Daisy Mountain Area

Emergency Communications

Page Author, ARES Asst Coordinator, CERT Communications: kf6hi@arrl.net

Note, this page is a work in progress, check back often

Emergency situations come in all sizes. fires, civil unrest, floods, or even worse. You may need to reach out to a neighbor next door or down the street, or up the road a few miles, or to a loved one in another state. What would you do if power is out, or cell phone towers go dark or are jammed?

EMCOMM, or Emergency Communications is simply being prepared with the right equipment and knowledge to make contact with others in an emergency situation. On this page I will walk you through different scenerios that may occur and how you can be prepared for them.

Cell Phones
Yes, these are your first line of defense. But you still need to be prepared. Do you have your neighbors phone numbers? Non-emergency numbers for Police, Fire? How about service groups in your area like animal rescue? Have these numbers in your phone AND written down on paper. Your phone may become lost or inoperable. Also include your family members. Can you call a family member using someone else's phone?

The limitations of cell phones
Cell phones are radios that utilize cell towers and your phone providers infrastructure: wired lines to various computers/databases/switches that in many cases are many miles away from you. Cell towers have power backup, but they can and do fail. Even if they don't fail in an emergency situation many people will be trying to use them at the same time resulting in call overload. In this case it may be easier to text than to call. Even if your area is not effected by the emergency, your cell phone provider, again many miles away, may be having an emergency or failure. Early in 2020 all Verizon users in New River were without cell coverage for 12 hours. You can check your providers status here, you may be surprised how many outages there are daily

Verizon Status
AT&T Status

and just to be complete, the APS Power outage status

Radios - Situational Awareness
Radios will operate without the power grid and Internet (mostly, digital radios can be a problem, more on that later). In addition they can be used to gather information about the situation.

Fire Radios
Recently the Aquila fire came very close to us. Reverse 911 failed to notify us (probably because we have out of state cell numbers, however our account has our correct location and cell numbers). What gave us peace of mind was listening to the DMFM crews on scene fighting the fire. Remember, NEVER transmit on a public service frequency. Refer to Arizona law 13-2922 Interference with Public Safety Radios

Active Fire Department calls can be found through Phoenix Fire Regional Dispatch Center. EMS (Medical) calls are not listed on the page to comply with HIPAA requirements. Medical calls are on a completely different communications system. The CH# to the left of the call is the radio frequency being used at the scene. Most often channel A10 is used in our area. Communications is normally between Fire units on the scene. All communications are mobile to mobile except for Dispatch which can tie in through local towers.

Channel Freq MHz Tower
A1 Dispatch 154.190 4,5
A2 East Phoenix 154.250 4
A3 West Phoenix 154.070 4,5
A4 Mutual Aid 154.280 4
A5 Northeast Phoenix 153.830 5
A6 Northwest Phoenix 154.310 4
A9 West Phoenix 155.670 4
A10 Far North Phoenix 151.370 4,5
A15 Event 155.715 none
  • Tower 4 is closest and tallest at 701 W Carefree HWY
  • Tower 5 is on North Mountain at 10600 N 7TH ST
  • Other towers and frequencies are used in Central and South Phoenix

  • Law Enforement Radios
    Both Phoenix PD and MSCO utilize a trunked digital system for communications. MCSO also uses encrypted channels at times. You can listen to these but it entails purchase of a somewhat pricey digital scanner. The act of scanning and the nature of the digital communications can make it difficult to piece together communications threads. I don't own such a scanner so I will let you do research on your own if you are interested in this.

    DPS does use some standard frequencies.........

    Radios - Personal Communications Services
    Personal Communications Services are short-range, low-power radio communications using devices that operate much like walkie-talkies. The most popular types of personal radio services are Citizens Band Radio Service, Family Radio Service, General Mobile Radio Service, Low-Power Radio Service and Multi-Use Radio Service. Of these types of services, only General Mobile Radio Service requires an FCC license to operate. You can learn more about these services at this FCC website. These radio services are governed by FCC Part 95 rules.

