Communication can be critical during a crisis. Phones may
not work when most needed.
Midland Radio Corporation makes a two-way radio capable of transmitting at the maximum power
allowed for its class by the FCC. These consumer radios are inexpensive and do a good job reaching
through our rough terrain. We found they transmitted over 8 miles on high power in our tests.* We
recommend these radios over other similar radios.
The radios are available in sets from for about $60 plus shipping.** The set's
model number is GXT900VP4. Manufacturer is Midland.
Each set includes two radios, rechargeable batteries, two-station
charger with wall and car adapters, and headphone / microphone sets.
Radio Features:
5 watts maximum power = maximum range.*
Use either 4 AA batteries or the included rechargeable battery
Additional features: 22 channels, scan, NOAA weather, splash
resistant, etc.
If you think this is a good idea, tell others. Copy or print this document and give it to your neighbors.
The more radios in your area the more useful they are to communicate.
Email if you have questions.
* Use of high-power channels requires an FCC license ($85 for 5 years). One license required for each family.
No license required for use of channels 8-14 (low power). There is a large fine for use of high-power channels
without a license. We recommend that before using these channels you get a license, which is fast and easy
to do over the Internet. Transmit distance depends upon terrain. On high power, we got 8 miles with almost
line of sight, and over 2 miles with moderate obstruction by trees and terrain. Expect only a few hundred feet if
both radios are in a canyon in dense woods. Will transmit over slight landforms, but not at all if a substantial
landform is in the way. Low-power transmit distance should be less than half high-power transmit distance.
** The radios were in stock on when we checked November 7, 2008. They are currently on
backorder at the factory, but Midland says they will start receiving shipments the week of November 9, so they
should be back in stock soon if Amazon runs out. You can also find them on other websites.
Suggested use of Midland GXT900 FRS/GMRS radios for emergency communications.
Ver5 12/2/08
General notes:
If phones are working, always use 911 to report emergencies.
These suggestions are just that, suggestions. Only FCC rules must be followed when using these radios.
No license is required to use channels 8 through 14.
Obtain a General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) license before transmitting on channels other than 8
through 14. Fastest process is online. This is a good page to start with for licensing If you want more instructions start on License cost is $85 for 5
years. One license required per family. Worth the cost to avoid a $10,000 fine. Complete forms 605 for
license and 159 for on-line payment.
Keep your radios charged and ready for use. Use them for recreational and other uses so you are familiar
with how to use them. Avoid using channels 14 or 15 (see why on next page - there are lots of other
If non-emergency use, switch to another channel if you hear others using the channel you are on (good
radio etiquette).
Purchase lots of AA alkaline batteries, or rechargeable AA batteries and a quick charger with wall and car
adaptors (don't try to charge alkalines!). The battery packs that come with the radios take many hours to
charge and the AA rechargeables can be charged much faster. No good batteries = no radio.
Always keep transmissions as short as possible (good radio etiquette, and saves your batteries as
transmitting uses much more power). Read more about radio etiquette on the Internet (here's one page,
Channels 1 through 22 on this radio will likely be compatible with the same channel on other FRS/GMRS
radios, but not necessarily. However, these radios appear to transmit farther than other FRS/GMRS
radios, so people with other radios may hear you without you hearing them.
Below are frequencies used for Midland GXT900 channels 1 through 22. If you have another
manufacturer's FRS/GMRS radio and know the frequencies it uses for channels, you can use this table to
check which channel to set your radio on to communicate with a GXT900. Channels 23 through 42 (not
shown) should not be used, especially in an emergency, as they merely use one of the frequencies for
channels 1 through 22 with a factory-default "privacy code" set (see notes 9 and 10 on next page.)
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Emergency use notes:
1. Until you are familiar with the radios use only the default settings, except as directed below. Always follow 9, 10
and 11 below.
2. Turn radio on and set it to channel 15 if you have a GMRS license, or to channel 14 if you have no license. To
set the channel press menu button once, then use the up or down buttons (
) to change the channel
number to the one you want, then press the Push To Talk (PTT) button on side of radio to save the setting (or
just wait about 5 seconds and the setting will be saved automatically).
3. Set the two-channel scan feature to listen to channels 14 and 15. The first channel that will be scanned is the
one you set the radio to in number 2 above. To set the second channel that will scan, press the menu button 11
times slowly, or until you see the
sign, then use the up or down buttons to change the number to the number
of the second channel you want to scan (if you set your radio to use channel 14, set the second channel to 15,
and vice versa). Then quickly press the PTT button on the side of the radio (this locks in settings after you have
made them). Wait a few seconds and your radio should begin scanning these two channels (14 and 15). Note
that no license is needed to listen to channel 15. If you transmit or receive on a channel, the radio will lock on
that channel for about 10 seconds and will then resume scanning both channels. If you press the mon/scan
button the two-channel scan feature will turn off, and the radio will stop scanning the second channel and will
work only on the first channel until you go back through the process of setting it to scan the second channel.
4. Press the PTT button on the side of the radio and ask if anyone is listening, then release the PTT button and
listen (with the volume turned up).
5. Due to the chaotic nature of emergencies, you and others will have to self-organize a communication system for
your area. For example, once communicating, you can arrange for certain times of day to check in and talk with
each other, or to talk on different channels (however, please see number 10 below). You may be able to
arrange for communication with the outside world when needed if one of you can contact an emergency-service
responder who has a public service radio.
