GMRS Radios 101: Stay connected in an emergency

Provided to the MPT

It might be a significant winter storm, or perhaps that overdue devastating earthquake we read about — we just don’t know what lies ahead. Seems worth asking yourself: how will I manage when my cell phone or landline has no service, when roads might be too unsafe to use? How will I connect with others to relay vital information, communicate my immediate needs, or be able to help others in need?

Did you know that across our state, volunteers are coming together as neighbors to put systems in place that go beyond “what will I do?” to “what will we do to help each other?” Madison Park and Madison Valley are two of 60 actively engaged Emergency Communications Hubs in our city. A Hub is a neighborhood place to gather when all communications go down and we set up systems of mutual aid. In Mad Park, it’s by the tennis courts in the park, while in Mad Valley, the Hub is at the MLK FAME Center (32nd and E. Republican).

As Hub volunteers, we recognized that with undependable cell phones and only a few licensed ham radio operators, we should turn to two-way GMRS radios that will allow us to communicate within and across neighborhoods. GMRS radios have better range than walkie-talkies, especially when used on channels that use a “repeater,” and we can use them to let each other know the status of roads, businesses, particular needs, and available resources. The more people that have GMRS radios, the more effective we’ll be. We hope you’ll consider this idea in your search for that unique holiday gift. Beyond emergency prep work, having a GMRS radio to talk to nearby friends and family can be a fun hobby—you can use them when cell phones don’t have good reception, like while hiking or at a busy outdoor event.


Once you have a GMRS radio, it’s easy to get an FCC license online with no test, only registration details and a small fee involved. Here are some handy links to use.

Radio purchase suggestion:

Manufacturer’s guide for getting your GMRS license:

Periodic GMRS clinics for new users and troubleshooting:


Active with your local Hub? Once your radio is set up with local channels and repeaters (which other volunteers can help with), you might enjoy joining the brief Monday Night GMRS Net check-ins at 8:00pm. Emergency Hub volunteers with GMRS radios briefly tune into the weekly designated channels to connect with other GMRS Hub radio operators to test out our radios. Here in Madison Park/Valley, we’ve heard check-ins from as far away as Kent and Kirkland! Once you become a volunteer, consult the check-in schedule at

If you are a more active Emergency Hub volunteer and are already doing Monday night check-ins, you can set up an account on the Emergency Hubs Discord platform, where Hub members share disaster preparedness resources and other Hub-specific info, including names and locations of people who do the radio check-in each week. To get a Discord invite, e-mail the Madison Park Hub.

Intrigued? We could use more radio enthusiasts in the Hubs! Taking up a two-way radio hobby is a fun and useful way to play an essential role in an emergency as a neighborhood Emergency Hub volunteer. If we’ve piqued your curiosity about Hubs and how you can get involved, contact us at or visit And you might also tell Santa you want a GMRS radio this year.