Quick Tips to Help You Avoid Miscommunications via Ham Radio

When using only verbal communication over a radio line, which may or may not be crystal clear, it’s very important to utilize some standard practices so you avoid any miscommunication. One step to take immediately is to learn the 24-hour military time system. That way, there is no guessing as to whether 8:00 is a.m. or p.m. This could be vitally important when arranging to meet someone or to know how close a family member is to arriving home.

The 24-Hour clock

This is based on 24 hours and is a method of keeping time that runs from midnight to midnight and is divided into 24 one hour periods.

With the 24 hour clock there are no two “four o’clocks” in the military as there is with civilian time. For instance, the civilian 4:00 AM is equal to 0400 military, and 4:00 PM is equal to 1600.  A couple more examples of civilian to military time is if local time is 9:27 AM, the local military time would be 0927, and it would be spoken as “Zero nine twenty seven.” If the local time was 7:36 PM, the local military time would be 1936, and it would be spoken as “Nineteen thirty six.”

The reason for this is that the military can’t take a chance on miscommunication when they are planning operations.  A misunderstanding that results in a 12-hour mistake can get people killed.  Any veteran will tell you that it is easy to learn and is less confusing. In an emergency in which you have to communicate with others either directly or by radio you can’t afford mistakes. Take a few minutes to memorize this chart and then convert your digital clocks to a 24-hour system so you become very familiar with this way of communicating time.

A few more tips

It is helpful also to know how to “voice” these figures over the radio, as doing so in a standardized manner is an aid to clear communications when reception is less than ideal.

When replying to a request for a “radio check”, use plain language:

LOUD AND CLEAR means, Excellent copy with no noise
GOOD READABLE means, Good copy, with slight noise

Voicing 24-Hour Time Examples:

12:45 a.m. zero zero four five hours
12:00 noon one two zero zero hours
11:45 p.m. two three four five hours
12:00 midnight two four zero zero hours
1:30 a.m. zero one three zero hours

Voicing number groups, examples:

10 becomes one zero
75 becomes seven five
100 becomes one zero zero
5800 becomes five eight zero zero
11000 becomes one one thousand
121.5 MHz becomes one two one decimal five Megahertz
$0.75 becomes currency, seven five cents
$17.25 becomes dollars, one seven decimal two five”

If you are in any doubt, always repeat the information.  Also, you may want to take the time to learn the phonetic alphabet.

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