Basic Radio Etiquette

Basic Radio Etiquette

Using proper radio etiquette is more than just about being polite. It’s also about making sure your communications are clear, concise, and understood.

Conversations can be heard by anyone monitoring the same frequency and in many cases, you’re not the only person or group using that frequency.

To keep frequency use clean and available to use by as many as possible, there’s some common etiquette guidelines and tips that radio operators have developed and shared over the years.


Your voice should be clear. Speak a little slower than normal.


Keep your message simple enough for intended listeners to understand. You can be too concise though; use affirmative or negative in favor of yes or no.


Be precise and to the point; avoid unnecessary banter.


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 any frequency.

Conserve Power

With handheld radios, transmission should be used sparingly to preserve power. Most power consumption is done when transmitting.

Monitor First

To find the best available channel, monitor a channel for traffic before use.

Wait a Second

Wait half a second after pressing the mic button on the radio before speaking.


Any emergency transmission takes priority and you can use any frequency to transmit out in an emergency situation. Please refrain from unnecessary conversations during emergency situations.


Do not use profanity over the airwaves. It’s not only good manners, it’s FCC law.

Radio Check

Transmit periodically with your friends to ensure your radios are operating properly.

Identify Yourself

Clearly identifying yourself when transmitting is encouraged. It helps those in your race team or riding group know who’s talking. Instead of transmitting: “Hey, I have a flat.”, use identifying language such as “Chase truck, this is Race car. We blew a tire.”

Don’t Interrupt

Unlike cell phones, two-way radios cannot transmit and receive at the same time. Allow an incoming transmission to complete before you begin transmitting out.

Don’t Sit On It

Nothing is more frustrating than someone who’s transmitting on a frequency because they’re accidentally sitting on the hand mic or the PTT button on the handheld radio is being pressed inadvertently. Be a responsible radio operator. Make sure handheld radios are properly stored and hand mics aren’t laying on your seat to avoid accidental transmission.

If It’s Not For You

Do not reply if you aren’t sure the transmission is meant for you. There may be others using that frequency having their own conversation.

Learn the NATO Phonetic Alphabet

Developed to make communications clearer in military communications, using a formatted alphabet allows users to clearly spell critical information by using words to represent letters. This assured information and coordinates were clearly understood. Using this alphabet can help provide clarity in noisy transmissions.

(A) Alpha (J) Juliett (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

Following these basic tips and guidelines will help ensure transmissions are clear, understood, and keeping chatter to a minimum to maintain open frequencies for all.

1 comment

Doug Dunshee
Doug Dunshee

I notice many off road racers and Ultra 4 use frequencies around 151.—. I am curious and honestly don’t know much about the radio world. I used to use a CB, but they seem to be almost nonexistent in the recreational four wheeling world, whether for fun or racing. Is it necessary to get a HAM license to operate these new radios? Are these FM or VHF? Just trying to learn, thanks.

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