Emergency Communications

Your Neighborhood

The Pacific Northwest is a great place to live, but there are some natural hazards that our residents should be prepared to face. While a major earthquake, tsunami or volcanic eruption could create significant damages, other more common events like ice/snow storms, flooding, landslides, wildland fires and tornadoes have impacted the region. These regionalized events create disruptions to our normal daily activity that residents should be prepared to face.

Some of the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Associations have acquired caches of emergency/disaster supply equipment through the Lake Oswego Neighborhood Enhancement Grant program. This equipment supply is stored in various locations of these neighborhoods and available for Lake Oswego Fire Department CERT trained citizens to utilize. Contact your Neighborhood Association leaders to learn more about what is happening in your neighborhood. https://www.ci.oswego.or.us/planning/neighborhood-association-program

72-hour Emergency Kits

It is important for residents to have at minimum, a 72-hour kit but be prepared to remain self-sufficient for 7 to 14 days. This includes having enough water, medication, food (pets too!) and other basic necessities to remain hydrated, nourished and warm. We have developed a 1-hour long video describing the typical contents of a 72-hour kit and medical supply cache bag. That video is available at: https://vimeo.com/499715234/450d4c0b42 

Radio Communications in Lake Oswego

It doesn’t require a large-scale earthquake to disrupt our everyday communication paths. The 2021 ice storm prevented many from using their phones and internet as power outages lasted longer than most back up power systems. Many emergency preparedness advocates suggest you have an AM/FM radio receiver with batteries or a hand crank so that you can listen to broadcasts, emergency alerts and stay informed.

In addition, you may also remain connected with your neighbors using inexpensive two-way radios to not only stay informed but help each other share resources or information. Various types of radios exist for citizens to utilize with differing levels of cost and potential licensing requirements. While CB radio is an available radio type, this mode of radio is not included in this material. The most common two-way radio is a Family Radio Service (FRS) radio followed closely by the General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radio which shares the same 22 frequencies. Details of these two radio types are described individually below. The Lake Oswego Fire Department has developed a short "quick start guide" and a1-hour video that provides a basic overview of the various two-way radio communications available for citizens to use. This video describes not only the types of radios but basic operations. https://vimeo.com/555895522/e92ab371c5 (link is external)

The Lake Oswego Fire Department has also developed a city-wide FRS/GMRS radio channel/frequency plan to help citizens maintain contact with their neighbors and for sharing information when typical modes of communication are not available. The plan divides the city into four different ‘divisions’ (Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest) and assigns groups of neighborhoods into one of the four divisions. Each individual neighborhood is then assigned its own FRS/GMRS radio channel in the channel 1-7 range as a primary channel for local communication with immediate neighbors. A secondary channel (low power, 0.5 watts) is also identified for neighborhood CERT/ERT teams to use in a more proximate setting. Depending on the location of the user or radio used (GMRS radios have higher output power and greater range), additional radio channels have been identified to communicate across neighborhood boundaries within each division.

The plan is provided in several formats. A city-wide map provides a summary of the divisions, neighborhoods and primary channels 1 LORC FRS-GMRS Map & Channel-Freq-Tone Chart V1-3. The primary and secondary channel/frequency information is also provided in a table format for the Motorola T600 FRS Radio 2 LORC FRS MotorolaT600 Channel Plan V1-3. and the frequency information is provided for those with a GMRS radio 3 LORC GMRS HT Frequency Chart V1-3.

It is important to note that the general public is not able to communicate with emergency responders via radios described on this page nor are these a means to contact 911. Radios available to the general public are not designed to operate with radios utilized by fire, law enforcement or regional public safety agencies.

FRS Radio

One of the simplest and readily available radios to use is a Family Radio Service (FRS) radio. FRS radios do not require a license or special skills to use, are fairly inexpensive and provide adequate coverage for communication within a neighborhood. The typical range for FRS radios is between 1-2 miles with the fixed antenna. Depending on terrain and topography, the range could be shorter or longer. These radios allow users to operate on one of 22 designated channels or frequencies and have a maximum power level of 2 watts of output. FRS radios are not able to transmit on a GMRS repeater frequency/channel (see below) but can receive these transmissions. If you have an FRS radio, you can listen to the Lake Oswego GMRS Repeater on Channel 17 with a privacy code of 18.

A FRS radio is ideal for the average homeowner to have on hand in the event of an emergency. The Lake Oswego Fire Department suggests that you should have at least one FRS radio in your 72-hour emergency supply kit. 

Many neighborhood associations, through a City of Lake Oswego Neighborhood Enhancement Grant program have purchased Motorola T600 FRS radios for use by neighborhood residents during a natural disaster. While there are other radios readily available, these radios have been evaluated to have satisfactory performance to share information within their immediate neighborhood.

