Old dog - needs new help. Church building 2 way.

Hello gang,

The last time I geeked out with TX’ing and RX’ing was as a firefighter 20 years ago. So, I’m out of date and in a different situation now.

I am taking on a new job that will put me in a security-position with a church/poverty-assistance organization. The internal phone system is failing and antiquated. So, staff trying to reach me for assistance (or me radio’ing them to call 911) won’t work well. Besides, not every room has a phone extension.

Our needs:

1: A pair of radios (one for the front office desk, one for me on my hip).

2: No license - or, if needed, very cheap and very easy to get into - the office staff just won’t likely go through education or certification processes.

3: It’s a 3 story, plus basement, stone church that’s got a lot of interior rooms across those levels. Old wiring, who knows what kind of 1950’s building codes/interference could be at play.

4: Easy. They stay on a channel, I stay on that channel, they pick up and push to talk and I come to where they are.

Our other considerations:

  1. They can stay jacked into the recharge base, I only need to get through 4 hours of standby use before a recharge - we’re only open and operational morning-to-lunch. So, battery duration isn’t the major issue.

  2. Obviously, my first thought is UHF to cut through all that architecture. It’s all on-property. We don’t need to worry about distance down the block.

  3. Cheap. Very likely, this is going to come out of my pocket before I’ve even begun this job - but these office women need security and hoping cellphone to cellphone reception in an emergency is workable just invites disaster. A fast push-button on a radio much better.

  4. Something out of the box legal to use here in Iowa.

  5. Easy to use or minimal programming. I’m pretty geeky in that regard so I could program if need be, but I want the experience to be easy on the staff.

  6. Doesn’t need to be mil-spec. I’m not a correctional officer whose radio needs to survive an extraction. We are hands-off if at all possible - as we make a call to 911. However, a bit of durability would be welcome.

  7. Doesn’t need to be new. “Out of the box” is relative in terms of usage - not purchase.

I’d love any advice, recommendations, education you could offer. Like I said, they are coming into this brand-new and I’m their newly-hired solution, but I’m operating on charitable organization conditions and procedures.

If I could offer my opinion, I think it is great you are working to keep everyone safe. You are wise to avoid the cell phone system because in an emergency that is a bit widespread, it will be the first system to go down.

While I understand that you are paying for this out of your own pocket, I still think you should look at some business-class radios. In an emergency, they MUST work. You don’t have room for bubble-pack family radios will break into a million pieces when they are (inevitably) dropped on the ground, nor do you need the airwaves clogged with every kid playing airsoft in a 2- mile radius just when you NEED a channel.

One other consideration is that if you are serious about your job - and you obviously are - then the simple perception of bubble pack family radios as “toys” will not add to your credibility. It seems silly but it is true that when you are holding a business radio when first responders roll up, they will listen to you more readily than someone holding a toy radio. (Think about it. When you were a firefighter and rolled on a medical call, if first aid was being delivered at the scene by a stranger when you arrived, you would listen to them more closely if they had an EMS kit with them, than if they had a plastic lunch box with “Barbie’s first medical kit” stenciled on it.)

It’s more than you want to spend, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of radios that will work 100% in an emergency. I see two good alternatives for you to research a bit: the Motorola DTR radios and the Motorola MURS radios. Both are licence free, and both can be programmed but can also be used by anyone simply by turning them on and pushing the PTT.

The DTR series is UHF and has about the best range of any VHF or UHF radio on the market. They operate on the 900MhZ spread spectrum band, and frequency-hop in set algorithms so quickly (90 milliseconds) that cannot be monitored by anyone else unless they also have a Motorola DTR radio. (And even then, it would have to be set to the same channel and ID number as yours, which is almost 1 in a 1000 chance.) It is the quality of the signal, clarity of the voice, the range of UHF and the security of the transmissions that make them worth the money for people who want the best in licence-free radios.

The MURS is cheaper. You share the band with anyone else within range but with 5 channels total and not many MURS radios on the market, you can usually find a clear channel. I must say I am a huge fan of the DTR radios, but even I am impressed with the new Motorola RMM2050 radio. It has some great new features that make it perfect for your purposes, such as voice announcements of channel number and battery level and charging through USB plugs.

Check out this video. Watch it to the end, and you can see why I think this is the perfect choice for you.


I wish I could talk buytwowayradios.com into lending me two MURS radios so I could do a head-to-head test of MURS versus DTR. No one has ever done one before, and both these radios are extremely capable, yet under-appreciated.

I appreciate the opinion - and wisdom, thank you.

As an 'ol firefighter you’re definitely preaching to the choir about reliability and not skimping on equipment when communication HAS to work. Also, I agree with you, too, about the presence a proper radio can give in terms of impression and authority. You’re absolutely right.

I’ll check those MURS systems and DTR. I’m a die-hard fan of Motorola, for sure. Thank you!

Overall, you won’t get any argument from me about prioritizing the needs and equipment as you describe - we’re in agreement. :slight_smile: Unfortunately, I honestly can’t afford to do it better justice. I haven’t even started my first day there, yet, and we (wife and I) are coming off a layoff from a major employer. So, every penny is spoken for - even something as important as my desire to help these ladies with their security needs (which are genuine) bangs up against that reality. I’m stuck for options at this stage.

However, I greatly thank you for taking the time to reflect on my needs and really appreciate your thoughtful guidance on both fronts - technical and practical. :slight_smile:


I understand the issues, and appreciate the comments. Perhaps a two-pack FRS/GMRS radio package will suffice for now. I can see that your biggest concerns are possible range and clarity of the audio.

First of all, most FRS/GMRS radios have about the same range, regardless of the advertised power. Because you can’t really listen to voice samples with FRS radios like you can with business radios, you need to rely on user reports as to audio quality. You can also get a rough idea by comparing specs because higher audio output often translates into better sound. But part of clarity is the quality of the speaker too, and this is where one really does get what they are paying for, as far as hidden quality features such as the size and quality of the speaker.

You can get some good two-pack radios around the $60 to $70 range. You can also get four radios for $40, but as I said, you generally get what you pay for.

I have personally experienced the best clarity of the audio with Motorola and Midland radios.

As for used, it’s actually a good option as long as you can listen to the radios before you purchase them. Be aware that factory rechargeable batteries have a finite life, and you can expect very short talk time with five-year-old consumer-grade batteries. The best FRS radio I ever heard was the Motorola Talkabout T6220. As long as you didn’t block the front microphone with your thumb, they had the best range and the clearest sound out of everything on the market at the time. You can still occasionally find them on the used market.

Thank you very much for this help - I appreciate it all very much!