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Radio Lingo and Terminology


Radio Lingo and Terminology

It is essential that everyone in your organization speaks the same radio lingo to ensure effective communications. Otherwise, you may find responders struggling to understand or failing to correctly answer communications directed to them by dispatchers.

Short-hand radio expressions have been around for decades. Back in 1937, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) developed the so called ‘ten-codes’. Historically used by law enforcement officers in North America, these brevity codes were used to represent commonly used phrases.

Since then, many industries have evolved standardized terms that are used as 2-way radio communication short cuts. The aim of these ‘dispatch signals’ is to boost communication response rates and collaboration between teams – and even different agencies.

But this only works if everyone uses the same agreed terminology. Which means your organization needs to define which terms will be used during message transmissions – or whether you are going to stick to plain English only.

To get you started, here is a list of some commonly used radio communication phrases, traditionally used in public safety and complex security environments, such as industrial settings or sports stadiums.

While some of this terminology has fallen into disuse, you may find that reviving some of these tried and tested phrases helps improve the effectiveness of your team’s communication.

Roger That

Message received and understood – similar to Ten Four or Copy That

Roger so far

Confirm parts of long message before continuing with rest of message


Normally used when a question is asked, and the reply is YES


Normally used when a question is asked and the reply is NO

Come in

Asking another party to acknowledge they can hear you

Go Ahead

I am ready for your message

Say Again

Repeat all your last transmission

Say all after/before

Repeat all after/before a certain key word or phrase

Radio Check

What’s my signal strength? Can you hear me?

Read You Loud and Clear

Your transmission signal is good


I will comply

Stand By

Wait for a short period and I will get back to you

Wait Out

The waiting period is longer than expected – I will call you as soon as possible

I Spell

The next word will be spelt out using the phonetic alphabet


Your message is finished – invitation for others to respond/transmit

Over and Out, or Out

All conversation is finished – no answer is required or expected

Break, Break

Interruption to a transmission to communicate urgently

Emergency Emergency

Distress call – used when there is grave or imminent danger to life – immediate assistance is required

Your organization may also use code words like Code Blue to indicate a non-crucial incident, Code Yellow for an incident requiring immediate response but is not yet dangerous, and Code Red for a serious incident.

If you work in the security sector, then you may employ terms like Cyclone to indicate a violent situation. If you operate in the marine or aviation industries, then you may use specific terms like MayDay to indicate urgent help is needed.

Whatever sector you work in, make sure everyone is familiar with the call signs used in your workplace. Because when everyone uses the same radio communications etiquette, it helps to ensure every message is heard loud and clear.

Please contact us if you have any specific questions about Hytera two-way radios.

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