We find ourselves in the very rural rocky mountains of Colorado. Safety is paramount, just last month we had a truck go down between our office and the middle of absolutely nowhere. Imagine your vehicle is stuck or broke down or both and you’re deep in the Rocky Mountains, after hours, surrounded by mountain lions, moose, bear and just the harshest environments possible. Now we have no true need for idle chit chat, this is truly for emergencies and winter excursions. Our main office needs to be able to keep up with our people in the field to ensure they’re safe. Wed like to be able to check in with our people every 2-4 hours to make sure all is well. Were never more than 20-30 miles from the office. This is NOT the city. This is the mountains, and we need help coming up with a 2 way radio system for 2 trucks, 2 Handhelds and One Base station for our company. We do have access to repeater towers via permission and donations in our area. We wont be occupying any channels with loads of conversation as a matter of fact our work is that of stealth.
need 2 trucks each with a radio and one base station. Whats our best bet? Ive been told VHF for the mountains, not UHF.
First thing I’d check is the coverage availability of local airtime systems. This will be a monthly service fee but as it is a reoccurring business expense it can be written off on taxes as a lease. I know several radio shops in that part of the state owned by larger parents (until recently both were based out of Dallas, TX) that would know but honestly check with the smaller regional shops first.
If you do it yourself you are going to have the entire cost of infrastructure, subscriber equipment, and the cost of the licensing. Not sure about the licensing but the equipment cost you can only write depreciation off on.
For the infastructure you will need:
- Repeater - 50W with battery backup capability
- Duplexer - Band-Pass Band-Reject
- RG-214 jumpers - goes between duplexer and repeater
- 1/2" hardline with connectors - most mountain top application have short runs but it will depend on use
- Antenna - I recommend the Telewave ANT150D for this application
- Grounding supplies - #6 ground wire, grounding lugs (block may be in place already at site), Polyphaser for surge suppression, ground kit for 1/2" hardline may be desired as well.
For your base:
- Mobile radio with power supply and enclosure, 25W would be adequate here.
- Polyphaser and msc to ground to either electrical service ground or building steel.
- Antenna - Laird FG1500 would be appropriate but don’g for get the FM-2 mounts (other fiberglass design would work as well, you don’t want one with gain however).
- LMR-400 coax with connectors.
- You’ll likely want a LMR195 jumper to interface between the LMR400 and radio as well. Depending on the polyphaser location, you may go direct to the polyphaser with the jumper (no more than 15’ to 20’).
For your mobiles:
- Mobile radios (they’ll come with a wiring harness), 50W would be what I’d recommend blind.
- NMO kits (assuming you have sheet metal roofs) and the correct coax connectors (no shame in pre-connected)
- 1/4 wave NMO antenna covering the frequency of operation
- Portable radios, 5W
In your case, I think analog is perfectly adequate. As far as radio manufacturers go, budget company I would go with is not a current vendor with BTWR but I hope they will add them in the near future as they offer great budget analog and DMR offerings with IP67 ratings (waterproof). High end for your application would be Motorola XPR3000 series portables, XPR2500 series mobiles/base.
If you want GPS location…digital is the easiest way to get it but analog is often lower cost. VHF would be the best for your application and it is very important that you utilize 1/4 wave antennas due to their optimal radiation patterns for mountainous terrain.
Edit: I may have misunderstood some of your post. Are groups/orgs allowing you to piggy back off of their existing systems or are they just allowing you access to put your own system up on their towers?
Quite frankly, you are not going to get the performance you need in the mountains with your own system unless you install multiple repeaters at a prohibitive cost. Also, when employee safety is involved, you should also never rely on public GMRS and FRS frequencies or GMRS repeaters designed for chit chat and families.
But the nice thing is that the entire state of Colorado now has a digital trunking system. This is the system you need to access. All you will pay is the cost of the radios (either purchase, lease or rental) plus the cost of accessing the network. This is your best alternative.
Talk to a good local radio dealer. (professional radios, not amateur radios)
The only other suggestion is to equip each vehicle with an Personal Locator Beacon. (PLB) This is the ground-based version of the EPIRB used by vessels and aircraft. It is ONLY for life-threatening emergencies and when they push the button, they will get a huge amount of rescue resources mobilized in a very short period of time. (I repeat - this is only for life-threatening emergencies. I would hate to cost out the price of mobilizing vehicles, aircraft and helicopters when they find out it wasn’t an emergency!)
You can also get two-way satellite messenger devices such as the SPOT Messenger, and the InReach devices from Delorme and Garmin. But unlike PLBs, you need to pay a monthly fee. You can send back simple messages, but the SPOT uses the low-earth-orbit Global Star satellite system, which is no where near as reliable as the Iridium network. Plus, SPOT has a reputation for horrible customer service, and over the course of five years of ownership, an InReach can cost you many thousands of dollars.
But in a real emergency, nothing beats the resources behind the government-operated COSPAS-SARSAT satellite network and good PLBs from McMurdo or ACR. they are about $350, and you will need to replace batteries every five years, but there are no other fees.
Yes and no. It all depends on the location and area of operation. This does take planning and an understanding of the technology though.
Great example, Deer Peak in Custer county. The base of the towers are 10,000+ ft above sea level and have clear line of sight to the Springs. The location also covers as far south as Walsenburg and 95% of the Wet Mountain valley (with the East face of the Sangre de Cristo’s having 100% coverage for most of the valley). The real coverage issue tends to be the northern section near the gorge (especially down in the gorge) along the Arkansas river though a lot of coverage is gained on US50 heading towards Salida.
The big thing, if you can get the location it is completely doable. If not airtime services from a local SMR or PLBs may be a better option.