Two way radios are commonly used by policemen and security personnel, because they work well over short distances. They can also become a valuable form of communication during a disaster when our normal means of communication may be out of the question. Two way radios have a specific range that they operate within and anything outside of that will cause your radio to lose signal. There are many factors that affect the range of a these radios such as terrain, environment, the radio’s power and even the antenna but during this guide we want to take a look at some of the best tips for extending your two way radio range.
How to Choose Two Way Radios
In your search for two way radios, it doesn’t take long to see that there is a vast amount of them to choose from and it can become incredibly difficult when trying to find the right ones for you. They are not all equal and some radios are better suited for conditions that others are not. So how do you choose the right radios for you?
- Intended Use – you need to think about how the radios will be used, either professionally, or for leisure. These are generally rated from 1 to 5 watts of power. Depending on the expected coverage area, it often pays dividends to invest in more powerful radios.
- Range – it is important to understand that if a radio says that it has a 3 mile range, this is in an open area. This number would be greatly reduced in a built up area. It is also a good idea to choose digital radios. In general, digital radios maintain a clearer signal to the edges of the coverage area, which essentially extends range because you can communicate more effectively over longer distances.
- VHF/UHF – Very High Frequency (VHF) is commonly used for long range communication in open areas, while Ultra High Frequency (UHF) is better suited to use in urban areas as it will penetrate through built-up areas and dense forests.
- Extra Features – as with flashlights and other safety gear, two way radios can come with a wide range of extra features such as scanning, emergency calls, multiple channels, waterproof, and the ability to go hands-free. Before purchasing, it is a good idea to fully decide on what you want from your radios.
Tips for Extending Your Two Way Radio Range
Larger antennas can boost the range of a two way radio. Radios inside cars can be connected to external antennas that will improve their range and prevent interference from limiting range. Purchasing radios with large antennas is also helpful to improve range, as is positioning your radio where it can get the best signal. To boost range, get to an elevated area and use the radio there.
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Like I mentioned earlier, the range of your radios can greatly decrease in built up areas. Anything that can hinder the signal like tall buildings, trees, or even yourself is classed as an obstruction. It is not advisable that you keep your two way radio attached to your waist. Following this logic, highly elevated areas have the least, if not none at all, obstructions.
A signal repeater can help extend range. This receives and re-transmits the signal from your radio with increased power using two separate but similar frequencies and are often used by first responder agencies to improve coverage of their two way communications gear. To get the maximum benefit, signal repeaters need to be installed in a tall building or tower.
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BDAs are signal boosters required by law in many localities so first responders can stay in constant contact throughout any facility in an emergency situation. They are also excellent for day-to-day operations to keep remote workers and mobile maintenance personnel connected. They’re ideal for use in cement and steel structures that have poor reception areas such as basements, stairways, tunnels, parking garages or any isolated area where wireless signals do not penetrate. Safety BDAs are also designed to work under duress, such as high heat, chemical splash, high humidity, underground tunnels, with no electricity, etc
Just because the batteries still have a little juice left in them, doesn’t mean they can still work to their full potential Regularly inspect the batteries to ensure that they are fresh. A battery tester can help you easily gauge the power level of your two way radio batteries.