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NTS Letter

The NTS Letter
May 7, 2024


From the Editor

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NTS and ARES: A Symbiotic and Historic Relationship Needed Again

In the early 1950s, ARRL Headquarters staff made an effort to consolidate the Amateur Radio Emergency Corps (AREC, the forerunner of the modern ARES program that exists today) and the new National Traffic System (NTS), which had been conceived in 1949 from the prior trunk lines relay system that had been employed, and which had led to the creation of ARRL in 1914. Under one ARRL-sponsored umbrella to be called the Amateur Radio Public Service Corps (ARPSC), the goals were to have the NTS operate 365 days a year, handling routine radiogram traffic during normal times. The AREC would conduct occasional drills to develop operating acumen and maintain a high state of preparedness. Once a year, a nationwide simulated emergency test was held, in which the AREC nets would become active at local levels to handle simulated emergency messages, and the NTS would provide both local and long-distance record message handling in support. This exercise required close cooperation between these two divisions of ARPSC.

It's time to bring them back together. Let's just say it: NTS traffic handlers were water carriers for emergency communication systems and programs like ARES, and now with ARRL's major effort to renew and reinvigorate the NTS, they are once again emerging in that function. These systems and alliances allow for competent, accurate message handling across the country when needed. Professionalism and quality management are the hallmarks of the new system.

The NTS 2.0 Committee is working hard to raise the standard of operation of NTS traffic handlers, and the system that has enjoyed a long, symbiotic relationship with ARES (formerly AREC). I got my start in organized amateur radio public service in 1977 with the Boston area repeater net -- the Heavy Hitters Traffic Net -- and the Eastern Mass Rhode Island Phone Net. I'm looking forward to reengaging with the NTS; not only for the public service opportunity it offers, but also for the pure fun of it, as enjoyed over 40 years ago! -- Rick Palm, K1CE

NTS 2.0 Upcoming -- Traffic Measurement Tool and Test Traffic

Many know Rick Palm, K1CE, as the editor of the popular ARES Letter. As Rick notes, the NTS 2.0 Committee is working hard to raise the standard of operation of the NTS. If our service is ever to be called upon in an emergency and prove to be of value to the public, I think we can agree there is a need to obtain better coverage, better speed of operation, and better accuracy. To this end the NTS 2.0 committee is planning to introduce test traffic into the system on a somewhat regular basis to obtain actual data that will reveal where problems exist. Identifying a problem is, of course, necessary to finding a solution.

A year and a half ago, approximately 160 radiograms were sent from ARRL Headquarters to all Section Managers, Section Traffic Managers, Directors, Vice Directors, and ARRL officials. These messages contained an HXD handling instruction in which any operator handling one of these messages, whether relaying or delivering, was to send a report to HQ identifying the date and time the message was received and either sent or delivered. The process of sorting all the data received was a daunting task. To simplify this task, we are working on the creation of an online reporting tool that we hope will be taken advantage of by anyone handling test traffic. Our goal is to make this tool as simple and time-saving as possible for the traffic handler, while helping us to improve and raise the standard of our service to levels not only expected by emergency communications agencies, but ones we can all be proud of, and where we can find a sense of purpose along with the fun we have always enjoyed. Stay tuned for more details.

Do Your "PART" in NTS!

Through many years of handling traffic via nets -- both NTS and independent -- and individual skeds, I've found four personal attributes to be hallmarks of good message handling. For ease of recall, I've created a mnemonic, "PART," that I believe captures the essence of those four factors:

· Proficiency

· Accuracy

· Reliability

· Timeliness

Let's take a brief look at what each of these means to me (and I hope to you, as well).

