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In the era of ubiquitous cell phones, do walkie talkies even make sense these days? I do see event coordinators using them. What's the scoop of two-way radios and what's the best gear?

asked Jan 30 '13 at 14:28

Kevin%20Kelly's gravatar image

Kevin Kelly
196


I have a lot of experience with two way radio gear in the law enforcement and public safety and to a lesser extent business contexts. Wayne is right - but there are many other substantial advantages. However, in field tests we've run in different contexts (geographic and architectural), we've concluded that the Motorola consumer stuff is nearly worthless.

I don't think I can fully answer the question in the context of a comment - too many variables, both regulatory and technological. But would be happy to write something longer, which I've been meaning to do for my blog Popular Logistics anyway. But here's a short answer:

  1. reputable places that rent to film production companies (at least in NY or LA) are good for short-term rentals - but don't count on even the bigger places having units available on short notice or in an emergency.
  2. You want gear which operates in the "business-industrial" frequency pool, which requires registration/licensing from the FCC - but without the challenging ham radio proficiency testing. Nonprofits - e.g. disaster relief groups - are usually exempt from fees.
  3. Motorola is not the only game in town; other manufacturers make gear as good, sometimes better, usually much less expensive. The ill will among 9/11 survivor families about the FDNY Motorola radios, which failed on 9/11, is still a painful subject for many. Happy to answer questions, specific or general, or prepare a lengthier post on request. NB: I have no skin in this game - don't design, sell or rent them. We are planning to start a nonprofit to provide emergency energy and communications capabilities (including radio) to community-based organizations and local governments.
  4. Not having answered questions before, although I'm a fanatical reader of KK and Cool Tools, I've refrained from endorsing specific manufacturers, models, or dealers, but can make recommendations if requested.Some gear we know about - but haven't had the budget to purchase and test (we're wary of accepting samples).

Hope this is helpful.

Jon

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answered Feb 09 '13 at 11:22

jonathan%20soroko's gravatar image

jonathan soroko
31

edited Feb 09 '13 at 11:32

The two-way radio feature that beats cell phones with every time is their party-line aspect. If you're running a crew in a chaotic scene, then cells are really limiting and two-way shines. With a two-way system, everyone gets a sense of who's where and doing what. They're synergistic.

The tech of two-way radio is a huge topic that others can weigh in on...but a well-run system is a great tool to build an otherwise impossible-to-manage team functioning in moderate to very large areas.

Consider rental of pro gear (portable/mobile/repeater access) or buying essentially disposable consumer-grade Motorola stuff.

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answered Feb 02 '13 at 13:25

Wayne%20Ruffner's gravatar image

Wayne Ruffner
161

Yes, Jon, I'd love to hear you specific recommendations. In case I can't reach you directly, my email is kk@kk.org.

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answered Feb 24 '13 at 23:46

Kevin%20Kelly's gravatar image

Kevin Kelly
196

I've been using a Midland 75/822 CB in a really casual way for the past few years - taking it on road trips mostly. It is nice to turn it on when you hit heavy traffic to see what the truckers know about the road conditions (and they always know). The device seems capable and I liked the options - it comes with a battery pack that takes 6 alkaline AAs, a pack that takes 8 rechargable AAs, and cover that uses the 12v power jack in your car. I can't speak much to the range but I occasionally crank it up and can hear chat from the interstate over a mile away (using an extended antenna like this one.

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answered Feb 25 '13 at 11:39

itsrob's gravatar image

itsrob
86

If you're looking at the consumer market, I'd suggest looking at Motorola MH230R or for slightly longer range the MR350R. They're in the $50 range/pair. I lived for several years in the Eastern Sierra where we used these for hiking. Usually they were good for 2-3 miles over mountainous terrain, and of course much further if users were in line of sight. You can also use them for NOAA weather. They're light & cheap enough to be practical, require AA batteries (rechargeables work fine) and are durable. On some hikes we'd have 5 or 6 deployed, carried by hikers of varying speeds, so we could keep tabs on where everyone was, and for that purpose they worked rather well - not perfect, but mostly good enough. If you're within a few hundred yards of another radio, they always worked, even around large obstacles.

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answered Mar 17 '13 at 14:15

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KRooney
1

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Asked: Jan 30 '13 at 14:28

Seen: 7,033 times

Last updated: Mar 17 '13 at 14:15

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