Neighborhood Communication Network

We’re in a Vermont neighborhood of about 40 houses over about 2 miles that is talking about being “Ready Together” in case of an emergency of any type. We’d like to set up a communications network and it seems that two way radios is the way to go. We’re looking for suggestions as to what are the best bang for the buck reliable models. Also wondering whether a base station or two makes sense. And we’ll probably buy in bulk for the whole neighborhood. Any other thoughts you have to help us ask intelligent questions would be much appreciated.

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FRS and GMRS are ideal for your purposes. I highly recommend you chat with the forum hosts at buytwowayradios. There are some new models on the market that are much more professional and durable than some of what we call the cheap “bubble pack” radios one can buy at Walmart. (But, at the same time, they all use the same channels so even the cheapest FRS or GMRS radio will work with any others, once frequencies and codes are matched.)

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind before you start your research, plus one word of warning - no handheld two-way radio at any price is likely to work reliably over a distance of two miles. Please keep in mind the basic limitations of VHF and UHF two-way radios, and the fact that they only work with line-of-sight between antennas. Two radios on two different mountaintops can work up to 25 or so miles with nothing in between them (which is how advertisers get away with those inflated distance figures) but in real world conditions, with houses, buildings, trees and hills, two miles is a stretch. The only way to find out is to test your actual conditions with actual radios. Just don’t expect miracles.

FRS radios are limited to 2 watts and don’t require a licence. There are some new ones on the market, and don’t get too hung up on the output power. There is little difference between 2 watt radios and 5 watt radios in real world conditions. They would be your best bet, and can be bought at various price points. (I highly recommend the Wouxun KG-805F because it is built on a commercial radio chassis and will be better quality than many of the other consumer-grade radios. DeWalt also makes a new line of radios, although I have no experience with them. I have LOTS of experience with Wouxun though.)

You also cannot get mobile or base stations with FRS radios.

GMRS are similar radios, with higher power allowed, plus mobile and base station radios. Each family will need an inexpensive licence for GMRS though.

MURS is an option for licence-free radios. They are more designed for commercial use and are licence-free, but the radios are usually pricier. They may or may not offer any advantages over FRS in your situation.

Motorola DTR radios are the high-end business solution. They are completely private and offer good range, but are much more expensive. If a licence-free business radio that is entirely private is desired, this is the top-end solution.

Keep in mind again, that none of these radios is guaranteed to go two miles in your actual conditions.

If I were you, I would discuss licenced GMRS radios, versus licence-free FRS radios with buytwowayradios and start there. Keep in mind that if there are radios on every block, each radio doesn’t have to go two miles; it just has to go as far as the next house that has their radio on and is listening. Maybe invest in a couple of good FRS radios and walk around the block with them.

Plus, kids in the neighborhood can have fun with the cheaper FRS radios that you don’t mind much if they get dropped in a mud puddle. Use the opportunity to get them using proper radio procedures. (No need to go all serious and GI Joe about this. Just get them started by using the correct order: the person they are calling first, then who they are second. Example: “Joe, this is Mark.”)

In addition to the excellent summary provided by Chickenhawk, YouTube has dozens of vids about setting up mutual assistance group communications. Good luck with your efforts. I think you’ll be shocked at how quickly your net forms and flourishes.

Hi @mischul,

Please feel free to call us at 1-800-584-1445 and we'll be happy to discuss options and pricing!

Being in the UK so much American has no real equivalent here. I hear these community group things for emergencies. Can anyone let me have a link to two for examples of how these emergency setups have worked? I’m struggling to think of examples here where radios would help people? Here, the only radio assistance from the public was a serious coastal flood in the 50s when hams joined up, and smaller ones in the 80s but since then I can’t think of any situations where cellular hasnt done the job. Here, our emergency services are migrating to using the cellular network, piggybacking on their network so the coverage is better. It’s not active yet but coming. So here, it’s cellular for everything, with just marine and business radio as separate. Is the US thing simply about the size of the country and poor cellular in some areas or have I missed something?

We’re thinking of 2 way radios as a backup for cellular. Our cellular coverage is not perfect and also just in case the cellular towers stop functioning.

Isn’t the idea plagued with issues? Batteries kept charged, and of course the cost for the system? Everyone right buy a cheap handheld, but who pays for the repeater and the upkeep and other cost? For a once in a blue moon rainy day scenario, would people actually fund the kind of thing? I don’t think it would here? For our emergency services to relay totally on cellular, the reliability must be impressive, and most cells here have limited backup for power issues, and with multiple redundant equipment- they’ve never been an issue?

What are dtr radios ?
Can anyone provide links to help me learn please

Thank you !!


The Motorola DTR and DLR series are 900MHz digital radios. They are 1 watt but are license-free for business or personal use. There are some videos about the DTR radios posted in the forum.

