Part III: FRS Radio Communication

 Neighborhood Preparedness

 We’re three-fourths of the way through our series on preparing to execute an emergency preparedness drill in your neighborhood. We hope you are taking this information to your neighbors and encouraging them to be prepared, too. 

The adjacent article talks about using radios in an emergency, but the best way to know how to use your radios is to do just that – Use it. 

My neighborhood conducts a weekly radio check, which lasts only a couple of minutes, but serves as an opportunity for neighbors to practice using their radios, so in a disaster, they don’t have to try and learn. 

Every Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on channel 8, subchannel 1, our communication specialists welcomes everyone to the call and invites them to check in by stating their name. 

Once everyone has checked in (which is usually 3-7 people), we open it up for conversation about any topic on preparedness. 

These scheduled radio checks keep radios charged and used, so in an emergency, my neighborhood understands how to use them, which gives me a lot of peace of mind.                                            Jason M. Carlton

How to Communicate radio

Did you play with walkie-talkies as a child? Did you ever think that one day you would be using them as a means of communicating in a disaster? Well, if phone lines and cell towers are damaged in an emergency, a set of Family Radio Service (FRS) devices can help your neighborhood mobilize and communicate faster than boys on bikes.

In order for this tool to work most effectively, members of your neighborhood would need to have, and know how to use, FRS radios. Here are two things to consider when selecting the one that’s right for you:

1. The longer the range on your radio, the better you will be able to communicate throughout your neighborhood. FRS radios are line-of-sight transmissions. So if you have a lot of houses and trees between you and the person on the other end, communication may be difficult. For example, a radio that boasts 32 miles, may only provide two-miles in a populated neighborhood.

2. Many radios come with non-removable, rechargeable packs. These can wear out over time. The recommendation is to go with a radio that can also have this rechargeable pack replaced with AA batteries, which may help strengthen the signal when needed.

3. FRS radios contain channels, as well as subchannels. Make sure your radio has subchannel capabilities; otherwise you may be able to hear your neighbors, but not have the ability to communicate back to them.

These radios offer multiple channels that can be used in an emergency, so if your neighborhood needs to communicate, you must coordinate a channel on which all communication will take place. For example, your neighborhood can plan to communicate on channel 8, subchannel 1, while the neighborhood adjacent to yours can take channel 9, subchannel 1.

Another best practice is to designate a communications specialist for your neighborhood who can direct all radio traffic. This person will keep things orderly when crisis strikes and help those seeking to identify families’ needs obtain the information vital to responding.

October, 2011         Every Needful Thing                             Jason M. Carlton

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