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NTS Letter

The NTS Letter
December 5, 2023


Opt-In Page Confusion

Several individuals have recently reported problems subscribing to The NTS Letter on their ARRL profile page at Specifically, the page displays only those electronic publications and listservs to which the member is currently subscribed. One must click on the "EDIT" button to see the entire list of choices to opt into.

We're happy to report that the language on the profile page has been updated and the instructions are clearer. It now reads, "Please click 'EDIT' to see all email subscription options."

Remember -- to reach this page, click on "Hello <name>" at the very top of the ARRL home page, followed by "Communication | Opt In/Out" in the left-hand column on the resulting page.

NTS 2.0: Update

A new training video has been added to the website under the "Training and Documentation/Special Topics" tab. This video and PowerPoint presentation give instructions on the use of the APRS-NTS Gateway mentioned in last month's newsletter, and is the first of what will become a series of training videos on this site. If any folks out there have experience in creating, editing videos etc. and would like to work with us, we are interested in hearing from you.

Coming Soon -- Web-based Message Origination "Portal" Platform for Public Use

The NTS 2.0 Access & Delivery Methods working group has made good progress on a web-based message origination "portal" platform for public use. A mockup was demonstrated recently to the A&DM group by one of its members. A "soft launch" will consist of publicizing the portal to the amateur community; and later, to the public. Dedicated traffic handler volunteers will be recruited to maintain regular "schedules" to check the platform for outbound traffic.

Note: Messages will never be sent without human intervention. Each message will be inspected by a volunteer traffic handler to ensure that its content is appropriate (e.g., "clean" language, no commercial content) before accepting it for origination. In addition, anti-spamming rules have been incorporated into the portal's design.

We'll have more information on this project in a later NTS Letter.

NTS-ARES Collaboration -- One Section's Recent Experience

NTS and ARES are two organizations of ARRL with similar yet separate missions. The relationship between these two organizations varies greatly from Section to Section. Leadership in the Eastern Massachusetts Section (EMA) has been working over the past year to develop synergies between NTS and ARES to jointly increase the capabilities that they can offer to served agencies. This team includes the EMA SM, SEC, ASEC, STM, ASTM and NTS-ARES Liaison, and others, and meets every 4-6 weeks. One area of focus that the team has identified is the ability of NTS to take some of the load off ARES by handling Health and Welfare traffic in and out of a disaster area. The group is also working on materials for Simulated Emergency Tests (SET) that would provide increased interaction between NTS and ARES.

Eastern Massachusetts held its annual SET on November 11. During this event, several ARES groups across the Section set up, and nets were held on HF and VHF. Stations checked into ARES nets and provided reports on which ATIS (Automatic Terminal Information Service) stations they could hear. NTS also held a VHF net and an HF digital net. Stations participating in the SET were also encouraged to use their own station capabilities to send an NTS radiogram to the Section Traffic Manager via one of the NTS nets, and another radiogram to the Section Manager identifying which activities the station participated in during the event. In addition, the Section Manager sent radiograms having a precedence of TEST PRIORITY to Section leadership and requesting an immediate response describing their SET participation. This past year, as part of the NTS 2.0 project, NTS developed a standardized methodology for sending ICS-213s encapsulated in radiograms for verbatim delivery in ICS-213 format at the remote end. During this SET, ICS-213s were sent via NTS, exercising this methodology to three other Sections.

The volume of traffic passed during the SET introduced some challenges which were identified, leading to several lessons learned, many of which are reflected in current NTS operations. The first was the importance of placing operators in specific individual roles during an event. A net should have a primary net control as well as a backup net control. This allows the primary Net Control Station to tend to other issues as they arise and to have the ability and time to survey the rest of the activities during the SET. Nets should have at least one liaison station, whose responsibility is to take traffic from that net to other nets. Nets should introduce failures into their practice to develop procedures for recovering from those failures and becoming more resilient. This is especially true for technology challenges with the newer digital modes and applications, which are much "younger" than CW and voice nets. -- Eastern Massachusetts Assistant Section Traffic Manager Michael Ford, WZ0C

Training Can Be Fun!