Here is an unboxing video of the DLR series

We’ve also produced podcasts on them. Here is one posted in the forum.

The murs frequency allows the expansion of high-gain antennas, and it seems a good choice to use it for outdoor camping or off-roading.

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We’re thinking of 2 way radios as a backup for cellular.

Cellular? You mean the ability to phone anyone’s phone anywhere at any time and to receive calls from any phone anywhere in the world? That’s not what walkie-talkies are for.
You may need to narrow your objective to just making reliable contact network of others who might assist by passing along information (in the network or to another network) in an emergency.
As mentioned by others, there are lots of resources about how to plan and implement such a network, even interfacing with actual responders.

Paulears, Always glad to hear from you.The United States is currently transitioning away from traditional “2 way radio” service in the Public Safety area, to all cellular thanks to a partnership between the Federal Government and AT&T. Here are some details.

What is FirstNet? FirstNet is the only nationwide, high-speed broadband communications platform dedicated to and purpose-built for America’s first responders and the extended public safety community. Shaped by the vision of Congress and the first responder community following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, FirstNet stands above commercial offerings. It is built with AT&T in public-private partnership with the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet Authority) – an independent agency within the federal government. The FirstNet network is providing first responders with truly dedicated coverage and capacity when they need it, unique benefits like always-on priority and preemption, and high-quality Band 14 spectrum. These advanced capabilities help fire, EMS, law enforcement save lives and protect their communities.

Our emergency system is going to partner up with EE, our biggest cellular provider, but coverage in our region is 4g at best, and 3G is not everywhere. In such a small country we still have no signal zones. Worst thing is that the existing system has its antennas mainly on the police stations, where their old radio antennas were. It gives good field strength in the police station cells, normally in the basements. The cells are usually concrete with rebar, so with the ET network there is no signal in these places, so they’re talking about cellular repeaters in every police station, and of course funding them! It’s way behind roll out simply because it doesn’t work! Many police here have to carry two radios!

I had always read/heard that European cellular service was excellent mainly because of the size of the countries. I’m quite surprised by your comments. I would have thought that the UK cell service would be excellent.
I would rate my AT&T service as good to very good. As an example, I can listen to internet radio stations via my iPhone, while on a road trip, and never lose the connection!

5G doing well in the big cities - but rural areas can be 2G! Yellow is 5G, then 4G the darkest, 3G the mid green and the light green is 2G. An inconvenience for the public but impossible for the emergency services.

Thanks for the update. We have no 2G. 3G equipment is rapidly being removed from cell site huts to make room for 5G equipment. All the carriers are racing to be “first” with the most 5G coverage here in the United States. 4G, LTE (Long Term Evolution) is the current norm, here.
5G millimeter wave antennas are also being rapidly installed on utility & street light poles that provide gig speed but for very short distances. As a result, the antennas and equipment must be installed on about every 4th pole. That arrangement can be unsightly, from my observations.
Is there any 5G mm wave technology being installed there?

I understand we have the same street lighting plan as you for 5G, but certainly 5G will be a long time coming here where I live I think.

A good friend of mine is a central office technician for AT&T. He said he sees no real need for 5G mm where the company prefers to install it. It’s only being installed on major thoroughfare’s with stores and businesses. They’re already being served by fiber. No one can serf the web at gig speed with their smartphone while DRIVING😂
I think he makes a good point.

I just spoke to a member of our radio club that was involved in a disaster operation were the emergency services attempted to use Firstnet last month her in Western NC. Another disaster. Failed time and time again.
The radio club was on hand and provided communication for the search and recovery stage.
Firstnet may have been a good idea but it’s subject to the same failures as any infrastructure. Floods, wildfires, power outages and overloading still take it out.
One of the biggest issues was the delay in communication. Hard to react in real time with several minutes in delayed communication.

Combeske, I should be surprised/shocked, but I’m not! AT&T received a multi billion dollar contact from the U.S.Government. One of the biggest features of First Net was to provide public safety personal, the ability to communicate seamlessly with any and all personnel, regardless of what organization they worked for.

Having retired from AT&T a number of years ago, I had an inside track on what was going on. That old saying “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is”. Certainly applies in this case.
FirstNet piggybacks on the AT&T cellular network. It’s supposed to give first responders, priority over the regular cellular customers. The Government gave them additional spectrum which they needed, even for their paying customers.
In my view, cellular communications has proven unreliable in EVERY kind of emergency, from weather, earthquakes, etc. It even fails quickly when the general public tries to use it during an emergency. “I’m sorry, all circuits are busy now, will you please try your call again later”
The FCC is well aware this, yet they still gave the go ahead for this very expensive project.
I’m glad you were there, to help provide the emergency communications needed.