one of the following:

     "+"  - Transmit above the Receive frequency currently set on *your* radio.
     "-"  -  Transmit below the Receive frequency currently set on *your* radio.
     "split" - Receive on UHF and Transmit on VHF or (vice versa depending on the transmit freq)
     "off" - Transmit and Receive on the same channel (Simplex Mode)

The most common Offset value is 00.600. (either + or - ) when transmitting to a repeater.
For person to person communications (Simplex Mode) set the Frequency Shift  to 'Off' and the Offset to 00.000.

4. Squelch

Squelch is just a feature that blocks you from hearing static. It allows you to set minimum level of signal quality required before your radio plays it to you through its speaker (or headphone). Set the squelch level depending on the amount of interference and static in your area and the distance or difficulty hearing other radio's you're trying to listen to transmissions from. Most radio's have a button that disables squelch while its held down in case you want to hear a transmission from a source that is difficult to hear.

Its recommended to set your squelch to the lowest level that you find tolerable, otherwise your radio may block poor quality, but important transmissions.

5. Security and Squelch Modes CTCSS and DCS

Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) and Digital-Coded Squelch (DCS) are just sub-audible tones transmitted along with a voice transmission to activate or deactivate the squelch feature on a radio *receiving* the transmission. They are sometimes referred to as 'Privacy Channels' but they provide *neither privacy nor security*.  Radios that don't support either feature will hear everything you transmit. Basically the sub-audible tones activate the squelch feature on the radio *Receiving* the transmission (*your* radio) to block out the incoming transmission unless the sub-audible tones the 'Transmitter' sent match the CTCSS or DCS settings on the 'Receiving' radio. If the CTCSS/DCS settings match on both radios, the squelch feature on the *Receiving* radio will temporarily disable squelch and it will play the transmission through its speakers.

• CTCSS and DCS is NOT A SECURITY FEATURE or a method to secure or encrypt transmitted messages.

The only way your transmissions will be 'Secure' is if you either talk in code (for whatever thats worth), use radios that encrypt transmissions and or skip channels every millisecond (like military SINGARS radios)

6. Repeaters

Repeaters are privately owned HAM radios, listening on a specific frequency, usually installed on mountain tops powered by solar or wind or plugged into the grid.
Repeating stations (Repeaters) receive on the 'Receive (Rx)' frequency and re-transmit (re-broadcast) transmissions it hears on the 'Transmit (Tx) frequency.

You listen to repeaters by tuning into their 'Transmit' (Tx) frequency.
You talk to repeaters by transmitting a signal to their 'Receive' (Rx) frequency.

This is usually accomplished by setting the Receive (Rx) frequency *on your radio* to the repeaters Transmitting frequency (so you can hear it when it transmits) and then setting the 'Frequency Offset' and 'Frequency Shift' *on your radio* according to the settings the repeater requires. (Usually those settings are documented online by the owner of the repeater). This will cause your radio to Transmit to the repeaters  'Receive' (Rx) frequency when you try to talk to it and it will re-transmit your transmission on its Transmit (Tx) frequency. This is called Duplex Mode.

• Most repeaters use Duplex mode with a + or - 0.600 offset.
• Some repeaters require you to transmit a "PL" tone (CTCSS tone or DCS tone) to trigger them to re-broadcast your transmission.

7. Antennas

The antenna is just as if not more important than the radio itself. Most radio's come with a stubby antenna which has a coil of fine wire (2 meters worth) wound around a center pole. These antennas are compact, but they limit both transmit and receive capabilities.

We recommend that you replace stubby antennas with 1/4 wave whip antennas which will improve both the radios transmit and receive capability.

Even though mobile/handheld HAM radios are small, the antenna's are modular which means you can attach large/full size J Pole (straight wire) and Yaggi ( tree branch looking) type antennas to  them using radio cable. Its common practice to do this with small mobile radios and talk to satellite HAM repeaters in space (for 10 minutes a day as they fly over) allowing you to talk to people all over the U.S. and South America.

 

Radio Operation

Radio operation is fairly basic and at its most basic level the steps are:

1. Using the keypad, set the frequency to a value within the following ranges: 

         VHF:136.000 MHz through 174.000 MHz (Rx/Tx)
         UHF:400.000MHz through 480.000 MHz (Rx/Tx)

2. Push the Push to talk (PTT) button and talk. Release to listen for a response.

3. If no response, check the following setting values:

       • Volume
       • Squelch (set it to a low value)
       • Frequency Shift (set it to off if not talking to a repeater)
       • CTCSS and DCS (turn these settings to off or they may squelch out any response transmission)
       • Battery level
       • Transmit power level (set it to High if appropriate)

Frequencies

Frequencies that are used by FRS/GMRS/MURS are standardized and can be used with your Amateur (HAM) radio if the radio's power level is set according to max power level limitations set by the FCC for those channels. Other frequencies in use in your local area depend on your location.

