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  • What is an Intrinsically Safe Radio?

    If you spend a lot of time shopping around for two way radios, at some point you may have come across the term "intrinsically safe". If you're somewhat new to the world of walkie-talkies, you probably have a few questions. What is an intrinsically safe radio? What does it do? What makes an "intrinsically safe" radio different from any other radio? Why would I want one? Why would I need one? Why would I even care?

    The word intrinsic refers to the essential or real nature or value of something. In electronics it refers to the very nature of an electronic device as being electrical; an item that operates using electricity. Any electronic device, by its very nature, carries and electrical current or charge, therefore the chance of an electrical spark or heat eminating from the device is inherently present or a possibility at all times.

    Intrinsically Safe means the device is safe to use in hazardous environments where the presence of a potential spark, heat or flame could potentially create a safety hazard. In the case of two way radios, this is especially important. Since radios are electrical, they do have the potential to generate sparks and heat, and there are many situations in which a radio may need to be used in potentially hazardous or explosive environments.

    Such environments include oil rigs and refineries, gas mains, coal mines, engine rooms of seafaring vessels, chemical plants, factories, emergency scenes involving First Responders, and other environments where there are potentially explosive or hazardous materials.

    Hazardous environments fall into different divisions and classifications. The details are outside the scope of this discussion, but essentially they fall into three basic classifications:

    • Class 1: flammable vapors and gases
    • Class 2: flammable dust
    • Class 3: flammable fibers

    In such environments, two way radio communication can be very important and even critical to operations, yet standard two way radios should not be used because they can make a potentially hazardous situation even more dangerous.

    These situations require the use of Intrinsically Safe radios.

    In order to be designated Intrinsically Safe, radios must be designed and housed in such a way as to prevent or eliminate the possibility of generating even the tiniest little spark. They must also limit the amount of heat produced by the radio. The batteries used in the radios must also be specially designed to prevent sparks and eliminate short circuiting. Even the radio housing itself must be designed and constructed of materials to prevent or eliminate friction, which can create static electricity and generate sparks.

    In addition to the radios, any accessories used, such as microphones and headsets, need to be intrinsically safe.

    Intrinsically safe two way radios are manufactured according to strict codes and regulations set by the National Fire Protection Association. The manufacturing facilities and processes are supervised by Factory Mutual, an insurance and loss prevention company approved by the US government to oversee enforcement of the NFPA codes.

    Due to these more stringent manufacturing requirements, Intrinsically Safe radios are considerably more expensive than their standard counterparts. However, the safety considerations built into these radios are worth far more than that. After all, you can't put a price on safety.

    Radios manufactured as Intrinsically Safe carry the FM (Factory Mutual) Approved certification mark. Icom, Motorola, and Vertex are major brands with one or more models of intrinsically safe two way radios.

    This chart lists popular makes and models of intrinsically safe radios currently available from Buy Two Way Radios.

    Intrinsically Safe Radios
    Manufacturer Model Band Mode
    Icom F4161/F3161 UHF or VHF Analog or Digital
    Kenwood TK-2360IS/3360IS UHF or VHF Analog
    Motorola VX-451 UHF or VHF Analog
    Motorola VX-454 UHF or VHF Analog
    Motorola VX-459 UHF or VHF Analog

    Questions? Leave us a comment below. You can also give us a call, e-mail us or enter our live chat from 8 AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday!

  • TWRS-18 - Intrinsically Safe Radios

    In this episode we discuss the use of intrinsically safe two way radios. We also review the Icom IC-F60 UHF Radio.

    Intro :00
    Billboard 1:15

    Topic Discussion 1:29
    We talk about intrinsically safe two way radios. We learn what the term means, when and how these radios are used, and the requirements for two way radios to be designated or certified as Intrinsically Safe. For information on intrinsically safe radios visit National Fire Protection Association, review the List of NFPA codes & standards. You can also visit FM Global Standards and Certification.

    Commercial Break 9:18
    buytwowayradios.com 1:00

    Product Review 10:16
    Today we review the Icom IC-F60 UHF Radio.

    Questions and Answers 16:39
    Questions from readers of our Two Way Radio Blog and members of the Two Way Radio Forum.