Does your net have a person who occasionally checks in, but is hesitant to take that first message or originate their first radiogram? Perhaps they're still a little unsure how to do it or are afraid to mess up in front of everyone.

Consider emulating what one local traffic net does. The Net Control Station initially asks for stations with traffic to check in, but also for stations who wish to receive a training message. The message is sent from one of the more experienced traffic handlers -- usually the net control. It consists of a simple request like, "Please respond with the date of birth and birthplace of Hiram Percy Maxim," or something similar.

It's a great way to help build a newcomer's confidence without throwing them into "the deep end" with an actual message.

Arr, Matey! Ready for a Treasure Hunt?

Who says handling formal traffic always must be serious business? Our esteemed Chief Executive Officer David Minster, NA2AA, who was once an active traffic handler, recently suggested a fun exercise for the NTS community: "Let's hold a treasure hunt!"

Contestants will respond to clues contained in the initial instructions from an NTS Letter to which they will respond via radiogram to a "judge." The judge will, in turn, respond via radiogram with the next clue to the puzzle.

You will have to be patient (like any good treasure hunter) and follow this path for at least three or four cycles. If at any point your answer is incorrect, you'll be asked to try again. If you are clever, good at following directions, and not afraid to send and receive a few radiograms, then you'll have a good chance at success. We're still working out the details, but a crack team of NTS 2.0 participants recently conducted a small trial run and the results were encouraging.

While we can't promise that the winner will receive a chest full of pieces of eight* or a multi-kilobuck, state-of-the-art HF transceiver, there will be some "trinkets" awarded at the end of the competition.

Plus, all participants will receive honorable mention in The NTS Letter.

An illustration of a treasure chest on a beach.Stay tuned for an upcoming announcement and rules in a future issue.

* Pieces of eight are historical Spanish dollar coins minted in the Americas from the late 15th century through the 19th century. Made of silver, they were in nearly worldwide circulation by the late 19th century and were legal currency in the United States until 1857.

Traffic Trivia

Trivia buffs, join a growing group of traffic handlers who play trivia by finding the trivia question of the week on the website and sending a radiogram with the answer to website owner -- and North Texas Section Traffic Manager -- Aaron Hulett, K8AMH. Follow instructions on the site. It's fun and generates traffic for NTS.

Winter Field Day is Coming

Here's an idea to generate more radiograms to liven up your traffic nets! Winter Field Day (WFD) is coming January 27-28, 2024. While WFD is not an ARRL event, it's a fun winter activity that's growing in popularity every year. Many ARRL affiliated clubs participate in the event. ARRL's summer Field Day event grants bonus points when a station originates, relays, receives, or delivers messages during the Field Day period; however, there's no mention in the Winter Field Day rules about bonus points for handling radiogram traffic.

But why should that stop you from generating messages for the training and fun of it? Encourage your WFD club effort to send formal radiogram traffic to your local Emergency Coordinator, Section Emergency Coordinator, Section Traffic Manager and/or Section Manager, including some details of your winter operation:

  • Club or group name
  • Your location
  • Number of transmitters (WFD category)
  • Number of operators, and/or their call signs

The Winter Field Day rules can be found at

Symbol Rate Change

You no doubt heard that the FCC recently voted to remove the symbol or baud rate restriction on HF bands and replace it with a 2.8 KHz bandwidth limitation for digital communications. Up until now US amateurs have been limited to a somewhat slow 300 baud rate on HF frequencies. With this change, any baud rate will be permitted within the 2.8 KHz bandwidth. The FCC acknowledged "the amateur radio community can play a vital role in emergency response communications but is often unnecessarily hindered by the baud rate limitations in the rules." FCC also stated, "we agree with ARRL that a 2.8 kilohertz bandwidth limitation will allow for additional emissions currently prohibited under the baud rate limitations while providing sufficient protections in the shared RTTY/data sub bands."

