Two Way Radio Channels

Two-way Radio Channels - Selecting a clear channel.

Selecting a Clear Channel

All two-way radios come with a monitor function. When activated, this function overrides all programmed code settings and allows the receiver to hear what's happening on any frequency. On a clear frequency, you'll hear a hiss. If a frequency is in use, you'll hear what's being broadcast. It's important to check the frequency and privacy code you intend to use and select clear frequencies to set your channels. You don't want to risk missed messages or radio interference.

How many channels should I get for my two-way radio?

Be sure to think ahead. A critical consideration for an enduring investment in quality two-way radios is anticipating how many people or groups of people will need to communicate now and in the future.

Several popular models only have one or two channels, and that can be plenty for smaller businesses who are likely to only ever assign one or two groups of people to a channel. The average commercial grade radio offers 2-16 channels, which is typically more than enough for most handheld-to-handheld operations. Heavy-duty radios used by fire and police departments, may have up to 256 different channels.

To cut down on confusion in a commercial setting, it's a good idea to divide your employees into groups who use their own channels. For instance in a nursing home, you might make channel 1 an "all call" channel that reaches all groups. You could assign the nursing staff to channel 2. Put the front desk staff on channel 3 and add the maintenance staff on channel 4.

Groups might be set up according to location, department, type of work or anything that drives your operations. You'd set up which groups hear and talk to other groups using your walkie-talkie's scanning feature. In our nursing home, anyone with a radio could use channel 1 to call everyone in an emergency. To cut down on excess chatter, the nursing staff would communicate with only other nurses by using channel 2. That way, other departments don't have to be bothered with calls that don't involve them. Our nursing home managers can set their radios to scan so they're able to hear all communications over all channels using the best two-way radios.

When making your decision on which model to purchase, be sure to look ahead. You'll want to buy radios now that will accommodate your business 3-5 years down the road. Buying now for later means you won't have to repeat the exercise and expense of replacing equipment, because your initial purchase didn't anticipate the correct number of channels you'd need as your business grew. Sure, it's slightly more expensive to buy radios with more channels now, but it will be much less expensive than replacing your radios, if they can't handle your communication requirements in the coming years.


To see how to maximize efficiency using your two-way radio's scanning feature, let's take a look at a hotel with the following channel settings:

    1. All Call - Anyone can speak and hear everyone on all channels.
    2. Manager
    3. Front Desk
    4. Facilities
    5. Housekeeping
    6. Bell Staff
    7. Catering

In this scenario, you'd program all staff radios to scan Channel 1 (All Call) and their own channel. So, Housekeeping radios would scan channel 1 and channel 5. Front Desk radios would scan channel 1 and channel 3 and so on. The Manager might program their radio to scan all channels, so they can oversee general operations.

Each department would leave their walkie-talkies turned to their own channel and communicate amongst themselves by using the push-to-talk button.

If one department wants to talk to another department, they simply turn their radios to that department's channel to communicate with them. For example, when the front desk wants to talk to housekeeping they would temporarily turn their radios to channel 5. Anyone who wants to talk to facilities would turn their radios to channel 4. Anyone who wants to talk to the whole group would turn their radios to channel 1 where everyone would hear their message because all radios have been programmed to scan channel 1 as well as their own channel.

This setup allows everyone in the operation to speak with any group, but eliminates the distraction of unnecessary chatter that would occur if all radios were set to the same channel.