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Author Topic: Are 50-60W transcievers that cover 136-512 Mhz good tool for Ecomm?  (Read 16187 times)

Posts: 50


« on: March 27, 2012, 11:48:10 AM »

I may well kick over the hornet's nest with this post…or it might be a good discussion. I have no idea which, but here I go anyway.

If you do an eBay search right now of these two terms:

TYT TH-9000
Motorola SMP-908

These are radios are listed around $250 for a 50-60W mobile.  They have a wide range of adjustable freq steps and are wide open for the freqeuncies:

136-174 Mhz
400-490 Mhz
440-512 Mhz

I'm an Amateur Radio operator.  I own Amateur Radios and operate on the Amateur bands on the designated frequencies.  I have no intention of buying one of these radios but I did start thinking….

Should an Ecomm radio group have radios that transmit on other bands used by public service and commercial entities?  In a true life-or-death situation should an Ecomm communicator have a tool like these radios in their "tool box" to communicate to anyone.  If a public official said…"If we could somehow only talk directly to the forest rangers, the Search and Rescue team, those boaters on on the lake" or you fill in the blank.  These radios would cover many public service VHF and UHF, as well as Marine, and business frequencies.  Do a Google search of the term: National Interoperability Field Operations Guide

With Amateur Radio we are testing our radios each time we have a ragchew, but with these radios testing them would be an illegal transmission.  But if it was a true life-or-death situation the transmission would be legal and could save a life.  But who makes the call on life or death, legal or not?

In the goal of total interoperability from all involved in a life or death disaster are radios like this a tool to have just in case? 

Posts: 388

« Reply #1 on: March 27, 2012, 01:48:13 PM »

I think your question is a logical one, but if we think about what a true communications emergency is, it's when the regular means of communication don't work, ie Forest Rangers, Search & Rescue, and others you mentioned don't have communications, presumably due to failure of their infrastructure (repeater, IP linking, etc).  In that situation, I don't think having a radio like theirs would do any good, even if programmed the same, unless the rest of the "system' was online as well.  Programming brings up another point.  I think that commercial equipment by design is not user programmable, at least not directly on a radio keypad.  The benefit of ham radio is that it is frequency agile, independent of infrastructure, and user programmable in an instant. 

I think this may become a lively discussion...


Posts: 6252

« Reply #2 on: March 27, 2012, 03:07:39 PM »

Although the idea may seem like a good one, there is a potential situation that may rear its ugly head.  Many of those agencies may frown upon others (they term it 'civilians') having such a radio in their possession--with that radio actually able to transmit on their frequencies.  In many states, it is against the law to have radio equipment able--AND SET UP--to do so.  So even though it may be possible, unless you have the go-ahead from someone in authority ON PAPER, you may find yourself in serious trouble, even if there WAS a bona-fide emergency.  IOW, you may have to prove such an emergency existed, and that may be very troublesome--to you.
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 03:09:19 PM by K1CJS » Logged

Posts: 50


« Reply #3 on: March 27, 2012, 03:58:24 PM »

On this subject an interesting read:

Scoll down and see who can request copies of the NIFOG ( National Interoperability Field Operations Guide) which is a list of frequencies used by public service agencies.  No trunked 800 freqs that I can see.

"Public safety communications professionals and emergency communications specialists in private voluntary organizations can receive reasonable quantities of NIFOGs at no charge by completing the NIFOG request form."

Would the referemced private voluntary organizations include Ham Radio volunteers?

Posts: 247

« Reply #4 on: March 28, 2012, 03:45:08 AM »

Carefull when looking at this radio, You often see them listed as Ham Radio UHF/VHF 45 / 60W implying a dual band radio. Some even include a 220mhz version. These are however mono band radios, Pick a band... They are also pretty pricy.. $250 range for a single band. Considering a Yaesu 2900 is $100 less not sure the advantage in these radios. I see no where int he specs they are part 90/95 compliant so they are limited to ham radio use.

Posts: 17479

« Reply #5 on: March 29, 2012, 02:45:42 PM »

It may make sense for EmComm groups to have radios for other agencies where they have
agreements to operate in support of that agency.  I have a couple (commercial) radios on
the local Search and Rescue channels, because sometimes I get called to help out, or
for setting up trainings.  I only got the radios (for free) after being in a situation where
I needed to communicate with them on a search.