6. You can relay messages over ridges into another canyon if you have a "human repeater" on a ridge top (a
person on the ridge who can communicate with people in more than one canyon, or on another ridge).
7. You can transmit over long distances if you have clear line of sight to the other location. In high-power tests, we
got over 8 miles with almost line of sight and over 2 miles with moderate terrain and trees in the way. Expect
only a few hundred feet if both radios are in a canyon in dense woods. The radios will transmit over slight
landforms, but will not communicate at all if a substantial landform is in the way. Elevation is your friend when it
comes to distance. Low-power transmit distance should be less than half high-power transmit distance.
8. The radios are only moderately splash resistant. Use them inside a zip-lock bag if it is raining or otherwise keep
them dry.
9. DO NOT use group mode or privacy codes. Privacy codes do not make your transmissions private. They make
it so you cannot hear others – but others can hear you. If you set a privacy code you may be talking over others
without knowing it, interfering with important communications. By default, no group or privacy codes are set.
Leave them off.
10. DO NOT use channels 23 through 42 (or any channel other than 1 through 22). These are NOT separate
channels, but are one of the channels 1 through 22 with a factory-default privacy code set. You may interfere
with critical communications without knowing.
11. DO NOT use VOX (voice activated transmission). This will result in unwanted transmissions that needlessly
interrupt others. VOX is turned off by default. Leave it off.
12. DO have the "roger beep" on (lets others know when you are done talking so no need to say "over"). See owner
manual page 16.
13. Following these practices, you should hear all transmissions within range on channels 14 and 15, and you and
your neighbors can organize a communication system for your area, including switching to other channels as
14. To listen to NOAA weather radio see owner manual pages 17-18 (received in few locations in Big Sur as of
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RADIO ETIQUETTE for two-way radios
[Adapted from the website of the National Interagency Fire Center]
Radio use is a command and control tool. It is used to pass information across
great distances and make coordination of resources possible in a way that
smoke signals, mirrors, runners, and other ancient means of communications just
can't begin to match. Like any other tool, it can be misused. Here are a few ideas
that will help you to avoid becoming a source of apoplexy for others.
Allow a split second before beginning a transmission. Be brief and to the point,
keep the channel open for others to use. Speak directly and clearly into the mic
2-3 inches away from your mouth. Use the name of the person you are
contacting (first) and then identify yourself: "Dave - Mary. Acknowledge that you
have heard the communication: "Go ahead."
Radio Language
Use Plain English aka “Clear Text”
 Do not use 10 codes – not familiar to all firefighters and can differ
between jurisdictions.
Use location identifiers or functional title
 Location examples – Division B, Drop Point 2, Staging Area, Helibase
 Functional titles – Taskforce Leader, Medic, Operations
Use Phonetic Alphabet
 Enunciation tends to be lost on the radio and individual letters can be
miss-communicated over the radio.
 Using the phonetic alphabet will reduce communication mistakes
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Phonetic Alphabet
Use standard expressions
 Standard expressions reduce the amount of time transmitting on
frequencies and reduces confusion
Go ahead
Pass your message
Message received and understood
Retransmit message
Message acknowledged but I am unable to reply or
deal with it at this time.
Do You Copy Do you understand, please acknowledge
Resources heading to incident
En Route
Unreadable Used when signal received is unclear or not understood
Don’t pay attention to the last radio traffic
Don’t Swear
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Radio Efficiency
Know what you want to say before you key the radio
 Leave out the Ahs and Ohs
 Think first then speak
Keep it short and simple
 Try not to pack 5 seconds worth of information into 30 seconds
 Don’t use long/big words when a short one will do
 Bad:
Ah Taskforce Smith this is, Jones, Ah yeah ah roger that ah Taskforce
- got a ah solid copy on your last ah transmission about that ah
geographical location that we're ah supposed to be moving towards to
ah, rendezvous ah, that is, ah, meet up with the ah, other Crew.
 Good:
Net control this is Jones
Short transmissions extends battery life
Pause your transmition every now and then
 Ensure that the person on the other end is copying your transmition
 Allows others to break in with more important information without
walking over your transmition
Remember the whole world is listening
 Anyone with a scanner or another radio can listen to your transmission
 If you don’t want others to hear it, don’t say it
Speak clearly, don’t shout
 Shouting causes distortion and makes you hard to understand
 Remain calm at all times, don’t rush you message
 Speaking loudly does not increase your radio range
Don’t read everything back
 It doubles the air time
 Use "Repeat" for the stuff you didn't copy
 Instead say "Copy" and stand by for the next transmition
Transmitions should include unit identifiers
 To be sure you're getting through to the right person
 Here's a sample:
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"Command Post - Partington Team Brown"
(PTB wants to talk to the Command Post and is letting them know).
“Go Ahead”
(CP is telling Partington Team Brown that they're ready to listen).
They might have said
(The CP is busy and will call Team Brown back).
"Partington Team Brown - Command Post"
(OK, situation dealt with, what's on your mind?)
"We need some buckets and Johnson will be the contact for them"
(Pause to see, did you get that, Command Post?)
(OK Team Brown, ready for more info)
This is a simple way to reduce air time used by eliminating points of
confusion because someone misunderstood the message
Always remain calm and speak clearly
This increases reaction time and allows for good, safe decisions
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