Radio Use and Etiquette

Greg Brahms


As of August 30, 2008, with the input from the NARCOA-EC list and the hard work of our Radio Committee, NARCOA has now received licenses for two additional frequencies. We have also amended our licenses to now include all the United States except for a small border area from Michigan to Maine. This change in our licenses also includes legal operations in Alaska.

While most will continue to operate on Channel One, we now have legal alternate frequencies when we have interference from highway trucks, warehouse operations and retail store chains. Please add the following frequencies to your radio:


Channel 1 151.625 MHz

Channel 2 151.505 MHz

Channel 3 158.400 MHz

Call sign - WPHT745

These frequency are in what is known as the VHF-High Land Mobile Radio (LMR) Service band, and uses a modulation known as narrow band (5 kHz deviation) FM. This band is reserved for commercial activity; educational and philanthropic activity; clergyman and ecclesiastical institutions; and for hospitals, clinics and medical institutions. NARCOA’s activities are considered to be educational and philanthropic, and fall under Title 47, Part 90.75 of the FCC Rules and Regulations.

The above frequencies are specifically assigned for itinerant use. That is, stations licensed to these frequency are not restricted to a certain geographical area and the license does not call out specific coordinates for base stations, but mobiles can move about within the United States, depending on the needs of the licensee. This makes the itinerant frequencies especially suitable for NARCOA activities. (Note that we are not licensed to use these frequency in Canada or Mexico.) Power is restricted to 110 watts.

It is important to note that NARCOA is not the only licensed user of these frequency. There are many licensees for the itinerant channel ranging from truckers to hunters. FCC rules require that users of this frequency be considerate of other users and to not interfere with their communications. Each user is responsible for knowing and observing the FCC regulations regarding radio usage on the LMR bands. Each club should keep a current copy of the FCC Code of Federal Regulations, Part 47 available for its membership. This can be obtained from the US Government Printing Office, or from:

Opamp Technical Books
1033 N. Sycamore Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(800) 468-4322


To maintain good radio etiquette, operators should observe the following guidelines and rules:

  1. Keep transmissions as short as possible.
  2. Restrict radio traffic to that which is necessary for the safe and efficient operation of the group.
  3. Begin and end each transmission with an identifier such as a name or a call which is understood by all radio operators in the group.
  4. Transmission of vulgar language and music are expressly forbidden by the FCC in the LMR service.
  5. The designated radio operator is responsible for any transmissions, regardless of who is talking into the microphone.
  6. Do not use the radio for private "chit-chat" or horseplay. If you want to chat with a friend, use the appropriate radio service such as CB or Family Radio Service.
  7. In a true emergency, any person is permitted to make an emergency transmission on any frequency.


Some FAQ's:

Q: Where can I obtain a radio for use on NARCOA frequencies?

A: These radios can be obtained at most two-way communications shops. These are located in most sizable towns. Many shops will also offer used radios.


Q: What type and brand of radio should I purchase?

A: There are many good brands. Some of these are Motorola, Kenwood, Icom, Standard, Maxon, GE, and Midland. Specify a VHF-High under-dash mobile radio. For most motorcar operators, all that is needed is a single-channel radio. The radio should have a good audio (at least 2 watts) and/or an external speaker connection for headphones to overcome motorcar noise.


Q: How much will a radio cost?

A: Basic single-channel radios can run from around $250 to $500, depending on quality and performance. Multi-channel radios will be more, but rarely over $700. Most dealers will include programming or crystals with purchase. (Crystal-controlled radios are rare today, however.) Antennas can range from about $20 to $60 depending on make and design. Expect shop rates for installation to be similar to that of automotive service. Be ready to give an explanation as to how you are going to use the radio and whose license you will be operating under.


Q: What about the antenna?

A: An antenna designed for VHF-high mobile use is needed. Magnetic mounts usually don’t work since most motorcar roofs are aluminum. A ¼ wave antenna is usually adequate but more gain can be had from a 5/8 wave antenna. Some common antenna manufacturers are Larsen and Cushcraft. If the antenna is mounted in the roof, it should be located near the middle for good omnidirectional performance. Gutter mount or on-glass mount antennas can be used but directivity will be affected. Most mobile antennas are very narrow band. The antenna should be tuned for the operating frequency by a qualified radio technician. Do not expect an antenna to work well for transmitting on the NARCOA channel AND on a standard railroad frequency, since the two are around 10 MHz apart.