But beyond that I see no need for such things.  If you are responding as part of an
organized EmComm group you should provide for sufficient communications to pass the
necessary traffic before the need arises.  If you want to invest money, use it to improve
that communications system.  I've been part of a SAR team myself, worked in remote/
wilderness areas, and been part of EmComm for many years.  Even in that, I can't remember
any life-or-death situations that would have required me to use a different radio.  A
stranger coming up on the Forest Service or State Police frequency is likely to cause
a lot of confusion.  And if Public Works needs to talk to the State Fire Marshal in a
life-or-death situation, we'd probably use ham radio to relay it through the dispatcher
anyway if there wasn't another operator handy to run over there.

The truth is, life-or-death situations that require that sort of communications are very
rare, and that isn't the sort of assignment that EmComm operators are usually assigned
to.  (We're not the primary response agency - we just provide back up communications.)
If I carried equipment for every possible life-or-death situation that I can dream up I'd
never be able to go anywhere without a semi-truck load of stuff.  So I focus on what
is most effective for the types of situations I am likely to encounter, and plan to be
creative in how to use it (better antennas, etc.) when circumstances are different.

If you want an excuse to carry such a radio then program in the ham channels and use it
as your primary 2m rig.  That way it is getting used regularly so you know it is still working.
(In fact, the SAR radios I have all have the local repeaters programmed in so they can be
used as a normal 2m radio.)   Using a commercial radio on the ham bands is legal.  Then you
have it handy if you happen to be in that rare situation where you might use it. 

Personally I'd never both with such a radio JUST for the off chance that it MIGHT come in
hand in SOME rare situation.  Sure, the probability of having a use for it may be non-zero,
but the chances are better of winning the lottery.

Posts: 376

« Reply #6 on: March 29, 2012, 03:56:25 PM »

It may make sense for EmComm groups to have radios for other agencies where they have
agreements to operate in support of that agency.  I have a couple (commercial) radios on
the local Search and Rescue channels, because sometimes I get called to help out, or
for setting up trainings.  I only got the radios (for free) after being in a situation where
I needed to communicate with them on a search.
Yes, this is the way to do this. Here in Norway, the emergency services are transitioning to the encrypted and trunked digital TETRA system; NGOs and others with a need are supposed to get handsets issued for interoperability.

Breaking into a frequency, out of band operation etc. is - as you say - legal in a life-or-death emergency if no other way is available, but it's good to avoid that becoming necessary.

Posts: 490

« Reply #7 on: March 30, 2012, 06:32:09 AM »

Something to watch for when buying commercial radios for Ham use is the ability to tune random channels (e.g. with a VFO). Most business-band or commercial radios have only pre-programmed memory channels because commercial users don't need to go tuning around for frequencies to use. They have a limited set of frequencies available and those are programmed into the radio. Ham radio applications tend to be more varied. Sure, you can program the local repeaters, and it'll work fine...right up until the time you need to find an unused freq for something and you cant tune your pre-programmed radio to that freq or tone.

I'm not saying that commercial or ex-commercial radios can't make great Ham gear, just that they were built for a different application.

Posts: 1227

« Reply #8 on: March 30, 2012, 08:02:13 AM »

What everyone misses in the  'out of band'  discussions is this..

Put your self as the   dispatcher,   cop on the beat,, fireman,  etc  and some   yahoo  breaks into  your  frequency, channel..   stating all kinds of  emergency  senerios..

That would be the first thing that  a  bank robber, terrorist,  drunk, wanna-be  cop  would do.
Why  would the  dispatcher  etc  not  tell them to take a matter  how  convincing
they seemed.
You would need  to be   pre acknowledged  by  that department as some kind of  auxillary
 The idea of somehow being to get on a radio  and  yelling about a life and death  emergency
,,I don't think would fly  with the person hearing it, 

and during a real  emergency,  storm  , hurricane  , wild fire,, etc,,  they dont need to have  normal  strained communications  strained with  outsiders,  no matter  how well intentioned

Posts: 376

« Reply #9 on: March 30, 2012, 10:46:37 AM »

K9YLI, cops deal with hoax calls, people who lie or embellish stories, inaccurate information, etc. on a daily basis. They also know that snoops, journalists and crooks can monitor their communications if they're non-encrypted. If you are a person in genuine distress, and you clearly identify yourself and keep it short and sweet to avoid more interference than necessary, I can't imagine any emergency worker that would look down on that.

