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.

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.