What does this mean for NTS and ARES? For one thing, speed. Speed is of course of utmost importance in transmission of disaster and other emergency traffic, whether it is agency traffic that must get to destination within 30 minutes or a very large number of welfare messages. A PACTOR 4 modem moves messages at approximately twice the speed of PACTOR 3, which is currently in use by all DTN hub stations today. While PACTOR 4 modems are somewhat expensive, it is expected that software modems will soon become available to closely match the higher speeds, giving access to more digitally equipped stations. It is also anticipated that with the faster speeds more stations will be able to share a frequency where one can send traffic and exit a frequency very quickly. Remembering that DTN (formerly NTSD) has evolved from its earlier days of AMTOR and PACTOR 1 to PACTOR 3 and now VARA, we can look forward to its further evolution as newer technology is developed. This change from symbol rate to bandwidth restrictions will allow flexibility for the development of new modes.

In addition to no longer requiring prompt action (which the Amateur Radio Service has always received) on the part of officials when approving recent requests by ARRL and others for temporary waiver of the baud rate limitation during and immediately after natural disasters and other emergencies, delays associated with the entire waiver preparation, application, and dissemination process will now be completely eliminated. Digital operators can be already equipped and trained in the use of newer modes when disaster strikes, and time can mean safety of life and property, as well as peace of mind to those whose loved ones are in a disaster area. We can be grateful to ARRL for its persistence and to the FCC for making possible what we think is positive change.

It is important to note that this change is not currently in effect. The FCC states it will take effect 30 days after the new ruling is published in the Federal Register.

Spotlight -- Jerry Burns, Jr., K1GUP, and Maine Seagull Net

Maine NTS Milestones

By Maine Section Manager Phil Duggan, N1EP

The Maine Seagull Net is a 75-meter traffic net that meets 6 days a week, and it has two milestones to celebrate. How many hams have served as net manager for the same net for 50 continuous years?

Maine Seagull Net Manager Jerry Burns, Jr., K1GUP

Maine Seagull Net Manager Jerry Burns, Jr., K1GUP.

Jerry Burns, Jr., K1GUP, of Carmel, Maine, is one of only two hams believed by your editor to have achieved that amazing accomplishment. He has been net manager of the Seagull Net for more than half a century, and has served as Net Control Station even longer! He was first licensed at age 11 in 1958 and started checking into the Seagull Net around 1960.

The second milestone for this NTS-affiliated net is that in just a few weeks it will enter its 85th year! Founded in 1939 by Win Ramsdell, W1FBJ (a former Maine Section Communications Manager), and as a phone (AM) traffic net, the net has served as a major conduit for radiograms coming into, out of, and throughout the state of Maine for all these decades. Now, of course, the net is conducted in single sideband for all but 2 days a year. Several years ago Burns decided, for nostalgic reasons, to run the net in AM on the Thursday before the time changes. The old-timers and newer hams alike seem to really love taking a trip back in time to the pre-SSB days of heterodyning!

Burns discussed the history of the Maine Seagull Net during a Maine Ham Radio Society interview on YouTube a couple of years ago. Check it out at

NTS Resources

The National Traffic System® (NTS) is a network of amateur radio operators who move information during disasters and other emergencies. General messages offering well wishes also move through the NTS to help test the system and to help amateur radio operators build traffic handling skills. While the NTS is primarily set up to serve the United States and Canada, it is possible to move traffic internationally through the NTS through various local, regional, area, and international network connections.

Sign up to Receive The NTS Letter

The NTS Letter is published monthly and is free of charge to ARRL members. Subscribe:

Editor: Marcia Forde, KW1U, Section Traffic Manager -- Eastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and Rhode Island

ARRL Director of Emergency Management: Josh Johnston, KE5MHV

ARRL Emergency Management Planner: Jeremy Dunkley, KC1SIV

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NTS is a program of ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio®. No other organization works harder than ARRL to promote and protect amateur radio! ARRL members enjoy many benefits and services including digital magazines, e-newsletters, online learning (, and technical support. Membership also supports programs for radio clubs, on-air contests, Logbook of The World®, ARRL Field Day, and the all-volunteer ARRL Field Organization.



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