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On the Same Frequency: Rugged Radio’s Guide To Effective Radio Communication In Groups By Dustin Ensign and Steve Gonzalez When riding in a group, radio communication is the not-so-silent hero, ensuring vehicles travel together seamlessly and safely. Use this guide to learn how to effectively use radio communication while in a convoy, from coordinating movements to responding to emergencies. Follow this simple guide to keep your group moving smoothly, safely, and connected on and off the road. Choosing the right radio Make sure everyone in the group has the same TYPE of radio and it’s in proper working order. The most popular being, GMRS or Business Band aka “Race Radios”. Not sure what type of radio you have? Does your radio have channel numbers 1, 2, 3, or named channels like BFGRLY, RUGGED1, YOKO? If it’s the first, you most likely have a GMRS radio. If the latter, you most likely have a Business Band radio. Handheld vs Mobile If traveling in a relatively close group, handhelds work great. As you start to spread out, the need for the additional power and range that mobile radios provide becomes evident. Handheld Radios will have a shorter range, typically 1-2 miles, and require charging overnight or having a USB or 12v charging option while in-vehicle. Mobile Radios have a longer range, 10+ miles is common and they can go much farther with a good line of sight. Since they are tied into your vehicle’s power, they are always ready to go. For in-vehicle use, a properly installed mobile radio is ideal and will give you the best range when both transmitting and receiving. Most likely, your group will have a mix of handhelds and mobile radios. Good radio communication protocols and placing those with mobile radios throughout your convoy will ensure everyone stays in range. We like to have the lead vehicle, someone in the middle, and the sweep vehicle all equipped with mobile radios. How And When To Use Your Radio Having a radio is one thing, but knowing how to use it is another. The good news is, it’s easy! Here’s a few simple communication protocols that will take your radio communications to the next level group: 1) Perform a radio check when everyone is in their vehicle - This is an easy drill that gets everyone using the radio, confirms all are on the correct channel, and allows operators to show some of the basics in radio use. Example: Radio checks should sound something like this Steve: “Steve G, Radio check” Dustin: “Dustin copies Steve G” Steve: “Copy Dustin, you sound good” After this radio check, both users know their radio calls are being heard and they are hearing incoming calls. The rest of the group should repeat the process until all are checked. If there are any issues, this is a good time to call them out and address them. 2) Establish a lead, mid, and sweep operators for the group - The lead operator leads the way and calls out turns, obstacles and directions. The mid operator repeats and relays the lead operator’s call, and the sweep brings up the rear. These folks should be calm and reliable and preferably have their vehicles equipped with mobile radios for maximum range throughout the group. 3) Push the button, wait a second, speak slowly, calmly, and clearly - This one can’t be overstated. Far too often, radio users get so excited about what they start talking before their hand reaches the Push-To-Talk, so the group misses the first part of the call. Slow down, be calm, and clearly speak your message directly into the microphone. Don’t be ‘that guy’ in the group. 4) Identify who you are calling and then who you are - Example: If Steve is calling Dustin. Steve: “Dustin, Steve” Dustin: “Go ahead for Dustin” Steve: “I’m ready for a bathroom break when you are!” Example: If Steve is calling the group, make the call and start giving instructions immediately. Steve: “Group, we’re turning left at the fork by the giant rock. 5) Repeat Calls - The lead in a group typically knows where he’s going, and should be calling out turns. We like to have at least one person mid-group repeating calls. The sweep in the group should be repeating these calls and letting the group know when all vehicles are through a turn or obstacle. Example: Lead: “Group, turning right immediately after the ditch” Mid: “Copy right immediately after the ditch” Sweep: “Copy right immediately after the ditch”…and once the group is through, Sweep calls out, “Sweep through right after ditch.” This gives everyone in the group three opportunities to hear a call and get clarification, just in case they were distracted, blasting music, etc. Before departure, have the lead give an example of what calls should sound like on the radio. Stop Turns Stop Turns is a convoy classic that just works. In addition to using the radio to alert the group to a turn, we highly recommend using Stop Turns as well. When you get to a turn, stop and wait until you see the vehicle behind you. Confirm that vehicle sees the turn and the direction you traveled. Each member of the group should continue doing this until all vehicles are through the turn. YOU are responsible for the vehicle behind you staying on course and making each turn! Two-way radios allow Stop Turns to take place more quickly since confirmations can be made verbally and without hand signals. The hardest part of this is actually doing it. Your delivery doesn’t need to be perfect or rehearsed. The simple fact that you’re talking about it ahead of time will show your group how important it is and prompt them to listen and use the radios as intended. Remember, if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together. SJ

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