Updated: Apr 2, 2022
Using two-way radios & comm systems in a live event environment
It's always fun to watch the new guy trying to figure out his radio. We've all seen it. The sweat beading up on his forehead as he frantically tries to figure out how to attach his biscuit, while trying to look calm and cool - as if he handles radios like this all the time. We all snicker under our breath, knowing he's never goig to get that Kenwood mic onto that Motorola radio.
Admit it. The only reason we take such joy in watching him suffer is, we were also there once ourselves. It's all fun and games until we're in the thick of it, and we can't find him, because we didn't take the time to teach him the fundamentals of proper radio/comm use. Here is a list of radio fundamentals, followed by a vocabulary list and some common phrases.
Do not scream into your mic.
Do not whisper into your mic.
Hold (key) your talk button for a full second before you start to speak, otherwise we lose the first part of your sentence, which is usually who you are.
Keep chatter to a minimum. Carrying a radio is already distracting and it becomes annoying when you have to keep shifting your focus from the task in front of you to the comments on your radio.
If it’s necessary to change channels, to contact someone that’s monitoring a different channel, it’s helpful to those that know you’re assigned to a specific group that you're switching before you switch, and inform them when you switch back (see examples is Common Phrases)
Radios are easy to pass around, so you can never be quite sure who’s monitoring your conversations. Avoid inappropriate conversations, discussing sensitive or protected information, or playing jokes over radios or comm.
Keep an eye on your battery life and switch out dying batteries with fresh batteries before they die. You want to avoid having a dead radio when it’s most needed. Don’t forget to return your radio to its charging base or station at the end of each day.
Record the serial number of your assigned radio, in case you lose it or it gets accidentally mixed up with other radios.
Report a missing radio as soon as you know it's missing. The chance recovering lost radios goes down the longer you wait and becomes almost impossible once it goes dead.
Print legibly and accurately when you sign out a radio.
Avoid wear your radio in a place where clothing or gear attached to you may accidentally key your mic.
Be mindful when you’re in close proximity to other radios monitoring the same channel. You want to lower your volume to prevent feedback if someone close to you opens their mic..
IIf you bring your own radio, check with the RF tech to make sure you're not using a frequency that's been isolated for another purpose or may cause issues with other RF systems.
Be aware of any and all safety protocols when using a radio while operating heavy machinery.
Biscuit Speaker mic attachment that is attached to shoulder panels, collars, front pockets or other spot convenient for monitoring the small "biscuit-shaped" mic handset.
Handle A moniker such as nickname, department or other designation you may take or might be assigned to you.
10-4 Message acknowledged
Over Finished talking and listening for reply - short for "over to you"
Out Finished talking and did not expect a reply.
Clear Finished talking and shutting radio off
Roger Information received / understood
Copy Mostly used to acknowledge received information.
Wilco Will comply
Break Signals a pause during a long transmission to open the channel for other transmissions, especially for allowing any potential emergency traffic to get through
Break-Break Signals to all listeners on the frequency, the message to follow is priority.
Radio Check Common phrase to test the functionality of the radio, proper channel assignment and volume level.
Good Check The common reply over the radio from someone monitoring the same channel, indicating that you came in clearly. Replace "good" with the condition of their transmission as necessary.
Common Terms & Phrases
"[your handle] for [recipient's handle]"
It's customary to engage your recipient before just speaking. Key your radio [hold a second] and say your name "for" and who you want to connect with. You will wait for them to say...
"Go ahead" or "Go for [handle]"
Send your transmission.
Abbr: Repeat Your last transmission - "repeat" is a reserved word used by military
"Going to [channel]"
First allow me to explain, on any given show, there can be anywhere between 10-100 radios assigned and actively in use. As I explain in greater detail elsewhere, the need to separate groups, usually by department or function, controls the amount of chatter and distraction. But often, you or someone you need to reach may have to leave the channel your group has been assigned. Informing your group that you're leaving your channel helps to avoid confusion.
"Going back to [channel]"
When you're done communicating with the person in the foreign channel, it's customary to tell the group that you're going back to your assigned channel, in case they need you for a follow up, etc.
"This is [your name or handle]. Back on [channel]"
Once you've returned to your assigned channel, let your group now with this simple notification.
"What's your 20?"
Based on 10-codes, 20 is short for 10-20 and this means "what's your location?"
"Anyone have eyes on [person]?"
When someone has put there radio down, or moved to a different channel, an effective way to try and reestablish contact is make a general inquiry to all monitoring that channel if they see the person you're asking for. If someone does, it is customary for that person to notify your intended person.
"Go to spare [channel]"
If your conversation is more than a simple inquiry or command, unless you're communicating something the whole group needs to hear, there are typically spare channels designated for short, but distraction-free communication. Inform your party to change to a spare channel so you can speak freely without clogging up the line. Be wise. Although spares are meant for more private conversations, they are not exclusive and it's always possible someone may be listening in on your conversation.
"Go off Radio (Comm)"
It's customary to tell your group you're turning off your radio, or will be unavailable by radio for some period of time.
Keep in mind, etiquette and phrases tend to vary by crew and ge. This wasn't meant to be an exhaustive study by any means. But if I omitted something you think is especially important, please add to it in the comments section below.
That’s it for now. Going off comm.