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Two-Way Radio Etiquette: Basic Rules of Radio Communication

Two Way Radio Etiquette Basic Rules

Author: Nicky Jackson, Marketing Campaign Manager, MCA

Over the years certain rules, or etiquette, have been established to make radio communciation go more smoothly. Here is the basic etiquette a radio use needs to understand as it will help improve your overall experience when using your two-way radio.

Basic Two-Way Radio Etiquette Rules:

  • The international radio language is English, except in cases where you are licensed to speak in some other language.
  • When using a two-way radio you cannot speak and listen at the same time, as you can with a phone.
  • Don’t interrupt if you hear other people talking. Wait until their conversation is finished
    unless it is an emergency. If it is an emergency, inform the other parties that you have a urgent emergency message (see “Emergency Calls” below).
  • Do not respond if you aren’t sure the call is for you. Wait until you hear your call sign
    to respond.
  • Never transmit sensitive, confidential, financial or military information. Unless you
    are certain your conversations are secured with the proper level of encryption for the level of sensitivity, assume your conversations can be heard by others.
  • Perform radio checks to ensure your radio is in good working condition.
    • Ensure the battery is charged and the power is on.
    • Keep the volume high enough to be able to hear calls.
    • Regularly make radio checks to make sure everything is working and that you are still in range to receive signals.
  • Memorize call signs and locations of persons and radio stations you communicate with regularly.
    • In radio communication you are not called by your name. Everybody has their own unique call sign.
  • Think before you speak.
    • Decide what you are going say and to whom it is meant for.
    • Make your conversations as concise, precise, and clear as possible.
    • Avoid long and complicated sentences. If your message is long, divide it into separate shorter messages.
    • Do not use abbreviations unless they are well understood by your group.

4 Golden Rules fo Radio Communication

1. Clarity
Your voice should be clear. Speak a little slower than normal. Speak in a normal tone, do not shout.

2. Simplicity
Keep your message simple enough for intended listeners to understand.

3. Brevity
Be precise and to the point.

4. Security
Do not transmit confidential information on a radio unless you know the proper security technology is in place. Remember, frequencies are shared, you do not have exclusive use of the frequency.

Speak the Language

General Terms                Meaning

Radio CheckWhat is my signal strength? Can you hear me?
Go AheadYou are ready to receive transmission.
Stand-byYou acknowledge the other party, but I am unable to respond immediately.
Roger or Ten FourMessage received and understood.
NegativeSame as “No”.
AffirmativeSame as “Yes”. Avoid “yup” or “nope” as they are difficult to hear.
Say AgainRe-transmit your message.
OverYour message is finished.
OutAll conversation is finished, the channel is clear for others to use.
Break, Break, BreakYou are interrupting in the middle of communication because you have an emergency.
Read You Loud & ClearResponse to “Radio Check”. Means your transmission signal is good. Al- so use ” Read you 5-by-5″.
Come inYou are asking the other party to aknowlege they hear you.
CopyYou understand what was said
WilcoMeans “I will comply”.
RepeatUsed before you repeat something. ex: “I require 9-5,
repeat 9-5, gallons of diesel fuel. Over.”

Phonetic Alphabet

It is almost certain that you will have to use the phonetic alphabet in your conversations over a two-way radio. Many letters and words sound alike so in order to make sure you are communcating clearly you can use the phonetic equivalents of letters that are often confused such as ‘F’ and ‘S’, ‘T’ and ‘C’, or ‘M’ and ‘N’.


More than 30,000 customers trust Mobile Communications America to provide wireless communication solutions for a safe, secure, and more efficient workplace. As your trusted advisor, we reduce the time and effort needed to research, install, and maintain the right solutions to make your workplace better. MCA offers a carefully researched portfolio of world class voice, data and video products and solutions, our team of certified professionals across the United States deliver a full suite of reliable technologies with a service first approach. The MCA advantage is our extensive service portfolio to support the life cycle from start to finish. If you would like to find out the best solutions for your unique situation call an MCA Representative today at 1-800-596-8205.

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