How to use correct radio communication procedures

Updated April 17, 2017

If you're communicating with others using a two-way radio, it is important to understand proper communication protocols and procedures. This etiquette is standardised not only to promote professionalism, but also to ensure that all messages sent and received can be universally understood by all parties. It is especially important that you know how to call for help over the radio in a crisis or emergency.

Check to make sure that your radio antenna is firmly attached and operational.

Ensure batteries are full or charged, and always carry a spare set with you if you're in a remote area.

Test the signal quality from time to time when little or no activity is on the radio network. The quality of a signal has two components: strength and readability. Signal strength, from strongest to weakest, is indicated by the following words: loud, good, weak, very weak, nothing heard. Readability, from maximal to minimal, is defined by these terms: clear, readable, distorted, with interference, not readable. Thus, optimal signal strength is "loud and clear"; the worst signal strength is "nothing heard and not readable."

Write down what you plan to say before you transmit a message, and divide long messages down into short, easily comprehensible pieces. Speak slowly when delivering a long message. If you are asked to repeat a message, do not vary your wording. Repeat the message exactly as you originally transmitted it.

Avoid interrupting other transmissions and making unnecessary transmissions. This taxes the radio network and makes it harder for others to communicate messages that may be urgent.

Use the word "this" or "from" to identify yourself when transmitting a message. For example, if you were conversing with radio control, you would say: "Control, this is [your name]."

End each individual transmission in a series with the word "over." Conclude the last message in a series with the word "out."

Use proper procedure words and standard phonetic equivalents of letters in the alphabet if you need to clarify yourself during a transmission (see Resources).

Remain calm during an emergency transmission. Do not raise your voice, because this could interfere with the recipient's ability to understand what you're saying.

Begin an emergency transmission by repeating the word "emergency" three times at the beginning of your message. Then proceed to deliver the message according to standard protocol.

Use the word "security" in place of "emergency" if you are faced with an urgent situation that is not a life-or-death matter.

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About the Author

Jim Green has been a professional freelance writer and copy editor for over six years. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Guelph (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) and a M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Southern California. Green has special expertise in the areas of health, recreation, travel, home and garden, and personal finance.