Radio license to use EMS comms?

Benjamin Henry

Forum Ride Along
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Hi all,
I am wondering if you need a FCC amateur radio license to operate one of those small handheld ham radios you can get off Ebay for $20.00. A few people in the service I work for have them for work, and use them for communication when conducting EMS duties. I have a feeling they don’t have a license.

Thanks
 

VFlutter

Flight Nurse
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I had a similar question and couldn't find a clear answer.

Generally speaking you need a HAM operator license to transmit on frequencies. All EMS, Fire, Police, etc Departments that use radio communications have an FCC license. If you are operating in the capacity of the job then I would assume you fall under that. Gets tricky using a personal VHF/UHF radio. Chances are you will be fine, even if it is techincally not legal, but I am sure someone else knows more. Most people who get reported are for nuisance or interfering with offical radio traffic.

I have a personally owned VHF/UHF radio that I use to communicate with our Helicopter during landings at PRs when fire is not available.
 

DesertMedic66

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I had a similar question and couldn't find a clear answer.

Generally speaking you need a HAM operator license to transmit on frequencies. All EMS, Fire, Police, etc Departments that use radio communications have an FCC license. If you are operating in the capacity of the job then I would assume you fall under that. Gets tricky using a personal VHF/UHF radio. Chances are you will be fine, even if it is techincally not legal, but I am sure someone else knows more. Most people who get reported are for nuisance or interfering with offical radio traffic.
This is my understanding of it as well.
 

CCCSD

Forum Captain
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You are fine, as long as your agency says it’s ok. You will operate under the agency FCC license.
 

Summit

Critical Crazy
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Clarity for you:

You would be operating under your agency's license IF you have their permission to do so, go through your agencies radio training (which the FCC expects them to do annually, many don't).

HOWEVER, your HAM HT is NOT type certified for the public safety bands and your antenna may not be tuned for them. It is technically a FCC violation to use that radio on those bands, but tons of people do it and the only way the FCC would care is if you get into trouble by acting inappropriately on the air or against your employers wishes, or if your radio makes spurious emissions that interfere with other users. If that were to happen and they were to be aware you were using a non-type certified radio, they could fine you for that.

So it is important to make sure your radio is performing correctly and has the right antenna, but more importantly that you are operating with permission and have programmed the channels perfectly. Do all that and you should have no problems.
 

Bullets

Forum Knucklehead
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Hi all,
I am wondering if you need a FCC amateur radio license to operate one of those small handheld ham radios you can get off Ebay for $20.00. A few people in the service I work for have them for work, and use them for communication when conducting EMS duties. I have a feeling they don’t have a license.

Thanks
Dont be a narc
 

NomadicMedic

EMS Edumacator
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Those little Baofeng radios are garbage and have very dirty transmitters. That means they splatter spurious signals all over the frequency band you operate on and can cause a significant amount of dangerous interference. Stay away from those radios for public safety use
 

CCCSD

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Yep. We use them for staff, EOC, and off duty. You need to make sure that you install the proper codes in your radio, not use it off the shelf. There are programming packets available , but you need to do it through your agency.
 

Phillyrube

Forum Crew Member
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Used to be an agency license specified a set number of transmitters. I believe it had something to do with the skip that would happen with VHF/UHF. Moving into the 800 range, and then digital took care of the skip issue.
 

NomadicMedic

EMS Edumacator
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Licenses still specify the number of radios allowed. I've never head of that rule being enforced.

And saying "I've never had a problem with my baofeng" is like saying, "I'm a better driver after a few beers". It seems fine, but it's really not. You just don't know what you don't know. You have no idea who you're interfering with. They're not public safety quality radios and throw hash all over the place. Look at one on a service monitor. (And if you don't know what that means, you have no right to be putting radios on a public safety system)
 

GMCmedic

Forum Asst. Chief
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Hi all,
I am wondering if you need a FCC amateur radio license to operate one of those small handheld ham radios you can get off Ebay for $20.00. A few people in the service I work for have them for work, and use them for communication when conducting EMS duties. I have a feeling they don’t have a license.

Thanks
I think my biggest question is why are people buying their own radios for work? Isnt that the employers responsibility?
 

NomadicMedic

EMS Edumacator
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I think my biggest question is why are people buying their own radios for work? Isnt that the employers responsibility?
It absolutely is. If you work for an agency that uses a government trunked system, you probably won't be allowed to have a personal radio on the system. And if you try to clone an alias or radio ID you'll be found out during an audit and your radio stunned. Then you'll have a big paperweight.

If you need a radio, your agency should issue you one. If you want to listen, buy a scanner.
 

CCCSD

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I’ll just continue to use mine. Radio techs have no issues with it. It’s updated as needed. Your experience, if any, is not indicative of others.

My Agency has no issues with them.
 

Jim37F

Forum Deputy Chief
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My former employer, a private ambulance company that responded with County Fire Dept, actually sold those Baofeng radios. Every so often they'd send out an email asking who wanted one, you'd put in your order, they'd buy them program them with the freqs for Co FD, and the other smaller city FDs they also ran with. I personally bought my own off Amazon in between those orders, and someone at the company programmed it for me.

As far as I'm aware we only ever used them as scanners, listening in, not 2 way communications. They did have a line of site Tac channels that was installed in the ambulances, but that was used hit or miss at best. Their main dispatch and tac freqs they actually used regularly weren't installed in the ambulances, but they happily let those be broadcast online (you can listen in all day long on whatever scanner website you prefer, including that Pulse Point app where the dept has to manually allow their radio to be scanned on it, which they do.

