Two-Way Radio Etiquette 101

two-way-radio-etiquetteIf you are new to two-way radios, it is helpful to know a few things about using them to communicate effectively. Whether you are using them to communicate with co-workers, emergency workers, or members of your mountaineering team, a lot can hinge on how clearly you are able to deliver your words. Here are some best practices which will help you send your message loud and clear.

  • When speaking into the radio, hold it a couple inches away from your mouth. This will keep your voice clear, minimize static and surrounding noises, and be a lot easier to hear. Do speak directly into it, though, not across it like a microphone. Put your hand around it to shield it from noise if necessary, or try and get to a quieter spot before you start speaking. Speak at a moderate pace, not too fast or slow.
  • Repeat back information given to you to make sure you heard it properly, especially if you are having reception difficulties. Otherwise you could get the information wrong, or the other person may keep wondering if you received.
  • Be concise, especially if you are using radios for business or emergency response. Think before you speak. Be succinct so that you do not tie up the channel. Be polite, but do not go out of your way with unnecessary niceties
  • Remember that your conversations are not private. Even if you are using a “privacy code,” other people may still be listening in on your conversation. Do not say anything confidential on one of these channels.

Ever wonder about some of the common codes and phrase used over radio channels like “roger” and “mayday,” and how to use them properly?

  • Ten-codes. If you have ever heard phrases like “10-4” preceding messages on police channels, you may wonder what they mean. In reality, they simply act to create a delay. The first syllable in a transmission is sometimes lost, which can make the first word hard to understand. The ten-codes simply resolve this problem when preceding a message. They have never been particularly standardized, though, and their usage is now discouraged by FEMA.
  • Roger. This used to be the code word assigned to the letter “r.” In telegraph days, “r” sometimes was used to mean “received,” so “roger” means, “message received.” It does not mean, “will comply.” That is the phrase “wilco.”
  • Mayday. This emergency signal comes from the French “m’aider,” which means, “come help me.” Only use a mayday distress call in a genuine emergency, as it is actually a federal crime to do otherwise.

Now that you know the basics of radio communication code words and etiquette, you should be on the right track. Keep your communications succinct, speak clearly, and confirm when you receive and will comply with messages from others.

Featured Image by Alessio Michelini, CC

1 thought on “Two-Way Radio Etiquette 101

  1. I just got some two-way radio’s, and realized I have no idea how to use them really. It’s been years! Thank you for the reminder that the conversations are not private. I forgot about that and that is an important thing to remember. Thanks for all of these tips on how to use them. They should help me out a lot!

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