Getting your GMRS radio license is an investment in safety. In South Texas, as in other areas along the Gulf Coast, we keep an eye on the weather just in case a tropical storm develops into a hurricane. There is also always the chance of tornado, flooding, and massive hail. Any of these weather conditions can result in the loss of communications. No doubt we have progressed greatly in our digital communications. However, these tend to fail with prolonged power outages or severe weather. GMRS radios can help you stay in touch and keep up with developments in your community.
GMRS licenses are available from the FCC for $70. One license is good for ten years. That license covers the applicant and family, which includes children, parents, in-laws, aunts and uncles, and even cousins. The only requirement is that each user identifies the call sign given by the license, along with a unit number, every fifteen minutes of communication.
GMRS is less restrictive than an Amateur radio license. It is more restrictive than FRS, which does not require a license. Many of the channels for FRS and GMRS are shared. The main distinction is how much power the user can legally use. At best, with FRS you can expect to talk between a half mile or two. With GMRS at higher power, you can expect a much greater range.
Another distinction between FRS and GMRS is that FRS radios must have fixed antennas. GMRS radios, on the other hand, can have detachable and extended antennas. In radio, antennas high up in the air can increase your communications range substantially, which often requires connecting your radio to an antenna using a coax cable.
The reason I suggest GMRS radios rather than amateur radios is that you are more likely to get assistance from your neighbors than somebody in the next county. With the abundance of FRS and GMRS radios sold, chances are you will be able to contact someone who also uses either kind, FRS or GMRS. Amateur radios are good, except that they require skilled operators on both ends. Unless you are willing to dedicate some time to pass the Technician Class Amateur Radio Operator exam, the GMRS license will do you just fine without an exam.
Another distinction between FRS and GMRS radios, when it comes to emergency communications, is that GMRS is permitted to use repeaters, which can greatly expand the range of your communications to cover large regions. Repeaters are a bit more technical and require slightly specialized skills to use. However, they are a great contribution to your safety if your community has them. Repeaters help you overcome the height and power limitations of handheld radios.
GMRS can be as simple as buying the license and a pair of radios from the electronics store. It can be as complicated as putting up a tower and setting up your own repeater. Ultimately, all users are on the same channels. Furthermore, the ease of use and low cost of the radios ensures that the odds are favorable you will find somebody to talk to when disaster strikes because so many people own these radios.