A Beginner’s Guide to Two-Way Radio

Operating a two-way radio is an effective way to communicate, especially in an emergency. A hand-held portable radio, often called a walkie-talkie, can be used by groups of people that are separated. This is particularly useful for air traffic controllers, pilots and emergency services personnel.

What Is A Two-Way Radio?

A two-way radio can transmit and receive a radio signal. Unlike classic radios that can be found in boomboxes or car stereos, a two-way radio allows for two people to talk to one another. By transmitting their voices, the connection can be heard from both ends. A two-way radio can be portable or stationary depending on the type purchased.

How to Use A Two-Way Radio?

When using a two-way radio, the style of conversation is frequently different than if using a phone. This is because two-way radios operate in what is known as “simplex mode1”. Simplex mode1 allows a user to either talk or listen, but not at the same time. Conversation can be stunted if proper etiquette is not used.

In an emergency, two-way radios are particularly effective because they are faster than cell phones and several people can hear a message at once. Even in inclement weather, two-way radios can hold up exceptionally well under duress. Recently, two-way radios are designed to be able to send and receive text messages for discreet communication. Using a two-way radio means that cellular networks that can frequently become clogged in the event of an emergency are no longer an issue.

Using a two-way radio in the event of an emergency requires one to know the intricacies of each radio. Understanding how the radio functions can provide a quicker response time should the person need it. If expecting a possible emergency, testing the radios by taking part in a drill can also help. On most two-way radios, there is an emergency alert button that can be pressed to sound an alarm. Typically, this is a large orange button on the side of the radio.

Two-Way Radio Etiquette

If new to using two-way radios, understanding the etiquette can save time and confusion.

5 Tips for Correctly Using A Two-Way Radio

1.) Identification. By identifying yourself at the beginning of a call, the other people who are also using their radios on the same channel can know, without a doubt, who you are. This is especially useful when talking with groups of people.

2.) Pause before starting. Wait until each party in the group has confirmed your identity before starting to speak. This can prevent unnecessary starts and stops throughout the beginning of a conversation.

3.) Speak clearly. Using slow and concise speech is the best way to get a point across quickly and clearly. Two-way radios are usually designed for directions. By speaking clearly, other group members can act with confidence.

4.) Do not send private information over the radio. Radio channels are shared unless they are specifically secured. Unless you are positive that the frequency is secured, sensitive information may be heard by other people using the same channel.

5.) Only engage in designated conversation. Pay attention to your own specific call signal before responding. If the call is not for you, chiming in could result in a delay of communication.

Common Beginner’s Language

To communicate effectively with all the right lingo, there are certain phrases every beginner should learn.

“Roger that” means that a message is received and understood.

“Over” means that a message is completed and now another can respond.

“Radio check” is a request to understand the signal strength of the radio.

“Wilco” means that the speaker agrees to complete a task that’s been asked of them.

“Wait out” means the speaker will get back to the person or group as soon as they can.


There are a variety of services that allow for two-way radio communication. The Citizens Band radio service operates on 40 shared channels. The Family Radio Service is a private service that can help facilitate group or family activities. This is especially good for those who use walkie-talkies or other portable radio devices.

Emergency technicians, extreme weather professionals and pilots continue to use this type of radio because of its reliability. Two-way radios have been used for decades in the event of an emergency situation. Regardless of how the radio is used, they are still an essential form of communication.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.