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Two Way Radio On Air

Operational Practices

How to get the most out of communications equipment and correct operational practices
If you have never used long range two-way radios or walkie talkies it's worth taking the time to understand exactly how to communicate with them. We have all heard people talking 'over the air' and you will notice that they tend to talk using particular comments. That's not for any old reason, its to make the communication between users far more understandable than it would otherwise be.

operational practices for two-way radios

Understanding how it all works from a simple point of view
Operationally there are a few things that you need to know. In general walkie talkies tend to operate that when you press the 'push to talk' button (PTT) then your voice is being transmitted over the air waves. But there can be a problem with this. In general pushing the PTT stops other users from communicating 'at the same time' and this method of operation is called 'half duplex' mode. Radios operate in usually in half duplex  mode where one person speaks and the others listen but cannot reply.  There are however SOME handsets that work in a 'full duplex' mode that allows you to receive voice even as you talk on the unit. But for this document we offer general rules for users of half duplex handsets that are by far the most common in use today.

Always ensure that you are clear and concise about what you are going to say because pressing the PTT button stops other users from communicating. Its no use dilly dallying while holding down the PTT button and certainly no way to use the equipment. That tends to not work!

Remember that by using an earpiece and microphone that it's possible to use the two way radio hands free. The device will use a feature called VOX and determine when you are speaking, automatically transmitting what you say. It is important for this type of work that high quality accessories are used because inferior low cost third party accessories do not always operate as they should.

You sound different on the transmission.
Some companies will have their own vocabulary defined when using handsets and that's fine, but more often than not it's important to have a defined structure to the communication and that's pretty easy to grasp from common everyday operational practices that everyone should use.

It's pretty obvious that there will be more than one user on the radio system! So its important to have a 'handle' or call sign that you might want to use then every user knows its you. Those sort of names or 'handle' might be used like:

 “Lima322, this is Delta243 - OVER”

And it's important to communicate to other users that your comment is actually ended (hence the 'over' statement at the end of the sentence).  The above  example 'call' is to Lima322 from you (Delta243) and you then ended the call with 'over'. Simple huh?

It's likely that Lima 322 will acknowledge your call and also end in 'over' so you are then free to press the PTT button and communicate back to him.

If Lima 322 is busy he may not respond immediately so listen for his reply and don't always expect it immediately. It's not good practice to make call after call to him for any ordinary conversation (but that could be different in an emergency). If he does not call you back after a 'reasonable period of time' then call him again.

The importance of intelligible voice calls
Remember that just jabbering on (sometimes not using intelligible language) will make your communication system less effective. Always use your call sign  or 'handle' and ensure that your calls are not too long because on a 'half duplex' handset remember only one person can speak at a time. Extended PTT calls  stop other users from being able to call and communicate. If you ever listen to those police radios on TV programs then you can hear clear and concise chatter. Notice that the police will often repeat the important part of a call for clarity. For example:

"Lima322 this is Delta 243 I need assistance in hall three"  and the reply might be:

"Delta 243 this is Lima322 yes yes understood we're on our way now"

Importantly notice how the reply says 'yes' twice... as a clear communication in an important reply.

Modern handsets can still be slow in operation!
Even with many current units, transmitting can have a pronounced delay before the actual transmission of your voice, so speaking immediately you press the PTT button is not really a good idea unless you have a full duplex handset. Most likely you don't. It makes sense to pause for up to a second or so before you actually talk after pressing the PTT button.

Understanding the common phrases helps to make radio communication very effective.
We have all heard the chitter chatter, 'over and out', 'stand by' and many other phrases which we have compiled below. It makes sense to use these tried and tested common phrases and you will find that the communication will be most effective. Here are a few samples:

    • Over – I’ve finished speaking
    • Say Again – Repeat your last message
    • Stand-by – I acknowledge your transmission, but can’t respond right now
    • Go ahead – I can respond, go ahead with your message
    • Roger – message received and understood
    • Affirmative / Negative – Yes / No
    • Out – Conversation is finished, the channel is clear for other users.

As a class 1 radio amateur the writer is familiar with the phonetic alphabet. The reason that this alphabet is used is to ensure that the recipient of the call gets the exact message in a clear and concise manner over the air. Phonetics are not there to make things harder, they actually serve an important purpose in making the call understandable. Below is an example of the phonetic alphabet that you should memorise and use, advantages of using it are enormous and it reduces misunderstanding over the air waves for sure.

A - Alpha J - Juliet S - Sierra
B - Bravo  K - Kilo T - Tango
C - Charlie L - Lima U - Uniform
D - Delta M - Mike V - Victor
E - Echo N - November  W - Whiskey
F - Foxtrot O - Oscar X - X-ray
G - Golf P - Papa Y - Yankee
H - Hotel Q - Quebec Z - Zulu
I - India R - Romeo  

 We have likely all see the film 'Smokie and the Bandit' right? Well watching 'Bufort T Justice' (the 'chief') on the radio in that film and the subsequent two follow up movies is a classic way to learn how NOT to use the radios in your company or organisation! Watch it and if it reminds you of you! if it does then you really need to get up to speed!

Clear communications between users of the walkie talkies really does matter and by utilising all of the recommendations in this document really will help you to get the best out of your radio system. Remember that in emergencies very clear communications is critical and it could save lives. We recommend digital radios for emergency and critical use also as those handsets can deliver loud and extremely clear communicative transmissions with little or no noise. A great example of a digital radio for emergency comms is the Entel DX482 so do check it out. And by the way it has a panic button included and is IP68 which means its waterproof in two metres of water for four hours!

And remember , we are here to help you or your staff with radio operation. Call 01782 537000.

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