Basic radio usage rules and behaviour

Once you’ve acquired some GMRS hand-held radios, the youth need to learn proper radio behaviour and protocol.

  • Scrounge together 10-20 GMRS radios
  • Teach the youth how to properly use them
  • Do distance tests with different radio models (typical cheap 500mW unit vs Canada-maximum 2W unit)

Unless required, use of 10-codes and Q-codes use is actively discouraged. If you want to get a message across, you should not count on the person receiving the message knowing the codes.

Emergency Services: 10-Codes

These are codes like “10-4” to confirm receiving a message, and 10-20 for location (“what’s your 20?).

These codes were invented in the early days of police radio, when radios were not as reliable and clear as the ones we have today. When you hit the transmit button and started talking, the first syllable was often garbled or not transmitted at all as the vacuum tubes powered up. So the “Ten” part is throw-away, and the next number is the actual message.

The other problem with 10-codes is the lack of standardisation. They have different meanings from one emergency service to another.

When is it appropriate to use 10-codes? Some Scout groups like Medical Venturers and Police Venturers actively work with emergency services and get to use their radios. If the emergency services organisation uses 10-codes, then your group should learn them as part of your communications training. Because of the lack of standardisation, get that group’s list of approved 10-codes.

But if there is any doubt whatsoever… or if you’re not sure of a code… use plain language. Everyone understands that.

Many emergencies services in North America now discourage the use of 10-codes.

Amateur radio and Morse code: Q-codes.

Q-codes were developed as abbreviations to reduce the amount of keying required for Morse code. They are part of amateur (“ham”) radio training, and to get your ham license, you need to know a few of them. Our ham radio certification on-air protocol lesson and quiz cover the basics you need for the test, and the full list of amateur radio Q-codes is here.

Even for ham operators, Q-codes are actively discouraged for VHF-UHF ham radio repeater usage.

When is it appropriate to use Q-codes? Use and learn them for the HF communication that requires your Basic with Honours or Basic with Morse Code certifications. Learn what you need to know to communicate with traditional ham operators, or if you’re going to learn Morse code.

STEM Stuff:

  • Voltage of the batteries in each unit?
  • How many amps for the power rating?
  • How long would you expect your batteries to last if you know the batteries storage capacity?
  • What frequencies do they use? What is the wavelength range?
  • What’s the deal antenna size?
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