8 Tips for Proper Two-Way Radio Etiquette

Affectionately known as a walkie talkie, the two-way radio has been around for decades. These devices have been used by soldiers, first responders, security officers, adventurers, and even young children at sleepovers.  

If you work a job that requires you to use such a device, then it’s important that you understand that you shouldn’t use a walkie-talkie like a cell phone. A crucial thing to remember about two-way radios is that only one person can talk at a time. And if you don’t practice proper radio etiquette, you could end up talking over each other and then missing out on crucial information.

Are you interested in learning more? If so, then continue reading and we’ll walk you through everything you need to know!

1. Know The Language

When using a two-way radio, you want to be as clear and concise as possible. Luckily, there are certain words and phrases that have been adopted by the radio community to make communication easier and more clear. By using these words properly, you can more effectively communicate with your other radio users. 

Let’s go over some of the most common radio terms below and what their meanings are:

  • Affirmative: Yes
  • Roger or Roger That: the message was heard and understood
  • Over: I have finished speaking
  • Read or copy: usually used in a sentence to confirm the message was heard
  • Negative: No
  • Stand By: Please wait
  • Wilco: I will comply/follow orders
  • Out: This is said to indicate the conversation is finished 

You’ve probably heard some of this language before from watching a character in a movie or tv show using a two-way radio. If you watched the movie Airplane when you were younger, you probably even noticed adults laughing when one character tells a man named Roger over a radio, “Roger, Roger.”

2. Pause Before You Talk

It’s generally considered to be good etiquette to pause for a moment after you press the PTT (press-to-talk) button before you talk. Sometimes, it can take a second or two for your radio to connect with another person’s. If you speak too quickly, you might end up getting cut off at the start and the other person won’t know what you said. 

3. Identify Yourself

Unlike a cell phone, your walkie talkie won’t come with a caller ID. A walkie talkie signal can be picked up and used by anyone. Because of this, it’s good manners to begin a conversation by identifying who you are. 

You should also address the person that you’re intending to speak to before you introduce yourself. 

4. Keep Your Communication Short and Simple

It’s best to not talk for too long when you’re using a two-way radio. These devices are meant for people to give short bursts of information in order to get a job done quickly or to solve a problem. 

If you have to give a lot of information, then you should use the word “break” in between each point and take your finger off the PTT. This will give the other party the opportunity to ask questions before you move onto the next point. 

You also don’t want to spend too long not saying anything while holding the PTT button. This can give a false impression that you got cut off or disconnected. 

5. Learn The NATO Phonetic Alphabet

If you have to spell something out over the radio, you shouldn’t simply say the letters. Many letters sound very similar to each other.

Instead, spell them out by using the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) phonetic alphabet. This system uses a word that corresponds to each letter in the English alphabet.

By using these specific words, you shouldn’t have any issues with confusion. So, if you needed to spell the word “BAT,” you would say “Bravo, Alpha, Tango.”

6. Speak In A Normal and Clear Tone

When you use a walkie talkie, you shouldn’t speak too quickly. Instead, speak in a normal tone of voice. If you shout or speak too quietly, then you might not be able to be heard clearly. 

You should hold the device’s microphone about three inches away from your face. This way, you’re voice won’t sound too loud to the other parties. 

7. Don’t Interrupt Others

If other people are already talking on the radio, then you should wait for them to stop talking before you speak. Unless it’s an emergency, you shouldn’t try to cut into the conversation. If you have an emergency message to deliver, then you can start by saying “break break break.”

8. Assume Other People Can Hear You

When you’re using two-way radios, you should always assume that there are other people within earshot of your conversations. Also, know that you don’t have exclusive rights to that frequency.

Unless your equipment is properly encrypted, you shouldn’t say any confidential or sensitive information over the radio. If you’re in a work environment, you shouldn’t talk about other people at your job, because they might be able to hear you.

You should be especially careful with a long range two-way radio.

The Importance of Knowing the Tips for Proper Two-Way Radio Etiquette

Whether you’re starting a new job, going camping, or just trying out a new hobby, you can certainly benefit from knowing how to practice proper two-way radio etiquette. By knowing the tips listed above, you’ll be able to communicate more effectively and be using a radio like a pro in no time.

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