10-4, Little Buddy…or How To Use A Radio In A Nightclub

“Breaker 1-9, there’s a Smokey in a plain white wrapper at your back door, so you better put the hammer down.”

If you just read that sentence and did not understand it, that’s a good thing. Why? Because you should not be using a CB radio for anything work related unless you are a trucker.

However, there is a proper protocol for radio use in the nightclub environment. And it is this protocol, along with good situational awareness, that can help prevent any number of disasters from occurring or safe your butt when you need it most.


Let us first address the issue of communications in general. An open, clear line of communication is essential in any environment where one needs to transmit information over large distances or where an individual is not within the sight line of another individual. This helps to promote safety, decrease liability, and add another layer of situational awareness. Radios allow Staffers and Management to keep tabs on each other, warn one another of potentially dangerous situations, and ask pertinent questions.

Every nightclub should have a set of radios, preferably a radio and headset for each Security Staffer as well as one of the Bar Manager. Depending on the size of your establishment you may want to consider equipping each of your Bars, your Hostesses, your VIP Host, and even your Cocktail Waitresses with their own set up. At the very least, your Doorman and Head of Security should be wired up, as well as a Roamer. It will help keep people in touch and in case of emergency, allow them to transmit valuable information about any incidents taking place.


You want to pick radios that are light, have multiple channels (at least 5), and contain quick-recharging batteries. I will not push a particular brand of radio. As they say, “Different strokes for different folks.” And I won’t get into the relative merits of VHF vs. UHF radios. For that you can look at this link. But I can say through personal experience that Motorola makes a solid line of radios and I haven’t had any issues using them.


Radios should be kept in one safe, secure location. Preferably this is an office with a lockable door. This will prevent unwanted access and make it easy for Staffers to get to their gear should they need a replacement earpiece or radio. I would suggest one or two radios kept as backup as well as several spare (charged!) batteries. It is also a good idea to have a sign out sheet with the gear. One Staffer may be in charge of sign in/sign out as well as making sure that the radios and batteries are plugged in at the end of the night.


To begin with, everyone gets excited when they get a radio and an earpiece. For some reason, Staffers suddenly feel like James Bond or a Secret Service agent when they first put on the gear. And very quickly, they realize that the earpieces get uncomfortable, it is often hard to hear in a crowded, noisy club, and that radios make your pants sag (hint: wear a good belt). Another realization that Staffers come to is that they have no idea how to actually USE a radio correctly.

Some basic rules for radio use:

Consistency is important!  Everyone communicating in the same way reduces mistakes. That means everyone talks using the same codes in the same manner. More on that in a second.

Pay attention. Just because your name or location wasn’t spoken DOES NOT mean that the communication isn’t important to you. The message may indicate special instructions needed in your area.

Avoid stepping on other transmissions. Allow the speaker(s) to finish their transmission before speaking.

Channel Use – Depending on the size of your club, each department/section/job should have their own designated Channel. It could  look something like this:

Channel 1 – Security

Channel 2 – Front of House (Management/Hostess)

Channel 3 – Bar/Waitresses

This cuts down on radio interference and chatter and makes it easy for people to switch back and forth depending on who they need to talk to.

Radio Silence – Good radio etiquette demands that all users limit their communication to essential radio calls only. Unless you have something important to say…don’t talk. That means no idle chit chat. Which means no discussions about the young lady/young man at the back of the line or that evening’s basketball score.

How to Speak – Hold down your PTT button (push to talk) for 1 or 2 seconds before talking. Most radios will cut you off if you begin to speak immediately. When you do speak, you want to keep your messages brief and to the point. For one, it lessens the chances that someone will misunderstand what you are saying. And second, it keeps conversation to the bare minimum.

1) Announce yourself. State your name and then the name of the  person to whom you are directing your call (i.e. “Mike for Jerry.”)

2) Wait for acknowledgement, “Go ahead Mike.”

…and then state your message.

Radio Codes/Slang – There are differing opinions on the use of “coding” in radio transmissions. For example, “Code Red, Front Patio” or “Blue to Section 3”. In stressful situations, it is difficult for individuals to remember a list of codes for different types of emergencies in different locations, unless they have been trained regularly in the use of these codes. That being said, there are some basics that can save you trouble or misunderstanding.

Abort – Stop what you are doing or disregard that last transmission

Affirmative/Negative – Yes or No

Over – I’ve finished talking. “Do you need the chair in VIP? Over.”

Out – I’ve finished talking and don’t expect a reply. “I will take care of that immediately. Out.”

Go Ahead – Send your transmission. “This is Mike, go ahead.”

Say Again – Repeat your message. “Say again Mike.”

Copy/Roger – It helps the transmitter to know that someone actually got their message. Copy/Roger can be used as a confirmation. (“Mike, bring the trashcan to the 2nd floor.” “Copy that.”)

20 – Location. “What’s your 20?”

Words to Avoid – Oops, What, Huh, Yep, Oh God!, Wait a sec…,Yeah, Are you there?, Got it. The main reason to avoid these is that they serve no purpose whatsoever. Again, don’t waste airspace.

In Case of Emergency – Keep the transmissions short and to the point. It is also VERY important to not yell out what the emergency is in order to avoid what could be a possible panic situation (i.e. a fire). If you are dealing with an out of control altercation or are in immediate physical danger, the easiest way to ask for assistance is to announce your location 3 TIMES (“Dance Floor! Dance Floor! Dance Floor!”) This tells everyone where they need to head.

Radios are one of the most useful tools that you have as a Security Staffer. Train your crew how and when to use them and make sure that everyone know the rules of use before they begin wearing a radio. If necessary, correct improper usage (I suggest after a shift) and teach your crew the radio etiquette that will work best for your location.

Until next time…

1 comment

  1. This article is as relevant today as the day it was written. Two Way Radios continue to be the most cost effective way to imrprove the productivity of your nightclub or bar.

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