Security Radios - Guidelines

We are evaluating our security radio selection and usage and I remember having a discussion on Slack a while back but didn’t capture that. We have mostly these Midland LXT500 - and some BaoFeng BF-888S Two Way Radio - at two campuses. I believe we are licensed for the two campuses with the BaoFeng but that is part of the review. Reception wise they work both work well at their respective campuses.

Question #1. Do I need any license for the Midland units?
Question #2. Are the BoaFeng units legal? I remember some discussion about how they may not be?


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Business radio licenses require Part 90 certification on the radios in use, which the BaoFeng units don’t have, or you can use MURS radios which require their own type certification. The Midland radios are GMRS/FRS radios, which are legal for business use provide you stick to just the FRS modes, but they will have very limited range and no privacy.

Thanks Alex. So what you’re saying is that I don’t need any license on the Midland if I stay on the FRS channels but will on the BaoFeng.
I was reading up on the part 90 and BaoFeng and according to what I see they got Part 90 certification in 2015 FCC - OET TCB Form 731 Grant of Equipment Authorization
We have someone in the church that helped set them up originally for the facilities folks so I’ll check again with him.

Looks like yeah, they are certified. You can check to see if you have a license on the FCC website too.

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I couldn’t find it on the FCC site but I just got the certificate from our facilities guy. Turns out it’s registered in a town I wouldn’t expect. I’m working now to make sure we’re in compliance and using the right channels. When facilities runs this stuff it always seems to get out of whack or lost. Different facility managers and the turn over mostly.

It’s something that easily becomes hard to keep track of when you weren’t involved from the beginning and don’t have the background in radios… If you have any HAMs in the congregation they can probably help you sort out what’s going on a little quicker.

Yeah, I’ll have to check on the HAMs. This is our FCC filing.
I’m trying to figure out what it means. We have an 80km radius from the central point it talks about but lists our 8 locations and frequencies. I’m not sure what to make of it but it with the <5w radios we have we should be within the radius no matter what location we’re at.

Yeah, the map license button is handy when you want to visualize where it’s OK to use the radios. Since you don’t have any repeaters it’s a lot simpler, basically you can use any of your frequencies from inside the circle on the map as long as you don’t exceed 5W ERP radios.

I totally missed the “Map License” link! That helps a lot.

Yep, sometimes the visualization makes the difference on being able to wrap your head around the license or not.

Yet another reason to have all this information stored in documentation by IT staff where possible. This can be a big challenge in churches since there are so many ‘data silos’ and people do not think about maintaining critical information.

  • Greg

Documentation is a huge problem in most organizations I’ve worked with. It’s a shame there aren’t great tools to handle it (between access control, integrity, revision history, etc.).

So I finally met with the the guy that our facility manager was meeting with to get our FCC license and radios squared away. He’s an interesting guy who has worked in police, security, police, and other areas and sells radio equipment now. He was telling me that we cannot use the FRS radios as a church. Is that correct? Based on the conversation above and what I’ve read elsewhere I thought we could. Is what this guy is telling me true? He’s saying that we have to use licensed band radios only.

You can use FRS but not GMRS. You can verify that by going to Family Radio Service (FRS) | Federal Communications Commission and clicking the Licensing tab. You can also buy MURS radios, but if you’re going to do that you’re probably better off getting the licensing and doing the whole shebang.

It is not illegal to use FRS walkie talkies in a Church setting. In fact, Midland just released a “Business Quality” FRS walkie talkie package that is an excellent option for smaller Churches wanting to implement a Security Team. The Midland LXT600BBX4 is an 8 pack of two way radios and includes headsets. It is a great value. These radios would work well for a church in a facility the size of a typical elementary school.

Yeah; FRS is fine, but does come with some limitations. You do have to watch because most bubble-pack radios (including the linked Midland units) are actually GMRS/FRS combo so you have to ensure you’re using them only in FRS mode. FRS and GMRS aren’t “License Free,” the license is included with the device and you’re still required to obey the rules of the license as it applies to you. With a radio of this class, that pretty much means sticking to channels 1-22.

The risks are: pretty much anyone with $10 can buy a radio and listen to or interfere with your radio usage, there is no ability to use encryption in these frequencies and you won’t receive FCC assistance for other legitimate users on your channel.

Oh, and I forgot to mention 900 MHz and WiFi radios, which are totally a thing and can get you out of some challenging situations or give you more advanced features without going full-on repeater setup as well as software solutions like Zello.

900 MHz
incom Wifi Radios

The Motorola DLR1020, is a 900 MHz license free product and works out of the box. It is a great value and is easy to use without requiring any integration into the Church’s network.

Absolutely correct about the risk that others can listen to and interfere when using FRS and GMRS walkie talkies. That said, they are more affordable than their business counterparts. Midland also offers an affordable Business Two Way Radio that should be licensed. Most Churches will do just fine with the license free 2 Watt FRS & GMRS frequencies.

I believe it is more important for churches to start benefiting from using two way radios. FRS/GMRS license free products are an affordable way to accomplish this. As walkie talkies get integrated into the operation of the Church, they’ll naturally become dependent on them and will seek business exclusive products.