PARA EmComm Conference #2

Join us as we continue to identify and coordinate mutually-supportable means of communicating within Centre, Clearfield, and nearby counties during emergencies when ordinary means of communication are out of service due to extreme weather or other types of disasters.


Saturday, September 23, 2023, from 10:00 am until noon


Second Floor Meeting Room
American Legion Post #437
315 East Presquisle Street
Philipsburg PA 16866


  • Licensed amateur radio operators
  • Licensed GMRS radio operators
  • County and Municipal Emergency Management Coordinators (EMCs)
  • All others with a serious interest in emergency communications


We will begin the meeting with introductions and a brief review of the existing amateur and GMRS radio infrastructure in Clearfield and Centre counties.

Primary Focus: Alert Methods

When a licensed radio operator or a county/municipal official becomes aware of an emerging situation, how will they alert the people who need to know about it?

Existing Methods:

Cell PhonesNearly everyone carries a cell phone.
Reception is nearly immediate.
Cell phone coverage can be spotty.
Cell phone towers may have limited backup power during a power outage.
Cell phone service may be offline. (e.g. Lahaina)
Landline PhonesCan reach homes that lack cell coverage.
Makes a good backup system for cell phone users.
Few people still have landlines.
EmailNearly everyone has an email address.Many people don’t check email frequently.
Many people manage their email through their cell phones, so if cell service is unavailable, then email is also unavailable.
911 Paging SystemSignals can reach most homes and workplaces.Requires people to purchase and carry pagers.
Only 911 dispatchers can transmit pages.
Human RunnersCan reach people whose devices are turned off or not working.
Can provide transportation back to the facility where the person is needed (e.g. 4WD in a snowstorm)
Time to reach the person could be significant.
The runner is taken away from other duties.

Backup Methods:

Amateur VHF Radio RepeatersWide coverage area
No license required to listen.
Amateur license required to transmit (involves a test)
Non-emergency chatter is a nuisance when you are trying to concentrate, watch a movie, or sleep.
GMRS Radio RepeatersCan be received by ordinary FRS walkie talkies.
No license required to listen.
No test required to obtain a GMRS license ($35)
Less coverage area than amateur VHF repeater
Non-emergency chatter is a nuisance when you are trying to concentrate, watch a movie, or sleep.
Amateur/GMRS SimplexCan reach nearby people who cannot hear a repeater.
Works when repeaters are out of service.
Limited coverage area (2-5 mile radius)
Non-emergency chatter is a nuisance when you are trying to concentrate, watch a movie, or sleep.

Eliminating Non-Emergency Chatter from Amateur/GMRS Radio Sources

Experience shows that most people will not continuously monitor an amateur or GMRS radio repeater because the occasional chatter is distracting. If you need to concentrate on a task or you are watching a movie with your spouse, you really don’t want to hear other people’s casual conversations, so you turn off the radio or leave it in a different room. The result is that when someone transmits some type of alert through multiple repeaters, few people hear it.

What is needed is a way to filter out the casual conversations while allowing you to hear critical information.

Many commercial radios provide 2-tone, 5-tone, and/or DTMF paging capabilities. These in-band paging systems work well when all members of a group have radios with similar capabilities. But most amateur and GMRS radios do not support these paging methods.

A group of PARA members have been discussing the concept of a “smart speaker” that could be plugged into virtually any existing radio. The smart speaker would normally be silent. When a certain sequence of DTMF tones (touch tones) was heard by the device, the circuitry would then pass the audio signal to the speaker for a period of 60 seconds. This would allow you to hear a 60-second message from the person who initiated the page by transmitting the DTMF tones. This could be used with any repeater that could be programmed to emit the paging tones on command.

We are planning to demonstrate a working smart speaker prototype and we would like to know whether you think this idea has merit, your ideas for refinement, or alternative ideas for enhancing our ability to alert key people about a situation that is emerging.


The meeting starts at 10:00 am and ends at noon. Anyone who is interested in further dialog and fellowship is invited to join us for lunch at the Philipsburg Elks Country Club.

Here are the menu and prices.


Please contact Bob Snyder if you have any questions or suggestions.