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Radio Etiquette

It's always fun to w atch TNG (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 going 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. So I prepares a little primer on radio etiquette. Let's start with Do's & Don'ts.

Do's & Don'ts

DO 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.

DO 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.

DO remember to return your radio to its charging station at the end of each day.

DO record the serial number of your assigned radio, in case you lose it or it gets accidentally swapped

DO report a missing radio as soon as you know it's missing. The chance of you finding it goes down the longer you wait and becomes almost impossible once it goes dead.

DO sign out you radio with the Radio Attendant assigned to manage them.

DO practice all safety protocols when using your radio while operating a life or other heavy machinery.

DO NOT take someone's radio without notifying them.

DO NOT change off your assigned channel without notifying your group that you're changing.

DO NOT use you radio to play jokes or have inappropriate conversations.

DO NOT wear your radio in a place where clothing or gear that's attached to you will accidentally key you mic.

DO NOT keep your volume on high when surrounded by other's wearing radios assigned to your group.

DO lower your volume if radios around you start to cause feedback.

DO NOT bring your own radio, especially on larger shows, without checking 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.

DO NOT scream into your mic.

​DO NOT whisper into your mic



Speaker mic attachment that is commonly attached to shoulder panels, collars, front pockets or other spot convenient for monitoring the small "biscuit-shaped" mic handset.

In-Ear "Secret Service" Mic

The in-ear Surveillance Mic attachment with the mic button on a separate cable to be run down sleeve and attached inside your shirt cuff.


A moniker such as nickname, department or other designation you may take or might be assigned to you.


Message acknowledged






Finished talking and listening for reply - short for "oiver to you"


Finished talking and do not expect a reply.


Finished talking and shutting radio off


Information received/understood


Mostly used to acknowledge received information.


Will comply


Signals a pause during a long transmission to open the channel for other transmissions, especially for allowing any potential emergency traffic to get through.


Signals to all listeners on the frequency, the message to follow is priority.

Common Terms

"Radio Check"

Common phrased 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.

"[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.

"Say Again"

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 varies from crew to crew and from region to region. 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.

Thanks it for now. Going off comm.

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