User’s Guide to Repeaters

What is a GMRS Repeater?

A GMRS repeater is an automatically controlled transmitter and receiver that simply transmits what the receiver hears. By placing repeaters at sites with high elevation and antennas atop large towers, workable coverage is greatly increased.

What is a Courtesy Tone?
A courtesy tone is a short tone or series of tones that sound over the transmitter of a repeater when someone un-keys a radio. So, when you let up off the mic, you hear a tone. This tone serves three purposes: 1) to let the other people on frequency know you are finished talking; 2) to let the repeater timer reset (more on this later); and 3) to give a one second pause for anyone who might need to break into a conversation for emergency purposes.  Not all of our repeaters have a courtesy tone.  More advanced repeater systems will provide information by courtesy tone. Some repeaters will give a tone that does up or down in pitch according to how well your signal is to the repeater. For instance, a low tone may mean that the repeater is hearing you S1, while a high tone may mean S9. (S=signal / number=meter strength).

What is a Repeater (or Dropout) Timer?
Timers are used on repeaters in the event that someone may accidentally keep their radio keyed for an extended period of time. Usually this happens if a microphone gets caught in between the seats in a car or someone sits atop a microphone. After a certain amount of time that is determined by the owner(s) of the repeater, the repeater will turn itself off until the signal disappears. This helps the repeater from overheating. Most repeaters have a timer of three to five minutes. So, if you talk for more than three minutes at a time, the repeater may not be there when you un-key! The repeater timer resets when you hear a courtesy tone. Then, you have another three to five minutes of time to chat! (This timer is also good for keeping long-winded people in line and give someone else a chance to talk!!!)

Repeater Operations

Repeater Courtesy.
Repeater courtesy is very important. Since many of us enjoy the use of repeaters daily, and many of us have to share a repeater, courtesy is a must. Probably the most courteous thing to do on a repeater is to wait until a conversation that is currently on a repeater is over before making a call. Unless you have an answer to a question someone is pondering, you have an emergency, or you’ve waited for several minutes and you must call someone immediately, don’t interrupt the conversation. It is very courteous to break in, make your call, and then move off the repeater as soon as possible. If you are in simplex range, try not to tie up the repeater; use simplex. If a repeater is busy, make your call and then move to a repeater that is not busy. But, by all means, if you have an emergency, don’t hesitate to break in. The General Mobile Radio Service is designed for emergency and family communications. Anytime life or property is in danger, don’t be afraid to break in!!

Another very courteous thing to do is to wait until the courtesy tone sounds before talking. People who are “quick on the trigger” may not leave enough room for someone to break in and also do not allow the repeater timer to reset.

Do’s & Don’ts.
Below are some DOs and DON’Ts based on an article in the June issue of QST. While some of these are not FCC Part 95 rules, they are mandatory to follow on all North Georgia GMRS Repeater Systems.

  • Speak clearly. Give your radio a second to come on after you key your mic as well as a second to turn off. You may cut yourself off by not waiting for your radio to respond. This is also critical when using linked repeaters because the repeater may take a second or two to key on.
  • If you hear a jammer, IGNORE HIM! (report him to the repeater owner) Comments toward jammers simply add fuel to the fire. Just try to bear with it and keep on talking as if you couldn’t even hear the jammer.
  • Be sure to identify every fifteen minutes! This is not a courtesy, but it is a FCC rule. It is a courtesy, however, to not over identify. Don’t ID every time you key the mic. – 95.119(a)(2)
  • Always be friendly and courteous! Always remember that there are other GMRS users (and non-GMRS users) listening!
  • When in a group discussion, it is courteous to list the call signs currently in the conversation before you ID. The person to talk next is always listed first. For example, you are finishing your transmission and it is ATL-21’s turn to talk, and ATL-60 just talked before you did. So, you would say, “ATL-21 and ATL-60, this is ATL-40.” For larger groups, “ATL-40 and the group” will work. By listing the people in the conversation, others will be reminded not to forget the other people waiting to add something to the conversation. This also keeps the person happy who’s been waiting for several minutes to talk because he knows he’s not forgotten.
  • DO support the repeater you use! Repeaters are not cheap!  (See Membership and Donation Info)
  • DO say “clear” after you are done calling someone that was not on frequency or when you are finished with a conversation. This informs others waiting to use the repeater that you’re done! – 95.119(a)(1)