There are three kinds of radios you might use as a volunteer radio operator in the Eugene Emergency Communications (EmComm) organization. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages for you as a radio operator. The level of expertise required, need for licensure (or not) and cost can vary greatly. Here is a brief overview.

FRS (Family Radio Service)

FRS Radio*

The easiest to operate and least expensive radios are FRS radios, more commonly known as “walkie talkies”. They do not require a license or a fee, though operators do need to be aware of some applicable regulations. FRS radios are inexpensive, and provide a useful level of communications within neighborhoods to connect with others within limited ranges. Many households may already have FRS radios for use for camping and hiking, or as toys. Neighborhoods in Eugene are assigned specific FRS channels for use within the neighborhood during emergencies or exercises.

GMRS (General Mobile Radio Service)

GMRS Radio*

A GMRS radio license allows operation on a more limited set of public radio frequencies and channels than are available to ham operators, but there is no test required to get a 10-year license for your family household to use. You can obtain your license by applying to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and paying the license fee. GMRS radios operate similarly to FRS radios, (see above), but have greater power and range.

Ham Radio

Ham radios provide the greatest access to radio frequencies, as well as the most power and geographical range. Becoming an amateur radio operator (ham), involves studying to develop some radio skills and knowledge, taking an exam, and paying a fee to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). While there is some learning involved, there are many people willing to help you get your license if you have the desire. The Valley Radio Club offers regular classes, and gives you access to many current hams who are willing to share their time and expertise to help you prepare for your exam. The ARRL (American Radio Relay League) is an organization that supports and serves ham radio operators.

Ham radios come in three general configurations: base stations, mobile, and hand-held (sometimes referred to as “HT”). The base stations tend to be larger and are designed to fit on a desk or flat surface. They offer the greatest degree of control and power, but take up more space and require some set-up. Mobile radios are designed to fit in cars or other vehicles, and look like after-market car audio systems. The hand-held radios look very much like FRS or GMRS radios, but operate on the licensed ham radio bands.

Base station*
Hand-held, or HT*