Public School Emergency Plan

I am the Superintendent of a small school district. We are developing a communication system to be used during emergency situations. We cannot afford the $18,000 to buy hand helds that work with our bus radios, so I have started looking a less expensive solutions. I have tried some inexpensive FRS radios and they are marginal. We need to reach 2 miles and through cinder block walls of buildings, etc.

I am looking for some help understanding the advantages and differences between UHF and VHF small business radios. I am just starting to learn about these radios so some down to earth explanation would help a lot. The FRS radios have multiple channels while the small business radios have only one, but always advertise how may frequencies they have. I need to know the advantages of the frequencies.

I can probably afford up to about $150 per radio.

Any suggestions, other than the obvious, “go back to school”

I’ll start with a little info.

Channels are fixed frequencies. A GMRS/FRS radio has 22 channels. Each channel is a certain frequency. These CANNOT be changed.
Commercial radios also have channels. Anywhere from one to 300+. These are programmed into the radio. Typically by a programmer or the dealer.
Commercial radios are typically more powerful (actual output as opposed to claimed power). A main reason for this is due to better antennas.
Cheap radios do not have detachable antennas due to a restriction in the FRS rules.

IMO GMRS/FRS is NOT an option. These are radios which have both FRS and GMRS frequencies, and also seven shared frequencies. Confusing, huh?
For them you need a license for every “family”. At least one member of a family must be licensed. The license cost $85 for 5 years. MANY schools and companies ignore this license requirement but I’ll assume you are not like that. Also, the FCC does investigate unlicensed users, especially commercial and high profile users.
The ONLY way around the license requirement is to use ONLY Ch’s 1-14 and use ONLY low power. This would be straight FRS and does/did not require any license.

There are other license free bands such as MURS and a new 800Mhz “family” band but they are quite low power and I doubt you’ll get the performance you are looking for.

Let’s let others give their opinions on this…

We, of course, have a license to run the commercial radios in our school buses, and the best solution would be to have handhelds on the same channels. The problem is, the quote from our supplier was about $1,200 a piece for what he referred to as the cheap version. I can find out the frequency those radios use if I need to, is it possible that a small business radio could have the same frequency programmed in that we currently use for our buses? I have been assuming that the bus radios must operate on a completely separate range of frequencies.

If I can purchase something like the Motorola XTN XU2100 at about $170 ea. as a suitable solution, that would be great.

$1200 EACH??? For a handheld??? :eek:

Find out all the freq information, and the service, and go look elsewhere to buy AND maintain your radios. You certainly should have this information available to you.
Make sure you let the other guy know he is no longer your dealer.

There are commercial radios available that fit within your budget.

Ok, Thanks for the help. I take it from the replies that I need to look at commercial radios rather than the small business radios. I guess I have more research to do.

Thanks Again.