Ham radio can be a really great hobby and covers a lot of activities from emergency communications to yakking on the local repeater to bouncing signals off the moon. It’s a lot of fun and can help you dispose of as much time and money as you want to throw at it… once you pass the test. But it’s not the only game in town.
General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) is a middle ground between Ham radio and the cheap, ubiquitous, and low powered Family Radio Service (FRS) walkie talkies.
Operating a GMRS radio doesn’t require an exam but it does require a license. Compared with the FRS walkie talkies, the increased power of GMRS makes it a good candidate for emergency and community communications. Seattle has an active GMRS community and GMRS plays an important role in emergency communications both in the city and locally in the Wedgwood and Maple Leaf Hubs.
Ham radio and GMRS are not mutually exclusive but if you’re interested in getting into radio with a modest investment in time and money, GMRS can give you a good taste of what it’s about while giving you an opportunity to make a contribution to your community.
You can get a pair of these radios, play around with them, and learn how to use them on the FRS channels. (My husband and I have found them handy to use around the house and garden.) But if you want to use it during the drills, you will have to be licensed to use the GMRS transmit power levels and other GMRS features that we employ.
In the event of a real disaster, of course, no license is required at all. But if you haven’t played around with your radio beforehand and don’t know how to use it, it won’t be of much use.
If you’re interested in Ham radio, then try it out – it’s lots of fun.
If you don’t feel like going in whole hog and are willing to forgo making direct radio contact with radio stations around the world, then consider GMRS. For community service it’s the most bang for the buck and licensed, skilled operators will always be appreciated and play key roles in our hub.
Several people have expressed interest in getting a GMRS license. Here's a link and a few hints to help you through the process....
How to get a GMRS License