International Phonetics

The following are the phonetics which we use in amateur radio. You are likely to hear all kinds of craziness when we are in a hurry. These are the proper phonetics and you should practice them so that when you are hurried you will use the correct ones.

These are the ITU accepted International Phonetics. They are used by all professionals on the radio world round. This includes military, aviation, maritime, and of course amateur radio operators.

It is important to note that making up your own phonetics while seemingly fun defeats the whole purpose of phonetics. Phonetics were created to help understand a letter in weak signal conditions. It is important that they are the same for everyone so that we don’t have to spend more time deciphering what was said. Phonetics were designed to be universally understood. Most are a two syllable word so that if you only catch half you can piece it together.

Phonetics aren’t usually necessary on a repeater as communications are usually quite clear and it wastes air time. If someone is having trouble understanding what you are saying, then would be the time to use phonetics to spell it out.

APCO Phonetics

For those who are new to emergency communications, HAMs are usually the backup in communications to public safety. (When I use the term public safety I am referring to Police, Fire, EMS, Communications/911 and other Emergency Services which are publicly funded). When all else fails, HAM radio steps in. I will have an article soon on that. In Public Safety Communications there is an organization called the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials. This is the association for dispatchers and also who lobbies to set policy for communications in the public safety realm.

Many years ago they developed the phonetics we hear police use today. They are shown below. You will notice that there is one letter that, if you live in the west is different. The Y was decided to be “young”, but for whatever reason in the western states they use “yellow”. This is contrary to the whole idea of phonetics because a person could be confused because yellow is a color which could be used as a descriptor. APCO tries to plan for things like this, which is why they did not use yellow.