Human Factors in Two-Way Radio Communications

Human Factors in Two-Way Radio Communications

The Human factors database of worldly experience has proven to us all time and again, that four factors ensure that even the most skilled professionals are ultimately exposed to making errors and mistakes.

The factors are:

  • inherent limitations of human memory,
  • effects of stress and fatigue,
  • risks associated with distractions and interruptions,
  • limited ability to multitask

One way to limit this occurrence is to adopt effective Two-Way Communication methods that create a well-understood environment, reduce the chances of error and, consequently, support an accomplished Safety Management System (SMS).

When analysing Two-Way Communication in general, the following factors are highlighted namely:

  • The receiver will feedback the information as passed to the sender, which forms what can be defined as a `Closed Feedback Loop`.
  • By making any relevant corrections during this conversational period, the sender and receiver can be said to be working together in order to achieve the same outcome.
  • This `Closed Feedback Loop` ultimately prevents any misunderstanding that could occur by the receiver, should they have erroneously misinterpreted any part of the original message.

When applying these factors in Two Way Communications on frequency, there are several Human Factor considerations that become apparent: (NOTE: the list that follows is non-exhaustive)

  • The overpowering thought that when you speak on frequency, that there may be others listening out that are more proficient than yourself, according to you
  • `Stage Fright` - attempting to speak on frequency, but being overcome by an emotion that exposes doubt, resulting the proverbial `Uhm` as an outcome.
  • An accurate understanding of English which may not necessarily be your first language
  • A good understanding of Radio Terminology, (RT), and how to apply it effectively
  • The possibility of your transmission being corrected by someone else on frequency
  • The concept of being `Live` on frequency as soon as you select the Push To Talk, (PTT) switch
  • The likelihood that others may know you by identifying your name on frequency, which could lead to an expectation according to you
  • The possibility of being challenged on frequency and not knowing how to manage, or respond to the situation
  • Being exposed to an unplanned emergency, that requires your urgent response to others on frequency.
  • The amplification processes that need to be considered when making a transmission on frequency.

When reviewing each of these 10 points that have been highlighted here, it is evident that FEAR is one of the key determining factors in the resultant outcome of Two-Way Communications on frequency. This phenomenon is unfortunately a variable that cannot readily be avoided; however, it can be prevented through pro-active training and guidance by those qualified personnel who, through prior exposure, have learnt the art of managing two-way communications on frequency with a determined, and balanced approach.

In a world where the Push to Talk (PTT) switch appears to be mightier than the sword,  experienced individuals involved in all aspects of personnel training, need to consider not only teaching what needs to be said during two way frequency communications, but they also need to focus on support solutions and mechanisms geared towards overcoming the Human Factor element pertaining to this subject.

For further information on this thought-provoking subject keep a lookout for our related technical book, due to be released soon.

- Dylan Kemlo