note: first appeared in November 2015
I’ve been asked many times, “What kind of radios should I buy?” Or, “How many radios do I need?” And, “Where can I find radios that set-up ready-to-go?” And, “What accessories do I need to get the most performance out of my radio?”
I’ve written extensively on the Baofeng UV-5RA radio. I think it is simply the best value for the most people who are looking for a good alternative communications capability. And not only that, it really makes a great radio for a variety of purposes. Some of those are:
- Family emergency radios.
- Hunters & campers.
- Church service groups.
- Neighborhood Watch
- Emergency response teams.
- Prepper groups.
- The list could go on and on…
One of the situations that keeps coming up is buying a number of radios for a “cache” to be used as needed, properly and safely stored when not being used. Best possible answer to that is what I do right now for the group I am responsible for. If you have read my bio you know I am responsible for emergency preparedness for a 13-congregation church group; we call that group a “Stake” in our church. The 13 congregations are spread out over a three-county area.
In a perfect world each congregation would have their own cache of radios ready to go. But the world is rarely perfect. So the alternative is for me to maintain a radio cache that is ready to deploy when, where, and as needed. I thought the best way provide an answer is to show you a working example..the “8-Radio Cache”.
The mission for the radio cache is –
“Provide sufficient communications gear for two teams of four people to communicate while on the ground or traveling, and to provide that capability for a minimum of five days without the need to recharge any batteries.”
Requirements & Restrictions –
- Radio must be proven dependable.
- Radio must be able to operate on dual bands (2m & 70cm) simultaneously for use with a cross-band repeater.
- Radio must be able to programmable and cloned.
- Radio should be able to be programmed with NOAA, FRS, GMRS, and MURS frequencies.
- Radio should be able to receive FM band commercial and government broadcasts.
- Radio operations must be sustainable for five days with fully charged batteries.
- Radios must be operational from inside a moving vehicle by two separate teams.
- Radio operation must have “privacy” capabilities where no communication sounds can be heard by anyone but the user.
- Radio cache must have secure and protected storage capability that easily moved and transported.
- Radio operations must be easy to understand and easy to operate with minimal training.
The concept for our use is along the lines of the Incident Command System principle of operational teams. In this case two teams consisting of four people for a total of eight people. Each of the two teams would travel in separate vehicles. This ensures that each team also has vehicle radio operational capability as well.
However, a smaller team, say 3 people, could utilize a leader who had a radio while the remaining team members do not have a radio. This would be acceptable if all team members worked in close proximity to each other.
The radio needed to be sufficiently rugged to handle most emergency operational environments but not be subjected to “submersion” capabilities, etc. The Baofeng UV-5RA is a sturdy radio but isn’t made to operate in harsh environments such as structure fires, wildland fires, or where the radio is excessively exposed to the elements.
To meet all these demands here is what the cache consists of –
- 8 x Baofeng UV-5RA radio kits. Each kit contains:
- 1 x RT Systems Programming Software CD with cable
- 2 x Tram 1185 Vehicle magnetic mount dual-band antenna
- 2 x MPD adapter cable
- 2 x Tenq vehicle battery replacement adapter
- 2 x Vehcile “4-to-1” cigarette adapter multiplier
- 1 x Vaultz Secure Roller Case
Then there is the documentation –
- Cache Inventory Sheet
- Radio Check-Out/In Sheet
- Quick Start User Guide
- UV-5RA User Manual
- UV-5RA Programming Guide
- ARRL US Amateur Radio Bands chart
Then I custom programmed the radios using the RT Systems programming software. The programming meets all the requirements listed above in the “Requirements & Restrictions” section.
Here is each component in the cache –
♦ Baofeng UV-5RA radio, stubby antenna, ear piece w/lapel mic, charging cradle, AC adapter, 1800mAh battery
- Frequency Range: 136-174 / 400-479.995 MHz.
- Full height two-color LED definition display. The screen has exquisite clarity.
- Field programmable from keypad.
- Programmable via computer software.
♦ ExpertPower XP-771 Elite 14.5″ Dual Band Antenna.
- Frequency Range: 144-146, 430-440 MHz
- VSWR: less than 1.5
- Gain: 2.15dBi (144-146 MHz), 3.5dBi (430-440 MHz)
- Maximum Power Input-watts: 50 W
- Height: 14.4 inches
♦ Powermall 3800mAh rechargeable battery. The 3800mAh battery will last about 3 – 5 days while the battery that comes with the radio will last 2 – 3 days. Of course that will depend on your actual usage, which is mostly predicated on how much time you spend transmitting.
♦ Radioshop888 12vDC charger cradle adapter. Radioshop888 12vDC charger adapter you now have the ability to recharge your batteries from any 12vDC source. Examples would be; vehicle cigarette receptacle, solar charger unit, portable power pack, etc.
♦ Flashbang Radio Pouch. The radio pouch is a really convenient way carry the Boafeng UV-5RA radio. It is a perfect fit and the pouch’s flap provides additional protection from rain. You won’t accidentally drop or lose your radio while it is secured in the pouch. The pouch is MOLLE II compatible and the same attachment can be used to secure it to your belt as well.
♦ RT Systems Software Programming CD with cable. to be used effectively it also requires the ability for you to program the radio. Programming is accomplished either manually through the keyboard or via a laptop computer/software. I far prefer the computer method, but it does require software.
♦ Tram 1185 Vehicle magnetic mount dual-band antenna. The Tram antenna is the solution for radio operation in a vehicle. Even with the ExpertPower 14.5” antenna on the radio, the reception and transmission capabilities of a handheld radio are greatly diminished due to the vehicles metal body. Getting the antenna outside of the vehicle’s body makes a huge difference. And the vehicle’s roof is also usually higher than a normal person holds a radio so you get the increased antenna height as well.
♦ MPD Digital antenna adapter cable. The Tram antenna mentioned above comes with a cable that is long enough to reach inside the vehicle but you need to connect that cable to the radio. That takes a special adapter cable to connect the antenna cable to the radio itself. There are other cables out there, some less expensive. But I like the MPD Digital cable (RF coaxial cable SMA female to UHF SO239 PL259 female RG58 20 inches). They are well-built, quality materials, and made in the USA.
♦ Tenq vehicle battery replacement adapter. The Tenq power supply unit is a very handy piece of equipment. This option allows you to run the radio directly off of a 12vDC power supply. You remove the rechargeable battery from the radio, slide this unit into the radio where the battery normally goes. Then connect to a 12vDC power source via a cigarette adaptor and you are up and running. This type of operation would be very convenient for vehicle operations or while using the radio as part of the “mini communications center.”
♦ Vehcile “4-to-1” cigarette adapter multiplier.
- Plugs into car cigarette lighter! 1-into-4 12V DC auto adapter, charge all four team radio batteries at cone.
- Includes adapter plug, 50″ cord.
- One USB port with 5 Volt/ 1 Amp output to charge USB compatible devices.
- Built in fuse for circuit protection.
- Highly mobile, with wheels and telescoping handle.
- High-capacity locking chest.
- Double combination locks.
- Rubber feet prevent skidding and surface scuffing.
- Handles on the sides make carrying easy.
- Large flat top is great for a working surface.
This radio cache meets the needs of our emergency responders whether it is a small emergency or major disaster. And when a “grid-down” event occurs…we will be ready and able to communicate!
Now, let your thinking begin…design a radio cache that is right for you and your group.
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