As for drunks jamming the radio, they'll be hunted down by the cops and FCC with gusto. If you look at the FCC's enforcement actions, there's been some cases like that. As for bank robbers and terrorists, they will often listen to the radio to keep tabs on where the cops are, if they're busy elsewhere etc, but transmitting on police frequencies would just get them detected.

Posts: 50


« Reply #10 on: March 31, 2012, 04:51:38 AM »

K9LYI I would never suggest that any ham or anyone just jump in on a radio channel out of the blue and try to communicate especially in an emergency.  What I was proposing was the potential of offering a service to a public official.  You would offer them the ability of communicating to another agency by having the knowledge to program a radio with a frequency and a PL tone.  If there is a need for on department to talk to another, you program in the frequency and hand the microphone to the official and they make the call.  The ham operator would never make the call, there would be no outsider, the call would be made by the official who is a known entity.

I know that there are very expensive software based interoperability solutions that will patch together two radio solutions so cross communications can exist.  What I was proposing was a possible inexpensive solution.  Not perfect, but it could work.

Posts: 1

« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2012, 07:16:52 PM »

I would be very careful about accepting the opinion of another uninformed Ham operator (or anyone), as it relates to how the authorities feel about completely unauthorized citizens (ham operators) popping up on and trying to operate on their public safety frequencies in "an emergency".  Instead, ask the authorities in your area, on whose frequencies you believe you would have a need to be heard, what their thoughts are.  In most jurisdictions, I don't think gratitude for your ignoble gesture would be what you would experience and it's highly doubtful they would agree with your liberal interpretation of the law.  Legally, and I'm not a lawyer, you are a citizen with a radio and nothing more.  Maybe you also have a handsome orange vest and an amber light to go with your radio, like a wrecker driver, but still a citizen.

Unless you're picking up the microphone in a police car to call for help, because you are on the side of the road with a police officer who has been seriously wounded or worse, you better stay off those channels, unless they tell you they'd love to have you on there, beforehand.  Besides, why have ham frequencies for "when all else fails"?

Posts: 376

« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2012, 09:38:17 PM »

Asking a random police officer for a legal opinion on a specialist matter might give a good result, but it might not. You could get a wrong answer, or you might even have difficulty extracting a statement, because it might be construed as being legally binding. If you really need to know, hire a lawyer licensed in your area.

The rules are pretty clear though, so let's look at them.

What we're discussing here are really three different scenarios:

Scenario 1: Trained amateur radio operators participating in organized emergency communications, assisting public officials. They are ham radio operators, but they are also authorized. In this case, if the amateur needs to talk on police/fire/EMS frequencies, it makes sense to give them access to an approved and appropriately configured radio of the same type as the dispatchers or mobile units use, and give them at least a subset of the same training as a regular dispatcher. In some areas, their amateur volunteers are given dispatcher training, or they are sitting right next to the dispatcher.

There's no individual operator license in part 90 public service radios, the licensee (for example the police or fire department) is responsible for making sure that the radios are in good working order and used according to the license by training and authorizing.

Scenario 2: A situation might emerge where the trained communicators in scenario 1 need to use non-approved equipment to save lives and property, because the part 90 equipment malfunctions or is operating out of specification. Part 90 allows this:

§90.407 Emergency communications.
The licensee of any station authorized under this part may, during a period of emergency in which the normal communication facilities are disrupted as a result of hurricane, flood, earthquake or similar disaster, utilize such station for emergency communications in a manner other than that specified in the station authorization or in the rules and regulations governing the operation of such stations. The Commission may at any time order the discontinuance of such special use of the authorized facilities.

