radio communications etiquette

2-Way Radio Protocol and Good Etiquette Procedures

You’re into preparedness. Therefore, you probably have (and use) various 2-way handheld radios. I want to point out some good etiquette procedures and basic 2-way radio protocol, to help the beginner.

Get to know the language protocol of radio communication. Clarity, simplicity, and shortness are the basic rules for radio communication.

In a world ruled by mobile devices, it’s amazing to think that two-way radios have stood the test of time more than 80 years since they were invented. They remain a necessary piece of equipment for first responders, security personnel, warehouse supervisors, and others.

Here are ten key radio protocol / etiquette tips to using a two-way radio so you’ll always present yourself professionally and ensure good communication.

Basic Radio Protocol & Etiquette

  • When using a two-way radio, you cannot speak and listen at the same time, as you can with a phone.
  • Do not interrupt if you hear other people talking. If you hear other people talking.  Wait until their conversation is finished unless it is an emergency.
  • 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, or are within range to transmit/receive signals.
  • Memorize call signs and locations of persons and radio stations you communicate with regularly.
  • Keep the volume high enough to be able to hear calls.
  • 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 before you say it, 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.


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


Keep your message simple enough for intended listeners to understand.


Be precise and to the point.


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.

Protocol of Making a Call on a 2-Way Radio

Follow these easy steps to make a call.

  1. First listen to ensure the channel is clear for you.
  2. Press the PTT (Push-To-Talk) button.
  3. After 2 seconds:
  4. Say “recipient’s call sign”
  5. Followed by “THIS IS” and “your call sign”
  6. Once the person replies, convey your message.

A Typical Example Call

You: “62 this is 59, Come in, Over” (62 is their call sign, 59 is your call sign)

Recipient: “59 this is 62, Go Ahead, Over”

You: “When you’re getting the eggs, let me know if the chickens need more water, Over”

Recipient: “Roger Wilco, Over”

You: “59, Out”

It may seem strange at first to begin and end your transmission with call signs (eg “59”, “62”, or whatever…), however this identifies who the message is intended for, because others may be on the same frequency. It brings clarity to the conversation over the airwaves.

TIP: Unless you’re a ham radio operator with a specific license call sign, rather than your names, consider choosing your own unique call sign identifiers for frequency bands where licensing is not necessarily required.

Radio Communication Tips

It’s good etiquette to leave a second or two between “hand-offs” to give others a chance to break in.

It is always best to speak in short simple phrases on the radio and toss the conversion back and forth with the word “OVER.”

Don’t speak immediately when you press the PTT (push to talk), especially with digital radios which among all their benefits have slightly longer delay. Wait 2-3 seconds.

If you speak as soon you press the PTT button, it can chop off your the first syllable or word, making you hard to understand. If that word doesn’t make it, you will just have to say it again and run down your batteries faster.

Radio Communications User’s Language

Go Ahead – Resume transmission. You are ready to receive the transmission.

Say Again – Re-transmit your message

Stand-by – Transmission has been acknowledged, but I am unable to respond immediately.

Roger or Ten Four – Message received and understood.

Affirmative – Yes – Avoid yup, nope, etc.

Negative – Same as “No”.

Over – Transmission finished.

Out – Communication is over and the channel is available for others.

Radio Check – What is my signal strength?  Can you hear me?

Read you loud & clear – Response to “Radio Check”. Means your transmission signal is good.

Come in – You are asking the other party to acknowledge they hear you.

Copy – You understand what was said.

Wilco – Means “I will comply”.

Standard NATO Alphabet

International phonetics used for the alphabet to spell out letters over the radio.

When you need to spell out something over a 2-way radio, don’t use letters as many of them sound alike. Spell them out using what’s known as the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) phonetic alphabet instead. This system uses a word that corresponds with every letter of the English alphabet so there’s no confusion.

SymbolCode WordMorse Code
AAlfa/Alpha● ▬
BBravo▬ ● ● ●
CCharlie▬ ● ▬ ●
DDelta▬ ● ●
FFoxtrot● ● ▬ ●
GGolf▬ ▬ ●
HHotel● ● ● ●
IIndia● ●
JJuliett● ▬ ▬ ▬
KKilo▬ ● ▬
LLima● ▬ ● ●
MMike▬ ▬
NNovember▬ ●
OOscar▬ ▬ ▬
PPapa● ▬ ▬ ●
QQuebec▬ ▬ ● ▬
RRomeo● ▬ ●
SSierra● ● ●
UUniform● ● ▬
VVictor● ● ● ▬
WWhiskey● ▬ ▬
XX-ray▬ ● ● ▬
YYankee▬ ▬ ● ●
ZZulu▬ ▬ ▬ ▬ ▬
NATO Alphabet

Midland 50 Channel Waterproof GMRS Two-Way Radio
(the most popular on amzn)


  1. Maybe everyone using GMRS for their primary local coms already knows this…but just in case…

    When using the so called “privacy codes”, privacy channels”, or “sub-channels”…these are “private” only to those radios set to the same channel and code…anyone listening to the primary channel will hear your transmissions…but you won’t hear theirs.

  2. Dennis, This Admin is not just working on figuring out how to end run 1A via social media platforms. Did you catch that they want “companies” to police everyone’s texts for vax mis-info? That is such a deep dive into the bowels of tyranny it’s hard to wrap my mind around it. Not just the guv listening in to everything, which we fund with our taxes. But forcing us to pay, via our telephone costs, for Verizon, et al, to be agents of the guv. Next will be e-mails. Radios may be hardest to interfere with.

  3. You never say Roger AND Wilco in the same reply. Wilco means Will Comply, Roger is understood. I hate to be the “radio police” but if you knew how many times I got slapped in the back of the head as a Private learning to properly talk on the radio, you’d understand.

  4. my life changed completely after i learned morse code.
    last night i couldn’t sleep because the rain kept telling me to go screw myself.
    have fun guys!

  5. nyscout,

    “listen to the rhythm of the falling rain…telling me just what a fool I’ve been”

  6. Jumper, what’s wrong with saying Roger and Wilco ( I understand and will comply ) in the same response? A lot of people comply with things they do not understand, and some people understand things to which they will not comply. So, both understanding, and intent to comply, would be necessary and required for full clarity. Are you saying that I need to express this in two separate back to back messages?

    1. You cannot COMPLY if you don’t UNDERSTAND the instructions. Saying WILCO implies that you understand. ROGER is “built-in.” Understanding is conveyed by the proword ROGER. It makes for shorter transmissions, which save battery power.

      Jumper & I must’ve gone to the same military radio school…the back of my head got a few raps.

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