Proficiency. We may feel we can jump right in and do new things perfectly right away, but others might not agree with us. Good message handling is not just mechanical; there is an art to it, as well -- especially when conditions are tough. You may be able to perform the mechanical part of it after reading a set of guidelines just once. But acquiring the proficiency necessary to properly pass traffic under challenging circumstances requires another "P" word: practice. These days there are many vehicles available to newcomers to traffic for acquiring and practicing message-handling techniques; some you can utilize on your own, some are available on the internet (ARRL's own NTS training materials, for instance), and some by actually getting on the air and checking into a Section, Local, or other training net.

Accuracy. Many aspects of amateur radio are rightly seen as a hobby. But other aspects are more than just a hobby -- they're a public service. Third-party message handling falls into that category. When we volunteer to relay or deliver traffic headed for someone other than ourselves, we automatically assume a responsibility for seeing that we "do no harm" to the messages we're handling for others. It is not just important, it's imperative, that what we pass on to the next person -- whether it's another relaying operator or the actual recipient -- is exactly what we received. To be blunt: Don't guess at characters you may have missed because of QRM, a QRN crash, slower code speed, or any other distraction. It's no crime to ask for repeats or to send "PSE QRS" on CW.

If there is an obvious error in either the preamble or the body of the message, attach an "OpNote" at the end of the message, but (except for adding a corrected Check, as in "CK 17/18" on CW) do not alter the message itself. Of course, if you believe something about the message is illegal, against FCC rules, international regulations, or your own moral code, don't relay or deliver the message. Instead, send a "service message" back to the originator, explaining why you did that. But don't alter the message -- either deliberately or through careless operating techniques!

Reliability. If you agree to take traffic headed for other people, you have made a commitment to serve the public by expeditiously passing those so-called "third-party" messages according to established routing guidelines. If you agree to serve as a representative ("rep") between nets, there is an implied commitment -- not just to originator and addressee, but to at least two net managers and two net control stations as well -- to accept whatever traffic is coming your way during that assignment, and to properly move that traffic. If you accept a weekly assignment for NTS, you have a commitment to show up for that sked every week. For those weeks when you can't, it's your obligation to find a qualified alternate and/or notify the net manager in advance.

Note that "reliability" refers to both you and your station. For the latter, I find it helpful to think of the "R" in "reliability" as also standing for "redundancy": Work toward having total redundancy for everything you need when handling traffic. For instance, I have two separate antennas and feed systems for both HF and VHF/UHF. I can use my mobile transceiver in place of my primary rig if the latter fails. I have multiple headphones, cables, keyers, paddles, and microphones, and my laptop can substitute for my desktop computer. I have a backup generator to replace my utility company's power, if necessary. I copy all voice or CW message traffic by hand, and I have more than adequate quantities of paper and pens on hand!

Timeliness. When you take traffic and then fail to pass it on at the earliest opportunity ("My plans changed;" "There was a great show on TV I wanted to see;" etc.), you are harming not just the originators and addressees of the traffic you accepted, you're harming the entire System and the image of amateur radio itself. If you choose not to forward or "service" a message in your possession, you are thumbing your nose at one of the cornerstones of our shared access to highly sought frequency spectrum -- namely, part 97.1(a).

Yes, "stuff happens" -- to all of us at one time or another. And yes, the Radio Amateur's Code ( tells us to strike a balance in our lives. So there are judgment calls involved. But if you find yourself invoking those judgment calls frequently, perhaps you need to examine your motivation for accepting traffic and then rejecting it, or reevaluate your ability to hold that specific assignment.