To help residents understand the operation and functionality of these radios, we have developed a short “quick start guide" and a 1-hour video was created to explain how to operate these radios. https://vimeo.com/576075429/4a94072b3f

GMRS Radio

General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios share the same 22 channels with FRS radios allowing users to communicate with each other. However, in addition to the 22 shared FRS/GMRS channels, GMRS radios can operate on 8 additional repeater channels. A GMRS repeater capable radio can be operated to a maximum of 50 watts though 5 watts is typically the largest output for a handheld radio. Additionally, GMRS radios can be connected to an external antenna which increases the coverage area considerably. The use of a GMRS radio does require an FCC license with an FCC issued call sign to operate. GMRS radio users do not need to pass an exam but do need to complete an application and pay a licensing fee. The license can be used by everyone in the immediate family.

A GMRS repeater is a stand-alone radio that simultaneously listens to transmissions on one frequency and rebroadcasts the message on a second frequency. When properly situated, it allows radio users who are unable to communicate directly with each other radio to radio (simplex mode) to communicate through the repeater. This can extend the coverage area based on the location of the repeater.

Currently, a GMRS repeater is operational in Lake Oswego for use by properly licensed individuals in the community for casual, training and emergency purposes. This allows users with capable GMRS radios to communicate with other users throughout most areas of Lake Oswego and into the surrounding region.

You can learn about how to get your GMRS license along with how to get connected and use the Lake Oswego GMRS repeater in our attached guide. (GMRS Repeater Guidelines)

Weekly On-Air Opportunity: Please join other GMRS license holders at 7:00 PM on Monday nights for the Lake Oswego GMRS Repeater Check-In Net. There is no sign up necessary, just turn your radio to 17R /code 18 (462.600 MHz having a +5 MHz offset and a tone of 123.0 Hz) just prior to the start and follow the Net Control Stations instructions. If you would like to volunteer as Net Control for a Monday night GMRS net, please contact fmo@lakeoswego.city for further information.

Ham/Amateur Radio

Amateur radio operators provide a vital communications path to local residents and public agencies during natural disasters. Licensed amateur radio operators (hams) can operate equipment that allows them to talk or send data (i.e. emails, pictures) nearly anywhere in the world over FM air waves. To become licensed, users must first take an exam to demonstrate proficiency and pay a licensing fee.

Many of these hams train on a regular basis to serve as emergency communicators within and for their community to help public safety agencies should typical communication paths fail. Lake Oswego Amateur Radio Emergency Services (LO ARES) is a group of volunteers who are organized to help locally. These citizen volunteers are also equipped to help someone become licensed.

Radio Training Resources

A number of training classes offered through the Lake Oswego Fire Department’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program in Lake Oswego have been held to help citizens learn more about their radios, proper/effective radio communication and how to work together with your neighbors. The following training guides have been created to assist groups such as LO ARES and Prep-LO who may assist neighborhood associations with training or neighborhood association and citizens who want to conduct their own training exercises. These guides provide a framework to follow to help citizens become more familiar with general radio practices.

Radio Exercise 100-1 - Getting to Know Your Radio: This guide will assist participants with understanding the basic requirements of operating the Motorola T600 FRS radio being purchased by neighborhood associations for disaster supply caches. This guide will help users operate this radio and become familiar with the various functions. (Radio Exercise 100-1)

Radio Exercise 100-2 - Establishing a Radio NET: When there are a number of radio users on-air at the same time, trying to use the same channel, coordination is required. This guide will help participants understand the purpose and how to set up a directed radio net (on-air meeting) to help keep radio stations from talking over each other. (Radio Exercise 100-2)

If you are interested in hearing how a radio net operates, anyone with an FRS or GMRS radio can also listen to the Lake Oswego GMRS Repeater Check-In net at 7:00 PM on Monday nights. Simply turn your radio on, set to Channel 17/Privacy Code 18 to listen. Only GMRS licensed individuals with repeater capable GMRS radios are able to communicate on the city-wide GMRS repeater.

Radio Exercise 100-3 - Radio Propagation: After learning how to establish a radio net and keeping the air waves organized, it is important to understand the effectiveness of your radio. This guide provides a framework to allow citizens to explore their neighborhood to identify the limits of radio signals in local settings, incorporate the functionality of a radio net and identify potential relay points in advance to help share information during an emergency. (Radio Exercise 100-3)

Radio Exercise 200-1 – Citywide Radio Net Check-in: Once you are familiar with the operation of your radio and participating in a radio net, join other radio users on the air in regular city-wide training opportunities. While GMRS radio users conduct weekly check-ins on the local LAK17R repeater, FRS radio users can join in monthly on the last Monday of the month. This gives local residents an opportunity to practice using their FRS radio with neighbors and put some of the other training exercises to use under the guidance of the city plan. This handout will provide you with directions on how to participate in this radio opportunity. (Radio Exercise 200-1).