Scenario 3: A random citizen in grave distress calling for help, by operating an amateur station out of band or operating without a license. In this case, even if there wasn't a statute to lean on, one could use necessity as legal defense if subject to misguided prosecution. But you won't need to do that because both part 90 and part 97 already covers this and makes it legal to use both amateur and public service radios out of band/service in real emergencies.

§90.417 Interstation communication.
(a) Any station licensed under this part may communicate with any other station without restriction as to type, service, or licensee when the communications involved relate directly to the imminent safety-of-life or property.
(b) (.....  deals with mutual aid interoperability and contact with foreign government stations in non-emergencies  ...)

§97.111 Authorized transmissions.
(a) An amateur station may transmit the following types of two-way communications:
      (1) (.... deals with regular QSOs between amateurs ...)
      (2) Transmissions necessary to meet essential communication needs and to facilitate relief actions.
      (3) Transmissions necessary to exchange messages with a station in another FCC-regulated service while providing emergency communications;
      (4) Transmissions necessary to exchange messages with a United States government station, necessary to providing communications in RACES; and
      (5) Transmissions necessary to exchange messages with a station in a service not regulated by the FCC, but authorized by the FCC to communicate with amateur stations. (....)

So out of band operation in a real emergency is in accordance with both the public service and amateur license rules.

In addition to this, there are general rules (for all FCC services) in part 2 relating to emergencies, particularly
§2.401 Distress messages.
§2.405 Operation during emergency

Note that §2.405 does NOT apply to amateur radio or broadcasters, because part 97 and part 73 contain their own rules for emergency communications, and §2.405 is more restrictive than what part 90 and 97 allows. For example, when conducting emergency operations under §2.405, one has to send a notification to the FCC every time, unlike in the amateur service.

You must of course use common sense as well - if you're calling about a house fire without lives at risk, don't interrupt communications about a fire where lives are at risk or undetermined.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2012, 09:46:32 PM by LA9XSA » Logged

Posts: 6

« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2012, 03:40:12 PM »

The best argument against having fire or police frequencies on the same radio you use as a ham radio is inadvertently using the wrong frequency. Let's say you have a commercial radio like you mentioned that is programed for local repeaters and simplex with a couple of "Just in Case" public service frequencies. You're on the road, throw your callsign out thinking you're on your favorite repeater, but instead you're on the police dispatch frequency. You may or may not keep your license and radio, but at the very least someone is going to ask you to explain why you thought it was a good idea to have a radio like this. That person may not too understanding.

Posts: 53

« Reply #14 on: July 16, 2012, 07:02:05 PM »

If your Emcomm group has a close working relationship with the local public safety agencies, then they should be willing to provide your group with a radio.  If they decline your request, that should be your hint that they do not want you popping up on their frequencies.

The FCC narrowband deadline of 1 January 2013 might render this discussion a mute point as well.  Most Federal agencies are switching to the APCO P25 digital format, often with AES encryption.  Unless you have a P25 digital radio you are not going to talk to any Federal agency, regardless of whether they are using encryption as well.

At the local level, many rural counties are going to 12.5 kHz narrowband analog radios in order to meet the FCC requirement.  The narrowband analog radios are much cheaper than the digital models.  If you purchase a similar radio, I recommend you obtain written permission from the served agency to operate on their frequencies under their FCC license.  The letter should also include a copy of their FCC license.  This means your radio must be Part 90 compliant, not a ham radio that has been "opened up".  If you purchase a matching radio model to what the local agency is using, they might be willing to have their radio technician program it for you so it matches their radio equipment.  Otherwise you might have a difficult time getting a 2-way radio shop to program your radio with fire & police frequencies if you lack a valid FCC license or written permission from a public safety agency.

By the way, the Motorola SMP-908 you mentioned is an obvious chinese fake.  The first warning flag is the fact the name "Motorola" does not appear anywhere on the radio.  The "Motorola" version has "SMP" on the radio face plate and the microphone.  So the "brand name" is "SMP" and not Motorola.  The TYT TH-9000 looks to be the same radio with the "TYT" brand name attached.  The second warning flag is that any Google search always ends up at e-bay sites or a company that  sells it - but never the actual Motorola web site.  You can't believe everything you see on the internet.  It may be an "OK" radio if treated with care, but it is no Motorola.
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