Once on an MCI call, we were leaving the hospital and taking the fire medic back to the scene, he started asking me about the Baofengs, thought it was kinda neat. We tried talking between his Co issued radio and my Baofeng on one of the direct Line of Sight channels, but nothing was coming through.

So we could use ours as passive scanners essentially, but not actually talk on their net. As far as I'm aware no one ever ran afoul of any FCC rules (though that hardly means there weren't any violations), but at least those radios/scanners were purchased/programmed by the employer so theres some level of legitimacy there.
 

bklynrob

Forum Ride Along
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I'm an Amateur Radio Operator, so your question is of interest to me, as I personally own one of those 20 buck radios. Did some research on the FCC website. My interpretation of their regulation is this: You are allowed to use your personal radio under the umbrella of your agencies license, so long as 1: You comply with all other FCC regulations (ie: the radio itself must comply will FCC requirements) and 2: the total number of transmitters (radios) does not exceed the authorized numbers of transmitters assigned to the license. If your agency is does not have the correct and current FCC license and they are operating on frequencies designated for Private Land Radio Services, then they are not in compliance with federal law. Again, this is my opinion. I'm not a lawyer, don't take my opinion as gospel.

Title 47: Telecommunication
PART 90—PRIVATE LAND MOBILE RADIO SERVICES
Subpart N—Operating Requirements
§90.421 Operation of mobile station units not under the control of the licensee.
Mobile stations, as defined in §90.7, include vehicular-mounted and hand-held units. Such units may be operated by persons other than the licensee, as provided for below, when necessary for the licensee to meet its requirements in connection with the activities for which it is licensed. If the number of such units, together with units operated by the licensee, exceeds the number of mobile units authorized to the licensee, license modification is required. The licensee is responsible for taking necessary precautions to prevent unauthorized operation of such units not under its control.
(a) Public Safety Pool. (1) Mobile units licensed in the Public Safety Pool may be installed in any vehicle which in an emergency would require cooperation and coordination with the licensee, and in any vehicle used in the performance, under contract, of official activities of the licensee. This provision does not permit the installation of radio units in non-emergency vehicles that are not performing governmental functions under contract but with which the licensee might wish to communicate.
(2) Mobile units licensed under §90.20(a)(2)(iii) may be installed in a vehicle or be hand-carried for use by any person with whom cooperation or coordinations is required for medical services activities.
(3) On the Interoperability Channels in the 700 MHz Public Safety Band (See §90.531(b)(1)), hand-held and vehicular transmitters may be operated by any licensee holding a license in the 700 MHz Public Safety Band or by any licensee holding a license for any other public safety frequency pursuant to part 90 of the Commission's rules. Therefore, individual licenses are not required for hand-held and vehicular transmitters in the 700 MHz Band.
(b) Industrial/Business Pool. Mobile units licensed in the Industrial/Business Pool may be installed in vehicles of persons furnishing under contract to the licensee and for the duration of the contract, a facility or service directly related to the activities of the licensee.
(c) In addition to the requirements in paragraphs (a) and (b) of this section, frequencies assigned to licensees in the Private Land Mobile Radio Services may be installed in the facilities of those who assist the licensee in emergencies and with whom the licensee must communicate in situations involving imminent safety to life or property.
[65 FR 60877, Oct. 13, 2000, as amended at 66 FR 10635, Feb. 16, 2001]
 

kaisardog

Forum Crew Member
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so a local volunteer search and rescue group encourages individuals to each buy their own baofengs . does the sar admin need to hold a license for our group to send/ receive in the 700 public safety band ? or otherwise , all of us radio users who get caught can be fined ? i just got my ham tech license and am a little concerned. when i recently made r transmissions it (as ordered during a training exercise ) i got yelled at for providing my ham call sign as i was trained to do in the ham course. maybe i should just sign off as ‘totally confused....’ ( note that the group commander is very prickly and gets very defensive when questioned, let alone challenged.) can i quietly and confidentially

tially y check to see if OurGroup has the prper fcc licenses ? i
d prbably get thrown out if a certain person found out..)
 

bklynrob

Forum Ride Along
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so a local volunteer search and rescue group encourages individuals to each buy their own baofengs . does the sar admin need to hold a license for our group to send/ receive in the 700 public safety band ? or otherwise , all of us radio users who get caught can be fined ? i just got my ham tech license and am a little concerned. when i recently made r transmissions it (as ordered during a training exercise ) i got yelled at for providing my ham call sign as i was trained to do in the ham course. maybe i should just sign off as ‘totally confused....’ ( note that the group commander is very prickly and gets very defensive when questioned, let alone challenged.) can i quietly and confidentially

tially y check to see if OurGroup has the prper fcc licenses ? i
d prbably get thrown out if a certain person found out..)
Tough situation. If your leadership is that abrasive and insecure, perhaps consider volunteering your time somewhere else. A separation conversation I suppose.

With regard to radio operations. I think you said you are operating in the 700Mhz band, which takes you outside of the HAM bands. I’m not sure if you have a requirement to use your HAM license call sigh outside of HAM bands. You technically cannot use that license to transmit on bands outside HAM.

As for the agency license; you may be able to query via FCC website.
 

kaisardog

Forum Crew Member
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thanks . i need to get a list of all the frequencies the sar group uses and check w fcc. i m in the process of transferring out for many more reasons i won t go into here...
 
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