Below are tables containing frequency reference information:

FRS (Family Radio Service) Frequencies:
(Common cheap walkie talkie)
No License required, 500mW max power, +/-2.5KHz deviation (narrow-band) FM, no external antennas, non-commercial use only.

Channel
Frequency
1
462.5625
2
462.5875
3
462.6125
4
462.6375
5
462.6625
6
462.6875
7
462.7125
8
467.5625
9
467.5875
10
467.6125
11
467.6375
12
467.6625
13
467.6875
14
467.7125

CTCSS / PL Tones ("Privacy 'Squelch' Channels"):

Code
Frequency (Hz)

Code
Frequency (Hz)
1
67.0

20
131.8
2
71.9

21
136.5
3
74.4

22
141.3
4
77.0

23
146.2
5
79.7

24
151.4
6
82.5

25
156.7
7
85.4

26
162.2
8
88.5

27
167.9
9
91.5

28
173.8
10
94.8

29
179.9
11
97.4

30
186.2
12
100.0

31
192.8
13
103.5

32
203.5
14
107.2

33
210.7
15
110.9

34
218.1
16
114.8

35
225.7
17
118.8

36
233.6
18
123.0

37
241.8
19
127.3

38
250.3

 

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service) Frequencies:
FCC License Required, base or mobile and repeater operation, FM, high power.

Channel
Frequency
Notes
1
462.5625
(FRS-1) Low Power
2
462.5875
(FRS-2) Low Power
3
462.6125
(FRS-3) Low Power
4
462.6375
(FRS-4) Low Power
5
462.6625
(FRS-5) Low Power
6
462.6875
(FRS-6) Low Power
7
462.7125
(FRS-7) Low Power
8
462.550

9
462.575

10
462.600

11
462.625

12
462.650

13
462.675
Emergency / Calling
14
462.700

15
462.725

 

MURS (Multi-Use Radio Service) Frequencies:
No License Required, 2W max. ERP, all modes: voice, data, imaging allowed.

Channel
Frequency
1
151.820
2
151.880
3
151.940
4
154.570
5
154.600

 


Notable frequencies for North Idaho
Courtesy of Kootenai Amateur Radio Society

AREA 2 METER REPEATERS

FREQ SHIFT  TONE REPEATER REMARKS
145.15    (-)  NO PL   Mica Peak
145.80     NO PL   Simplex - ARISS
145.21     (-)  NO PL   Liberty Lake
146.38     (+)  NO PL   (K7ID) KARS Reverse
146.44    NO PL   Simplex Repeater for K7AEH
146.52     NO PL   Simplex Calling Frequency
146.74     (-)  NO PL   CUFAX
146.88     (-)  123 Hz  Spokane VHF Club
146.92     (-)  100 Hz  KARS Channel #2
146.94    (-)  127.3 Hz  Kellog/N7SZY
146.96    (-)  NO PL  Black Mountain
146.98    (-)  100 Hz  (K7ID) KARS Repeater-(Canfield)
146.98    (-)  127.3 Hz  (K7ID) KARS Repeater-(Mica Peak)
147.08    (+)  100 Hz  Kootenai County EOC
147.10    (+)  NO PL  St. Maries/W7KCP
147.18     (-)  110.9 Hz  Shoshone County KB7BYR
147.20    (+)  *SEE BELOW  Spokane, Washington
147.36    (+)  NO PL  KABARA Stranger
147.38    (+)  NO PL  KABARA Mica

AREA 220 MHZ REPEATER OPERATION 

 

FREQ  TONE   SHIFT  REPEATER REMARKS
224.76 127.3 Hz  Simplex  Shoshone County KB7BTU


AREA 450 MHZ REPEATER OPERATION

FREQ TONE  MODE REPEATER REMARKS
442.850 110.9  Repeater  IRLP - KC7TIG
443.475 88.5  Repeater  W7TRF-R (Node 282039)
443.750  103.5  Repeater  Spokane 2
444.000  127.3  Repeater  Silver Valley N7SZY
444.125  100.0  Repeater  KC7AAI
444.200   85.4  Repeater  Spokane 1
444.350   192.8  Repeater  KABARA - Spokane
444.900   123.0  Repeater  Spokane Valley - Inland RAC
446.000 NONE  Simplex  National UHF Simplex (KARS Control)

 

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