CERA has high quality, commercial grade radio equipment program designed to simply the process for community residents to get on the air quickly without having to understand complex radio hardware set up instructions or how to use the radio's interface to program the specific frequencies and parameters needed to operate on certain FCC bands.
A group of skilled volunteers, usually members of the El Dorado County Amateur Radio Club, work with CERA to refurbish and program the radios before radios are distributed to community residents.
Buying radios from CERA offer the following advantages:
- CERA radios are very similar to the expensive commercial radios used by fire, police, security, and other first responders. Residents can purchase CERA radios at a significant discount compared to retail prices,
- CERA radios are pre-programmed with easily identifiable channels that connect to CERA's radio repeater network.
- CERA radios have a paging feature that is not commonly available in newer radios. The paging channel is programmed under a channcel called "ALERT".Radios can be left on the ALERT channel which will only sound with a very loud tone (usually 3 loud tones repeating over and over) when an alert is triggered due to a real emergency or when the alert is triggered at the start of a Radio Safety Net. Keeping the radio on the ALERT channel allows residents to have the radio close by when sleeping without being disturbed by chatter that can be heard on the other "talk" channels programmed into the radio.
- CERA radios can be used on the General Mobile Radio Service and Business Band frequencies. Currently, CERA's radio repeater network using the General Mobile Radio Service frequencies. In the future, if CERA moves the repeaters to Business Band frequencies, CERA radios will still work though the radio channels will need to be reprogrammed with the new Business Band frequencies. Note: not all GMRS radios cannot be used legally on the Business Band.
If you want to purchase radios that are not sourced from CERA, then consider choosing from CERA's radio equipment recommendations or consulting with CERA on your radio needs. There are a lot of inexpensive non-commercial radios on the market but these radios may not work on certain frequencies (including repeater frequencies), may not broadcast with enough power, may not operate on Business Band frequencies, may lack the paging ALERT feature, and may not be as durable as the radios provided by CERA. If you purchase your own radio outside of CERA, you will also need to figure out how to program the radios.