The Bottom Line: Ultimately, a key component of amateur radio's ability to provide emergency communications in primary or backup roles for government agencies, non-government organizations, or directly to the public depends on our ability to handle third-party communications proficiently, accurately, reliably, and in a timely fashion. So get on and do your PART! -- Bud Hippisley, W2RU

Treasure Hunt Update

Hello, treasure hunters! Twenty stations participated in the March NTS Treasure Hunt. The following stations successfully completed all three rounds:

03/07/24 2355Z KE4RS Stan

03/08/24 1557Z KY2D Jim

03/08/24 1502Z KC3QVF Chris

03/13/24 1447Z W2QMI Susan

03/14/24 2250Z WB8RGE Al

03/16/24 1447Z W2OOD Carl

03/18/24 1431Z KE8HKA Matthew

03/19/24 2023Z N1CVO Shawn

03/22/24 1414Z W4BZM Michael

03/22/24 1440Z AB3WG Chris

03/26/24 1450Z W1OTW Dave

03/31/24 1450Z K9JAJ Jeff

The first-place finisher in this, the May Treasure Hunt, as well as in future Treasure Hunts, will be awarded a specially designed mug courtesy of the NTS 2.0 Planning Committee. The second- and third-place finishers will receive a certificate courtesy of the NTS 2.0 Treasure Hunt committee.

If you missed the official Treasure Hunt announcement in the December 2023 issue of The NTS Letter, here is a recap: This is a fun, on-air, multi-step competition in which you will respond to a "judge" with your answer to an initial clue or question via radiogram. The judge will reply via radiogram with the identity of the next judge, along with the next question or clue in the hunt.

We had quite a few responses to our survey, and we will be trying to address those issues. Thanks for the feedback. One common response was, "I never received a reply." I would suggest you try using the "HXC" handling instruction. This will ask the station delivering your message to send you a message with the date and time they delivered your message to the addressee.

Are you ready? Here's this month's first question: What does QTC mean?

Send your answer via NTS radiogram to Dan Rinaman, AC8NP, Tiffin, OH 44883.

ARRL Field Day and NTS

As we look forward to summer, the thoughts of many amateur radio operators turn toward ARRL Field Day, one of the highlights of the year, which will occur this year on June 22-23. Many clubs have already begun making plans for this big event, and because ARRL awards points for handling NTS messages, this would be a good time for traffic handlers to work with their respective club leadership to promote formal message handling and to help them get those extra points. This could include training club members in the formatting and transmission of NTS messages. Many are not aware of the radiogram format, and generally even those with some knowledge do not know how to get messages into the network. They may need guidance on where and when traffic nets meet and how to introduce a message into a net. This is a great opportunity to show the value of NTS, not only for getting messages from origination to destination, but also the training that it provides. You can check out the new page on the NTS2 website at for some suggestions for Field Day, as well as some videos on basic traffic handling.

If your club invites the public to observe Field Day proceedings, you might make copies of the flyer noted on the above promo page, adding information for your area. You might also direct visitors to the web-based Radiogram Portal where any member of the public can send a message via amateur radio to family and friends. While it may be a novelty now, it could someday help save lives or notify loved ones of one's welfare in times of emergencies. To learn more about the Radiogram Portal, visit

Spotlight: Missouri Section Traffic Manager Bill Schrock, N0ET

In recognition of leaders in the NTS, this month I am highlighting Missouri Section Traffic Manager Bill Schrock, N0ET.

Bill Schrock, N0ET

Not only has Bill served as Missouri STM, but he has also been an active participant and contributor with the NTS 2.0 working groups.

As a young kid, Bill says he used to enjoy taking things apart, much to his siblings' chagrin, as he often failed to put them back together. He got interested in electronics at the age of 11 when his father gave him a book on repairing old tube radios. He went to work in a TV repair shop while a senior in high school. He got his first amateur radio novice license in the early 1970s, but failed to upgrade, and the license expired.

Later, marriage, two kids, and work in the oil fields of Kansas occupied most of his time, until the early 1990s when he got back into amateur radio and obtained a General-class license. At that time, Bill began checking into traffic nets. He became interested in the NTS and later went on to become a Section Traffic Manager.

We appreciate the leadership responsibilities that Bill and others like him have assumed, and the work they have done to promote NTS and keep the traffic flowing. We wish to thank them all for their much-appreciated efforts.

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.

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

ARRL Director of Emergency Management: Josh Johnston, KE5MHV

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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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