CB Radio: The Basics

Citizen’s Band (CB) radio has long been a source of information, enjoyment and connection. The band has expanded and changed over time, originating with 23 channels and growing to 40 in the late 1970’s.[1] Of late, CB has become less and less favored as people move toward alternative technologies including cell phones and other radios.

Public Resource

A CB may be less fashionable than an iPhone; however, it remains a valuable tool for the public. CB or General Radio Service (GRS) is “exempt from licensing. Radio Standards Specification 136 (RSS-136) prescribes the technical requirements applicable to radio apparatus operating in the GRS.” Thus, CB is far more accessible than other frequencies, which are closely regulated by Industry Canada and require licensing. As such, CB is a public communications resource, especially during emergencies. For those who often drive in areas out of cellular coverage, or who may require information regarding changing road conditions- CB’s offer a back up system.[2] Further, in situations of emergency, ‘channel 9’ remains a place where people can communicate dire situations and obtain assistance.[3]

Basic and Valuable Skills

CB radio requires basic radio communications skills that are valuable as general knowledge. Just as it is beneficial to know CPR, or how to fix a flat tire, it is also beneficial to understand the basics of radio communication. Examples include the phonetic alphabet and procedure codes. Most people have vague knowledge of these facets of radio from the movies (10-4 sound familiar?). However, it can  be valuable and interesting to have this information on hand.

The phonetic alphabet is as follows: [4]

A Alfa

B Bravo

C Charlie

D Delta

E Echo

F Foxtrot

G Golf

H Hotel

I India

J Juliett

K Kilo

L Lima

M Mike

N November

O Oscar

P Papa

Q Quebec

R Romeo

S Sierra

T Tango

U Uniform

V Victor

W Whiskey

X X-ray

Y Yankee

Z Zulu

Procedure Codes are as follows:[5]

10-1 Receiving poorly.

10-2 Receiving well.

10-3 Stop transmitting.

10-4 OK, message received (acknowledgment).

10-5 Relay message.

10-6 Busy, please standby (unless urgent).

10-7 Out of service, leaving air.

10-8 In service, subject to call.

10-9 Repeat message.

10-10 Transmission completed, standing by.

10-11 Talking too quickly.

10-12 Visitors (non-CBers) present.

10-13 Advise weather and road conditions.

10-16 Make pick-up at . . .

10-17 Urgent business.

10-18 Anything for us? (Any assignment?)

10-19 Nothing for you, return to base or station.

10-20 My location is . . .

10-21 Call by telephone or get in touch (but not by radio).

10-22 Report in person to . . .

10-23 Standby.

10-24 Completed last assignment.

10-25 Can you contact . . .

10-26 Disregard last message.

10-27 I am moving to channel . . .

10-28 Identify your station.

10-29 Time is up for contact.

10-30 Does not conform to Industry Canada rules.

10-32 I will give you a radio check.

10-33 EMERGENCY at this station.

10-34 Trouble at this station, help needed.

10-35 Confidential information which cannot be discussed on radio.

10-36 Correct time is . . .

10-37 Wrecker needed at . . .

10-38 Ambulance needed at . . .

10-39 Your message delivered.

10-41 Moving to another channel. Please tune to channel . . .

10-42 Traffic accident at . . .

10-43 Traffic tie-up at . . .

10-44 I have a message for you . . .

10-45 All units within range, please report (or identify).

10-46 Assist motorist.

10-50 Break channel.

10-60 What is the next message number?

10-62 Unable to copy, use telephone.

10-63 Network directed to . . .

10-64 Network clear.

10-65 Awaiting next message (or assignment).

10-67 All units comply.

10-70 Fire at . . .

10-71 Proceed with transmission in sequence.

10-73 Speed trap at . . .

10-75 You are causing interference.

10-77 Negative contact.

10-81 Reserve hotel room at . . .

10-82 Reserve room for . . .

10-84 My telephone number is . . .

10-85 My address is . . .

10-89 Radio repairman needed at . . .

10-90 I have TVI (television interference).

10-91 Talk closer to microphone.

10-92 Your transmission is out of adjustment.

10-93 Check my frequency on this channel.

10-94 Please give me a long count.

10-95 Transmit dead carrier for 5 seconds.

10-99 Mission completed, all units secure.

10-100 Time out for rest room.

10-200 Police needed at . . .

Meeting New People

Finally, CB radios offer the possibility of communicating with people who aren’t on your Facebook. Hobbyists have long appreciated the ability to ‘meet’ people in this way. In our world of apps and efficiency it has quickly become forgotten that communications devices are supposed to increase communications, not hamper them.


CB still has a place in this world. It provides safety, requires basic and useful knowledge and generates connections between people.



[1] https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/vwapj/ric18-issue4-oct08.pdf/$FILE/ric18-issue4-oct08.pdf

[2] https://www.cobra.com/news/using-cb-radio-emergency-communication-it-can-still-save-your-life

[3] Ibid, note 1.

[4] Ibid, note 1.

[5] Ibid, note 1.