    In this discussion I will only address the Family Radio Service or FRS. FCC rules state that only FCC certified (part 95) radios can be used. The rules state what frequencies and power levels can be used. In addition external antennas cannot be used. You may be temped to use an external antenna but none are available commercially, and while using a Ham Radio antenna may improve reception, it will not work for transmission since the antenna is not tuned for FRS frequencies.

    FRS is touted nationwide as an Emergency Communications asset. In particular channel 3. In communicating locally I recommend channel 7. More information about channel 3 can be found at AmRRON. American Redoubt Radio Operators Network (AmRRON) is a network of Preppers, Patriots and Redoubters who have volunteered to keep each other connected when other means of communications are unavailable or unreliable. The Prescott Neighborhood Safety Group.......

    General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) uses some of the same frequencies but requires a $70 license.

    Radios - Ham Radio
    Ham Radio is ....


    Baofeng radios
    In general people either love them or hate them. At times this gets heated. Given the times we live in, MANY people are interested in EMCOMM and these radios are very attractive to them given their low price point. I hope to present here what these radios are good for and what their limitations are. To start, Baofeng is a Chinese consumer electronics company. Their radios are heavily re-branded into other names such as BTEC, TENWAY, and even KENWOOD. In total they are sold under at least 10 different names. I'm not an expert on all the re-brands, but they seem to be the same Baofeng hardware with difference firmware installed. Some claim to do an extra step of Quality control on the radio, but that claim cannot be substantiated. So whenever I refer to Baofeng, I'm also referring to its many re-brands.

    The most often asked question is "are the radios legal?" The answer is yes, it is legal to sell them. However it may be illegal to use it ! The UVR series radios are what we are talking about here. These radios are sold as HAM RADIOs. A Ham Radio does not need FCC authorization to build and sell (but there are special cases where FCC authorization is required). It relies on the Ham Radio operator, who is licensed by the FCC, to properly use it.

    "But my radio has an FCC ID, so it must be legal" That is true for some models, but if you look up the authorization it is for an FCC PART 15 Scanner certification. Not a two-way radio.

    "Is it legal to use this radio for FRS or GMRS?" The definitive answer is NO. An FRS or GMRS radio must be FCC Part 95 Certified. The radio must say this on the nameplate. As an alternative there are are cheap FRS radios out there. Uniden SX167-2C or Midland - LXT500VP3 are two examples. For GMRS Midland 50 is an example. Again for GMRS you need an FCC license which is easy to get but does carry an $70 fee for 10 years.

    If you still want to go down the Boefeng road, here are some PROs/Cons

    They are cheap
    They cover wide range of frequencies - you can listen to some first responders, Hams, and Personal Communications services
    Easy to use - after someone programs them for you. Many people can help with programming
    They are cheap - may not last long
    They are cheap - many do not meet advertised performance (see below)
    On the air the can sound awful - see hints below

    As I mentioned, many people are buying these for EMCOMM, so I bought two models to check them out. I have a good VHF/UHF power meter and high precision load. So I measured the Output Power. Below are the results.

    Tactical Callsigns
    Tactical call signs are often adopted during an emergency, or during large public-service activities. Names like 'Med Tent,' 'Fire 1,' 'Shelter 2,' and 'Red Cross Staging' quickly identifies each function or location, and eliminates confusion when working with other agencies for which Amateur call signs are meaningless. They also help prevent confusion when several operators may take turns at a position.

    The use of tactical call signs is a good idea, but it in no way relieves you of the obligation to identify your station under the FCC's Rules for normal station identification. You must still give your FCC-assigned call sign at the end of your communication, and at least every 10 minutes during the contact [97.119]. This doesn't mean that every ten-minutes everyone has to give their callsign - in an emergency net operation where tactical calls are being used, if it has been more than ten minutes since you last legally identified your station, you simply need to do so the next time you transmit.

    For the Daisy Mountain Area tactical callsigns can take the following form:
    For North/South Addresses
    [Town][First two digits of your address][Nearest numerical North/South Street]
    For East/West Addresses
    [Town][First two digits the nearest North/South block number][Nearest numerical East/West Street]
    Town would be Anthem, NewRiver, or DesertHills
    For Example, I'm on the 390 block north near 11the ave in DesertHills, so I would use DesertHills3911