How does it work?
Real Range Organized Retreat Radios
for larger area communications, no grid power.
Requires Special Treatment
GMRS radio use in rural areas where homes are more than 500 to 1,000 yards apart, maybe many miles apart, requires an external antenna. Required elevation may be a magnetic mount on top of the refrigerator or a 5 foot tall gain antenna elevated up on ten or eighteen foot support to increase range radius to ten to fifteen miles. A radio with external antenna connection is needed here.
GMRS rules allow high power, 50 watts, on some channels. The mobile type 12 VDC transceivers with gain antenna up high provide reliable emergency communications.
Now, eyes and ears of neighbors must take over the Watch against crime. Awareness and communications within the neighborhood must fill any void in public safety services mentioned above.
In each Neighborhood Watch Radio group, the coordinators, Watch members, and dedicated volunteers will set up Neighborhood Watch Radio and form a safety and crime prevention network of group members.
For the technical part (briefly) -
GMSR radios operate on UHF public frequencies in the 460mhz to 470mhz range. Most are familiar with these radios since children and businesses use them all the time. These devices have some critical features that can be used for neighborhood protection. Popular inexpensive radio kits provide two radios. We recommend one for the neighborhood watch Emergency channel and the other for "Chat" or social channel(s).
Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) -- or Private Line (PL code, tone code, etc.) as Motorola named it - offers 38 or so individual codes. Today more privacy codes utilizing the DCS designation can provide up to 150 codes for use. Most devices can utilize a specific code on transmitting and receiving. If a radio is not utilizing same receiving code as transmitting radio, the receiving radio will not respond and traffic will not be heard. See also > > Radios, Types, Features
A neighborhood group privacy code for the emergency and "Alert" channel can provide isolation from radio traffic unless the traffic is an emergency or a serious alert. The privacy code for is not usually distributed except by email, phone or postcard from Neighborhood Watch Radio coordinator. Or, perhaps through the Nextdoor.com private web.
If you want a more detailed description of what CTCSS is, click on the article at wikipedia.org explaining how the Continuous Tone-Coded Squelch System [CTCSS] works. It was originated by Motorola over fifty years ago.
Contact a Wireless dealer or retailer or community organization to initiate or join a Neighborhood Watch Radio group. A Neighborhood Watch Radio volunteer Ham Radio Club or group have the training and knowledge to setup a group right away. Search "Ham Radio Clubs" in your State or city. Or, do it yourself. Check this web for ways to connect with Neighborhood Watch Radio coordinators, volunteers, or Wireless dealers, retailers, professionals.
Although GMRS provides for broader coverage through repeaters on some channels, most will utilize radios as described for Neighborhood Watch functions. Some Neighborhood Watch Radio members are very active in wide area UHF, VHF, GMRS and Amateur Radio activities. The ranks of Ham Radio are in growth mode today because no Morse code is required. Hams today talk Worldwide with handheld radios via Internet linked local repeaters.
The majority of Hams today can be helpful with establishing Neighborhood Watch Radio groups. If you know a Ham, contact one now about UHF or GMRS radio.
Not Secure or Private!
Now, please don't assume that conversations are really private. No, no. Any radio on the same frequency or channel can eavesdrop on a conversation if squelch is open and eavesdropping radio is in range. Typically, in the dense neighborhood environment radio range is in hundreds of yards,. Privacy codes are for convenience, to limit chatter on the frequency until a call is made using a privacy code to open your Alert or Chat radio.
OK, semi private communication can get more complex with TX and RX offset with a mix of CTCSS tones. However, these radios can stay quiet until you or someone in your Neighborhood Watch group needs to communicate in an emergency on the Alert channel utilized by the particular group. Additionally, channels can be used for neighborhood "Chat". Since radios are bought in pairs, you can keep one on the Alert channel and another on a Chat channel.
Privacy Code Needed?
Unless there is extraneous non group chatter on the Chat channel, a privacy code is not necessary. But the Alert emergency channel should always have a code to prevent chatter.
~ Bob Hutchinson, Wireless Industry Association