Radio 101: Operating Two-Way Radios Every Day and in Emergencies
Radio 101: Operating Two-Way Radios Every Day and in
Two-way radio communication may seem like a thing of the past with smart phones and the
availability of more advanced technology. However, with the recent frequency of natural disasters,
storms, and other emergency situations, more attention is being paid to radios as a reliable form of
communication and a possible back-up communication option, including amateur radio operators.
Image courtesy: Decatur County Amateur Radio Club
For example, the Times of India reports that the recent monsoon flooding disaster in the northern
India state of Uttarakhand in July 2013 has prompted officials in other flood-prone regions to
establish Amateur Radio facilities to provide emergency communication.
What are two-way radios and how do they work?
Two-way-radioImage: Amateur radio equipment. Image courtesy of the American Radio Relay
According to Wikipedia,
A two-way radio is a radio that can both transmit and receive (a transceiver), unlike a broadcast
receiver which only receives content. A two-way radio (transceiver) allows the operator to have a
conversation with other similar radios operating on the same radio frequency (channel).
Two-way radios are available in mobile, stationary base and hand-held portable configurations.
Hand-held radios are often called walkie-talkies or handie-talkies.
9780160910012A recent training publication produced by the Department of Health and Human
Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational
Safety and Health called Radio 101: Operating Two-Way Radios Every Day and in Emergencies
provides training materials on how to operate two-way radios. Included are an instructorâs guide,
a DVD with a power point presentation and a student handbook. These training materials practice
what they preach, in that they are brief, straightforward and conciseâ just as two-way radio
conversations need to be.
While many of the scenarios used throughout the training materials apply to miners and situations
where miners would need to use two-way radios, the information is generic enough that it is
applicable to any emergency.
The information provided in the training materials seems like common sense, but there are a few
important tips to consider when using two-way radio communication in an emergency situation:
Less is more. Be brief and efficient; know what you are going to say before using the radio so you do
not tie up the channel while you are thinking of what to say.
Donât mind your manners. It is not necessary to be polite, saying âpleaseâ and âthank
Repetition rocks. Repeat back information you receive to confirm that you heard the correct
heard by others picking up your frequency. However, this downside is a big plus in emergency
broadcasts and SOS situations where the operator wants as many people possible to be listening in
to be able to pick up and relay his message.
License to Help
To operate an amateur two-way radio in the United States requires taking a test and obtaining a
license from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). The American Radio Relay League
(ARRL) is the national association for amateur radio (also called ham radio with operators being
called âhamsâ) in the US and âprovides hams and non-hams the resources to learn, get
licensed, and help others on the air.â
Amateur-Radio-Emergency-ServiceAlready have your amateur radio license and want to help your
community? Check out the ARRLâs Public Service page for training, resources, manuals and more.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) consists of licensed amateurs who have voluntarily
registered their qualifications and equipment for communications duty in the public service when
Recently, the American Radio Relay League hosted their national Field Day where amateur radio
clubs across the country gathered locally to test their radio equipment and practice communication
strategies in the event of an emergency. Learn more about Field Day.
Rules of the Radio
Together with the Radio 101 training guide, two-way radio operators who want to learn the ârules
of the radioâ often buy the latest United States Frequency Allocations: The Radio Spectrum Chart
(shown below). This poster shows through color codes the parts of the radio spectrum that are
allocated to each type of radio service, including amateur (ham) radio, commercial radio and
television broadcasting, radio navigation, mobile, satellite, and others.
9780160908958Finally, the definitive sources of radio regulations, frequencies and procedures can
be found in the Manual of Regulations and Procedures for Federal Radio Frequency Management
and the Code of Federal Regulations Title 47 (FCC Rules and Regulations).
It is important to be prepared in any situation and not rely ononly one form of communication. Thus,
it is comforting to know that amateur radio operators are working on behalf of their communities to
help during emergency situations.