Monitoring gmrs/frs radio traffic for emergency traffic calls❗️

Does anyone ever monitor GMRS/FRS for emergency radio traffic? I do, but have never heard anyone calling out for emergency help. I am aware of the distance limitations dictated by those frequency bands.
Any thoughts or experiences with emergency calls?
I monitor with a Midland MXT400 base station.

There are groups and public organizations such as REACT who do that, but it depends where you are as to how much GMRS may be utilized for emergency traffic or if it will be utilized at all. Although channel 20 is often cited as the emergency channel for GMRS, the FCC does not assign an official channel for this use, so technically, emergency calls could be transmitted on any GMRS channel.

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I think the FCC failed miserably in promoting FRS and GMRS after establishing the services years ago. Because of that failure, FRS in particular, has become nothing more than a walkie-talkie children’s toy service.
I’m hoping GMRS will eventually become useful to the public. Thanks for your comments.


FRS is quite useful to consumers, and is far from being merely a “walkie-talkie children’s toy service”. It is used by outdoor enthusiasts, nieghborhood watches, various hobbies, mom-and-pop businesses, and of course, families, since, after all, it is the Family Radio Service. The FCC intended FRS to be used for such purposes, and that’s what it is being used for. It wasn’t intended for emergency services, commercial operations, or anything like that. Radio isn’t just for professionals or the elite. Everyone needs some bandwidth on the airwaves, and FRS fulfills this need.

FRS is radio for the rest of us. Is that a bad thing? :smiley:


In my area, FRS & GMRS bands are generally quiet. When their is chatter, it’s more likely than not, kids playing. That’s the harsh reality of Family Radio Service☹️
I’m sure some families somewhere use it in a useful way, but from my observations, parents buy walkie-talkies for their rug rats to get them out of the house, for awhile!
I’m sure, you remember when the Citizens Band service was created by the FCC, decades ago, the ham radio crowd made fun of it because it allowed Americans to act like “hams” without having to learn code and radio electronics. The CBers quickly learned how to build linear amps which turned out to be one of the FCC’s biggest headaches!
It seems that Americans only take responsibility for their radio activities, until and unless they are required to take some kind of a “test”!
The testing instills, responsibility❗️

The activity on those services varies widely depending on where you are, so I they will look different from various viewpoints.I can certainly understand that.

In my area, both GMRS and FRS are quite active, with a number of active GMRS repeaters as well. I do hear a few neighborhood kids from time to time, but there are also quite a few businesses around me that use FRS radios for day to day operations. Then there are some local folks, some of them also hams, who use GMRS for back and forth banter. There is even a group that has a GMRS net on Thursday nights.

Being in the business, I monitor comms on FRS and GMRS fairly often, and unlike CB, most of what I hear is respectable. Plus, activity on these services is increasing in my area, so they are getting used as intended.

We did an episode of our Two Way Radio Show podcast (now in its 10th year) some years ago called Fun With FRS, where we covered some of the things FRS is used for. I have personally witnessed FRS radios being used for everything from retail operations to hotels to traffic control at the local elementary school. They are used by model railroaders in their conventions and on convention floors at some industry expos.

FRS is alive and well, and not just for the kids. Not by a long shot.

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As far as testing for these services, I think it’s where it should be for the most part. The testing is important for ham bands because of the wide latitude and and privileges amateur operators have with the license. They can do a lot of things with Amateur radio that users on most other services can’t, including making their own equipment without a lot of oversight from the FCC, so the training and testing for a license is absolutely necessary.

FRS, GMRS, MURS and most other radio services don’t give users that much power or control. In fact, the frequencies are pre-assigned to specific channels and the radios are not legally allowed to be tinkered with in any way, so there isn’t much the user can do except transmit and receive on them. In that case, testing someone on those services is completely unnecessary.

We often forget people buy radios for one purpose. To talk to their family or friends, or to let a server talk to the kitchen, or a shoe shop talk to the stock room. We’re radio enthusiasts and expect everyone to be the same. If you sell 100 radios, it will likely be 25 sales of four, or fifty of two, not a hundred separate sales. So 100 radios could be just 25 clusters of users. Each probably far away from each other. Many using quiet channels so they do not hear other people. They also expect privacy and imagine silence means they have it.

Only the enthusiasts can be in any organised emergency group. Yesterday one of the 24/7 radios in my office - on the towns port frequency revealed the radio to be distorted and noisy. Nobody commented, they all carried on as usual so in the end I phoned them and told them. Their response was nobody had mentioned it, and a bit dismissive and polite. Half an hour later it got better. On the next call a tug said “oh that’s better Ruth”. People just don’t use leisure or work radios like we do. Emergency monitoring where not properly coordinated doesn’t work unless the user base really want it.