When communication by cell phones stops working, most of us can (and should) be able to switch to radios. Still, radio to radio direct communication in the VHF and UHF bands is generally limited to a few miles. To go beyond that, either HF frequencies need to be used, or some sort of a repeater is needed. The issue with HF is that it requires long antennas and is dependent on atmospheric conditions. Not a big deal if we are talking about base stations, but handheld and vehicle mounted radios are VHF or UHF for that reason.

Repeaters allow HAM radios in the VHF and UHF bands to “talk” beyond the horizon. We have already talked about the SARNET, but there are local and regional repeater nets that give quite good coverage. For example, here is the one for west central Florida, centered around Tampa Bay. Just five repeaters cover the entire area.

The yellow circles are the area covered by 5 watt handheld radios, the outer circles are 50 watt mobile radios.

There are over 700 repeaters in the state of Florida alone. There is an excellent tool here that allows you to look for the repeaters in your area on a map. It isn’t complete, but it is very useful. Whenever I go somewhere, I always make sure that I have a list of repeaters for emergencies.

I was once in Maine on a fishing trip when we happened upon a car accident in a very remote area where there was no cell phone service. I was able to get the repeater in Millinocket, which was over 50 miles away, and called for help.

Categories: Communications


Lori G · July 1, 2023 at 6:16 am

The only problem with repeaters is that they often don’t work when the grid is down. I live in northern Maine, and when the power is out the repeaters in my area are down.

    Divemedic · July 1, 2023 at 8:06 am

    That’s kind of the problem with any electrical equipment. You can always go simplex, albeit at limited range.

      Lori G · July 1, 2023 at 12:05 pm

      True. I wish more repeaters had solar backup.

    Fido · July 1, 2023 at 3:16 pm

    The obvious solution is to run your own repeater, or at least run a base with a “repeater class” antenna and power.

Reader · July 1, 2023 at 9:28 am

There’s also GMRS repeaters, for the lesser radio inclined. I’ve been printing hard copies of all repeaters and gov frequencies in my AO in the Southwest.



Freddy Kaludis · July 1, 2023 at 11:01 am

Live Free or Die Hard(er) has the good ol’ CB radio as the last means of communication.
Who knows what generator or power source was used.
Visited Pineland Friday and the cattle rancher has a mini radio tower on his rooftop!
It looks like something out of Commierado with the bovines but without the mountains.
Pineland Bud has the nat gas generator with its own enclosure as part of the house.

Anonymous · July 1, 2023 at 5:38 pm

My understanding of “takes two to hold up a pig’s behind” is that too many see themselves as junior G-men, and will obey orders to block what you need when you need it most. Instead, consider en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LoRa , using your own crypto keys, as a less-centralized alternative.

    Divemedic · July 2, 2023 at 7:44 am

    So you are going to set up a network of these yourself, because you have the time and money to do that? To cover Osceola county Florida, you would need to place about 50 of them around the county. It would be a huge task to buy, plan, place, and find power for those 50 repeaters. Then you have to maintain them.
    Or you could just use the ones that are already there.

      Anonymous · July 2, 2023 at 12:47 pm

      That’s the same argument people make for the public schools, the mainstream news, etc. And here we are, today’s present is what that approach gets us. I would think you could find 50 like-minded people to setup and tend these. And if not, then you don’t have anybody to talk to anyway.

        Divemedic · July 2, 2023 at 12:59 pm

        LOL. The repeaters in existence now ARE the like minded people setting them up. Let me know when you get your new repeater system setup. I know what you are trying to do- find an unregulated (by the FCC) means of setting up repeaters. I don’t see that working, but go ahead and try.

        In the meantime, the current system has been working just fine.

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