Radio Basics

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Radios are an important tool all Rangers & many volunteers use at Firefly, allowing rapid communication over large distances.


Who to go to get your radio & for radio problems

Echelon at Ranger HQ

  • If you are having problems, you might need a new battery. Come to Ranger HQ.
  • Note: Echelon is not the shift lead. They are just a ranger who gives out radios. If you have ANY issue OTHER than technical problems with your radio, call KHAKI on SAFETY1.
  • Once you get your radio, do a quick Radio-check with Echelon to verify that your radio functions.

How to turn your radio off & on

Use the volume & on/off knob on top of the radio

  • If you are having any problems with your radio, first try turning it off & on again.

How to adjust the volume on your radio

Use the volume & on/off knob on top of the radio

  • If you are using a shoulder mic, be aware that sound will only come in & out of the shoulder mic.

How to Make a Call

  • THINK--LISTEN--PUSH--PAUSE--TALK
    • THINK about what you need
    • LISTEN for other radio traffic
    • PUSH the PTT (Push to Talk) Button on the side of your radio or mic
    • PAUSE for 3 seconds (it takes 3 seconds for the radio to start transmitting)
    • TALK (be brief: no one else can talk when you are transmitting)
      • Hold the radio or mic about 2 inches from your mouth with its antenna pointing UP towards the sky
  • ACTION--BRIEF--CLEAR
    • “I need X at Y for Z”
    • Speak slowly and clearly
    • You can make multiple transmissions -- keep each transmission brief
    • Check for understanding. Respond using language that verifies the ongoing communication.
      • IMPORTANT: Repeat back for clarity (creates a “close loop communication”)
  • Say handle of who you are calling twice, followed by your handle
    • “Khaki, Khaki, this is . . . “
    • Response should be “Go for {Khaki, etc.}”
    • “I Need X at Y for Z, over.”
    • Khaki, etc: “Sending X to Y for Z
    • If you need Khaki to wait for more information, say “Hold”
    • When you are done, say “clear"
  • Speak Professionally & Respect Confidentiality (please do not use names)
  • KEEP THE ANTENNA POINTING UP (not parallel to ground)

How to Make an Emergency Call

  • Use the SAFETY1 channel Channel# 1
  • “BREAK BREAK BREAK”
  • Say WHERE you are, WHAT is the emergency, and WHAT you need ("I need X for Y at Z.")
    • The focus of your radio call should be your location and nature and severity of complaint. This allows First Aid to send the right response at the right priority level.
    • Things you absolutely need to mention:
  1. Severe bleeding
  2. Difficult, uneven, or no breathing
  3. Unconsciousness

If you don’t say any of these things, it will be assumed that the participant is conscious, breathing, and not bleeding heavily.

  • Format: “This is . . . ; I need {First Aid, etc.} at {location}, for {injured participant, is/is not breathing? is/is not conscious?}
  • Example: “Break, Break Break. Khaki, Khaki, this is Ranger Beta. I need First Aid at Diode for participant who is complaining of chest pain. He is semi-conscious and his breathing is labored.”

For more details, see Emergencies.

Understand Basic Radio Lingo

  • BREAK BREAK BREAK Emergency call, keep channel clear
  • Khaki Shift lead on radio
  • Go For/Go Please speak
  • Copy Understand
  • Repeat Last caller, repeat
  • Over Next speaker may begin, channel still in use
  • Clear I’m done with transmissions, channel is clear
  • Hold Please wait for more info
  • Open Mic Someone is holding down the transmit button, stop now
  • Allcom All stations, everybody with a radio

What NOT to Say on the Radio

  • Do not use profanity
  • Do not use participant names (respect confidentiality)
  • Do not say dead or dying (instead say not breathing, not responsive)
  • Do not make references to drugs or name any substances (you can say “disoriented”)

What NOT to do with your radio

  • Do not hold the radio by the antenna
  • Do not wear your radio in the porta-potties
  • Do not hand off your radio to the next person on shift without contacting Echelon
  • Do not change the channel unless you have to

When your Shift is Complete

  • Return your radio to Echelon
  • Tell Echelon if you had any issues with your radio

Everyone has Four Communication Responsibilities

  1. Brief others as needed.
  2. Communicate hazards to others.
  3. Acknowledge messages.
  4. Ask if you don’t know.

Additional Resources

  • FireFly Cores use Baofeng BF-888 radios for communication. More information about the BF-888 can be found here.
Baofeng Radio BF-888