Have you ever been in a meeting or a presentation and suddenly people start talking all at once? This can be very confusing, distracting, and difficult to interpret if you are trying to focus on a job or a conversation. Now, imagine this happening over a closed loop radio. It makes message interpretation almost impossible, and the implications for safety are vast, especially if a misinterpreted message is acted upon. Many avoidable accidents have happened because of misinterpreted messages over handheld radios, and, as a result, there have been a series of protocols designed to help hand held radio users communicate efficiently and effectively.

Whether you are a first time radio user or a seasoned veteran, the following information may help you in becoming a safer and more effective worker with a handheld radio. In many parts of the U.S.A and in Canada radio certification is required for some jobs, especially if you are using the radio as part of an air-to-ground communications platform. These types of jobs may include situations in which you communicate with helicopters or planes in wildfire fighting, or military field operations. This article may not provide you with the certification, but it will help you get prepped to ace a course in radio communicaitons.

First, you should get to know the various different types of radios. There are walkie-talkie radios, hand-held radios, and other types, so do a little research on the various models and find one that suits your style and needs the best. All radios have varius channel options, so you can talk on an alternate channel if one of the channels is in use by another party. This is what can make communication somewhat confusing. Many people will continue to talk without ever receiving a reply, and chances are that it is beacuse they are on the wrong channel. Thus, it is always important to identify your preferred channel with your friends, family, and co-workers, so you are able to communicate. If this channel is in use, then many people often will have a backup channel to communicate on. Changing the channel is as easy as rotating a little swtich, and the channels are denoted by numbers, so you can easily tell what channel you are on.

Once you have figured our your preferred channel, you are ready to send and receive messages. Since many worksites often have more than one worker on a channel, it is important to exercise restraint on having long, drawn-out conversations. "Coffee Talk" is preferred to be done in person, rather than over the radio since the ability to talk through someone else's conversation can be frustrating and exhausting. Here are some basic protocol principles for exercising good radio practices:

  • Do not talk over someone else. That means if you hear someone talking, wait until you hear them stop before chiming in

  • Only respond to a call that is for you. Often people will call using a CallSign. For example, they will report by saying, "RJ to Kris, Are you by?" A standard answer would be, "Kris here, go ahead" — The idea is that the call has been acknowledged and the message is waiting to be received

  • Since many radio channels are open to the public and monitored via scanners and other devices, it is important to never give out confidential or private information since this information can be easily received by third parties

  • Always check your battery to ensure a good level of energy, and always carry a backup battery. If there is an emergency and your battery has died, it could make the difference between life and death for your co-worker, so always keep a good battery on hand

  • Check in with your co-workers every hour or couple of hours to ensure work is going safe, and the radios are in good working order

  • Get to know the short language of radio communications

To learn more about radio communications, protocol, and how to speak the language - go to: quality2wayradios.com/store/Using-Marine-Radios

Radio communication is a gift, and can make communication within a large jobsite a breeze. Know what channel your company or department is on, know how to be curteous over the airways, and, above all, use the technology to keep yourself and others safe on the jobsite.

Radio communication certification is a newly rising safety standard. To learn about more common safety standards, check out Top 10 Most Cited Safety Standards of 2013