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Your New (Used) GMRS Radio

Following is a description of one of the used, commercial-grade radios that EDCARC volunteers sell, it is the Kenwood TK-380.

This radio was purchased used. It was refurbished by an unpaid volunteer in the local neighborhood. The radio is sold to you at cost. There is no financial profit. It is impractical to offer any guarantees on these radios other than to say that they have been tested and performed to specifications when they were sold to you.

You must obtain an FCC license ($70) to obtain a call sign. You must use your call sign when using this radio. The license and call sign are good for 10 years for everyone in your family. There is no test for the license.

You need to practice using the radio on the local Neighborhood Radio Watch channel usually once a week in the evenings. During these practice sessions you will test the ALERT channel and practice using correct procedure with the Net Controller and many of your neighbors.  Following is a description of what the buttons on your radio do:


Kenwood TK-380 GMRS


S = Scan. Click for ON and click again for OFF to start and stop scanning.
A = Add to or from the Scan List. Press to remove a channel from scanning, press again to add it.
B = No Function
C = No Function



Top button: No Function
Large, center button: PTT (Push to talk) Hold the button down to talk. You must let go of the button to listen.
Bottom button: Light - Push to turn on the light, push again to turn it off.



Tall dial = Scroll Channels Rotate this dial to scroll through the channels.
Short dial = On/Off/Volume - Rotate to the right to turn the radio on and to raise the volume. Rotate to the left to lower the volume and turn off the radio.


Charging the Battery

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Charger and Cradle

Your TK-380 radio comes with a new power supply and charging cradle — they are shown in the photo on the right. You can leave the radio in the charging cradle while you are monitoring one of the channels at the same time.

The new chargers we have begun supplying with radios this year have automatic functions and will slow down the charging rate when the battery is nearly charged, stop charging when the battery is fully charged, and continue totop off the battery as long as it is in the cradle. It is best to put the radio in its charger for the night while it is still monitoring your primary channel or the ALERT channel. Then remove the radio from the charger for the entire day while it still monitors your primary channel or is in the scan mode. Allowing the battery to run down during the day and charging it at night prevents the battery from developing a "chemical memory" that can shorten its life.


Selecting Channels

Your radio can be programmed for many channels.  When you receive it, it will be programmed for many channels. Some of these channels have special uses.

The Primnary Repeater Channel.  This channel is first in the list of channels and has the spelled out name of your community, such as Coloma/Lotus, Oak Hill, Cosumnes R, Placerville or Pollock P. This channel connects you with everyone in your radio net (and a little beyond).

When you use your neighborhood's repeater channel, your transmission is received by a much more powerful radio (a repeater station) on a high ridge or tower in your area. From there, it is rebroadcast so that you can reach everyone with a radio tuned to that channel and within range of the repeater station. That makes your mobile GMRS radio into a much more powerful radio. Usually, you will be leaving your radio on and tuned to your repeater station channel or scanning several repeater stations.

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You should only use your repeater station for serious events, radio checking and for practice once a week at the direction of the Net Director. You should not use it for informal conversations with your neighbors, unless those conversations have to do with safety issues of general interest to the community, such as power cut-offs, loss of telephone reception, information about a wild fire, etc.

Your repeater channel is usually monitored by a “Net Controller.” When interacting on this channel, you should follow the direction of the Net Controller.  He or she will receive and direct all traffic.

The Alert Channel. At night, you may wish to tune your radio to the “Alert” channel and turn up the volume. You cannot talk on the Alert channel, only receive paging alerts (loud beeping),  If the pager is triggered by the Net Controller you will be awakened by very loud tones or beeps that indicate the Net Controller has an important message. The beeping won’t stop until you get up and turn the radio to your local repeater channel to hear the message.

Some people prefer not to use the "Pager" channel but instead leave the radio tuned to the local repeater channel during the night. The local repeater channel will also broadcast the Alert tones.  When you hear the alert you will not have to change channels to hear the message since you will already be on the primary repeater channel -- but you will need to turn the radio off, and then on again to stop the beeping.

The Other Repeater Channels. Down the list of channels are all or most of the other repeater channels. Each has its name spelled out. Follow the same radio etiquette when using these repeater channels as you follow when using your local, primary, repeater channel.

The Talk-Around Channels (T/A).  Your local repeater channel is followed by a Talk-Around (T/A) channel. This channel allows you to talk on the same frequency as the repeater channel but without going through the repeater -- so your transmission will not be broadcast widely across the entire neighborhood. Use the Talk-Around channel  to communicate with neighbors while keeping the repeater station clear of unnecessary traffic and available for emergencies.

Extra Informal Channels. Following the list of repeater stations are some extra channels that can be used within your immediate neighborhood.. You can use those channels for home things, such as, when one of you is checking the circuit panel outside and the other is inside to see which lights go on and off. These channels can be used for informal talk. In general, it is best to use these informal channels when talking casually with family and friends.


What If My Hand-Held Can't Reach the Repeater?  The range of hand-held radios is limited. Almost always, their 4 watts of power will provide plenty of range to reach the repeater. But if you live on property that is blocked from the repeater, you may need a more powerful radio.  The EDCARC members can provide alternatives that will increase the range of your hand-held radio or exchange your hand-held radio for a refurbished base station (at extra cost) if necessary.


Typical Base Station with One Style of House Antenna

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