Radio license to use EMS comms?

Benjamin Henry

Forum Ride Along
4
0
1
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
3,479
998
113
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

Forum Troll
10,166
2,560
113
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 Lieutenant
216
101
43
You are fine, as long as your agency says it’s ok. You will operate under the agency FCC license.
 

Summit

Critical Crazy
2,241
794
113
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
1,522
181
63
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
10,617
4,994
113
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

Forum Lieutenant
216
101
43
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
45
9
8
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
10,617
4,994
113
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
654
316
63
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
10,617
4,994
113
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

Forum Lieutenant
216
101
43
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
3,144
1,749
113
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.
 
Top