    Wrap up and Close 25:03
    Send in your comments and questions for Danny, Anthony and Rick to show(at)buytwowayradios.com. Feedback on this and other topics will be read by the hosts and included in future episodes of the show. Visit us at www.twowayradioshow.com!

    © 2011 Cricket Ventures, LLC. All rights reserved.


  • Getting Started with Marine Radios

    One of the most important things to have with you when you are out on the water (besides something to keep you afloat) is a means of two way communication, such as a radio. If you are a boater, you probably already know how important it is to have a radio on board.

    Marine VHF radios are commonly used on seafaring vessels both large and small to communicate ship-to-ship or ship-to-shore for everything from routine contact with ports and marinas to emergency distress calls. These radios operate using VHF frequencies from 156 to 174 MHz.

    Marine radios operate very much like your typical land-based two way radio, but with some differences in channels, wattage, range and features. VHF marine channels are different than those used for land based radios and are specifically for use in marine environments. They are allowed to operate between 1 and 25 watts. Because transmissions primarily occur over open water, their range will generally be much greater than land-based radios.

    Marine radios also offer many additional features not found on most land-based radios, such as emergency weather alerts and weather-proofing. It is not uncommon for marine radios, particularly handheld units, to be submersible in water and even float.

    One important feature often found in a VHF marine radio is Digital Selective Calling, or DSC. DSC is part of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS). A Class-D (DSC) Digital Selective Calling-capable VHF radio has a second receiver to monitor Channel 70 (DSC channel) activity at all times while receiving another channel. DSC allows the user to send a distress signal at the push of a button without using a microphone to exchange position information with other boats or stations. As of March 25, 2011 marine radios are now required by the FCC to be Class-D DSC complaint.

    The FCC has set specific requirements for users of marine radios operating within US jurisdiction. The FCC states: Depending on the size, purpose, or destination of a ship, its radio station must meet certain requirements established by law or treaty.

    On October 25, 1996, the FCC released a Report and Order in WT Docket No. 96-82, 11 FCC Rcd 14849, FCC 96-421 (pdf), eliminating the individual licensing requirement for voluntary ships operating domestically which are not required by law to carry a radio. Voluntary ships are those that are not required to have a radio. WIth a few exceptions, most recreational vessels are considered voluntary.

    According to the FCC, domestic vessels are those that do not travel to foreign ports. If your vessel travels to ports in other countries, you will need to have a license. The FCC rules require certain vessels to be equipped with radio equipment for safety purposes. These rules are set in accordance with international agreements.

    Marine radios typically have 88 channels, however not all of those channels are allowed to be used by everyone. Certain channels are reserved for specific types of communications or for specific groups, such as commercial ships and the Coast Guard. For instance, Simplex channels, 3, 21, 23, 61, 64, 81, 82 and 83 CANNOT be legally used in U.S. waters by the general public. Channel 16 and Channel 9 are emergency channels and are reserved specifically for emergency communications. Channel 16 (for voice) and channel 70 (for digital DSC) being monitored 24 hours a day by the US Coast Guard.

    In addition to the other requirements, there is one other very important rule to note: Marine radios are specifically intended for marine use. It is illegal to operate a marine radio on land.

    There are two basic types of VHS Marine Radios, fixed mount and handheld. Fixed mount radios are installed or mounted in your vessel. Handheld radios are carried with you like any other handheld two way radio or walkie-talkie.

    Examples of fixed mount VHF marine radios are the Icom IC-M412 (available in black or white) and the Cobra Marine MR-F80B-D Class-D Fixed Mount Submersible VHF Radio. Examples of handheld marine radios are the Midland Nautico 3VP, and the Icom IC-M36 VHF Marine Radio. Cobra, Icom, Midland and Uniden are all popular brands of marine radios.

    When shopping for a marine radio, it is important to note that while antennas are typically included with handheld radios, an antenna is not included with fixed mount marine radios and are purchased separately. This is because the antenna will be mounted somewhere externally on the vessel itself. Marine radio antennas vary in size, length and type and your choice of an antenna may vary depending on where and how it will be mounted on your vessel.

    For more information about the basics of choosing and using a marine radio, listen to The Two Way Radio Show Episode 16 - An Introduction to Marine Radios.

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