Edited by Tom Harris, k5wth
Part one, NTS training
The standard ARRL message format is used to send written amateur radio messages throughout the National Traffic System and independent nets. These formats have been standardized to provide a uniform means of originating, handling, and tracking messages.
A message is considered a “formal” radiogram when it is completed with a correctly formatted preamble, address, text and signature. Stations in the system are not obligated to handle incomplete or improperly formatted messages.
This lesson is designed to
present the message format and how to fill out the message form. The ARRL
standard message consists of four main parts:
1. PREAMBLE: Information to track the message;
2. ADDRESS: Name and address of the intended recipient;
3. TEXT: The message information.
4. SIGNATURE: The party for whom the message was originated;
RECORDS: These four parts of the ARRL standard Radiogram are recorded information about how the message was originated, received, sent or delivered. Experienced traffic handlers can write and handle messages on plain paper, five or ten to a page. Get to know the format well enough to be able to do likewise.
All messages must have a preamble. The preamble of the message contains information about the message necessary to keep track of it as it passes through the amateur system.
The parts of the preamble, except for the check as will be noted later, are NOT changed by any station relaying or delivering the message. They are permanent parts of the message created by the station of origin and must remain with the message all the way to the delivery point. Preamble information is also used to service undeliverable messages and to generate replies to specific handling instructions.
The message number is selected by the station originating the message and it must be on all messages. It stays with the message all the way to the point of delivery. The delivering station may need to reply to the station of origin and refer to this number.
Use number digits only, no letters, leading zeros, or dashes. Numbers are usually begun with 1 at the start of a year or month at the pleasure of the originating station.
NOTE: If the message is a SERVICE message, place letters SVC in front of message number as a leading group (infrequently used currently). Precedence is kept the same as in the message being serviced.
PRECEDENCES of the ARRL
EMERGENCY (Always spelled out on form.):
Any message having life and death urgency to any person or group of persons, which is transmitted by Amateur Radio in the absence of regular commercial facilities. This includes official messages of welfare agencies during emergencies requesting supplies, materials or instructions vital to relief of stricken populace in emergency areas. During normal times, it will be very rare. (When in doubt, do not use this precedence.)
Use abbreviation P. This classification is for all important messages having a specific time limit, official messages not covered in the emergency category, press dispatches and emergency related traffic not of the utmost urgency, notice of death or injury in a disaster area and personal or official types of traffic.
This classification, abbreviated as W, refers to either an inquiry as to the health and welfare of an individual in the disaster area or an advisory from the disaster area that indicates all is well. Welfare traffic is handled only after all emergency and priority traffic is cleared. The Red Cross equivalent to an incoming Welfare message is DWI (Disaster Welfare Inquiry).
Most traffic in normal times will bear this designation. In disaster situations, traffic labeled Routine should be handled last, or not at all when circuits are busy with higher precedence traffic.
Note: These precedences are not meant to prohibit handling lower level traffic until all higher levels are passed. Common sense dictates handling higher precedence traffic before lower when possible and/or outlets are available.
SERVICE MESSAGES: The precedence of a SVC message should be the same as that of the message being serviced. SVC ahead of a message number indicates a service message sent between stations relative to message handling, or delivery. Since they affect timely delivery, they are handled before routine messages. SVC is not a precedence.
(Followed by number.) Collect landline delivery authorized by addressee within [....] miles, (If no number, authorization is unlimited.).
(Followed by number.) Cancel message if not delivered within [....] hours of filing time; service originating station.
Report date and time of delivery of the message back to the originating station.
Report to originating station the identity of station from which received, plus date and time. Report identity of station to which relayed, plus date and time, or if delivered, report date and time and method of delivery (by service message).
Delivering station get reply from addressee, originate message back.
(Followed by a number.) Hold delivery until [date].
Delivery by mail or landline toll call not required. If toll call or other expense involved, cancel message and send service message back to originating station.
MORE THAN ONE HX CODE MAY BE USED. If more than one code is used, they may be combined provided no numbers are to be inserted.
The call sign of the amateur station originating (creating) the message for first introduction into the amateur system is the station of origin and must be on all messages. This call sign must stay with the message to the point of delivery. (Service messages go to this station.)
The check is the number of word "groups" in the text of the message and must be used on all messages. The CHECK includes any “periods” (written and spoken as X-Ray). The preamble, address and signature are not included. This number is used by operators to verify that the text has been copied with the correct number of groups. If the message was copied correctly and an error in the text exists, do not replace the old count with the new one. Instead, update the count by adding a ‘slash” followed by the new count.
If a discrepancy is found between the check and the word count of a message by relaying stations, every attempt should be made to verify that the correct text and check has been transmitted and received. This is your responsibility as an operator.
THE TEXT OR CHECK IS NOT ALTERED TO FORCE AGREEMENT!
The PLACE OF ORIGIN is the City and State of the party for whom the message is created, not necessarily the location of the station of origin. For example, if the station of origin is in Little Rock creating a message for a person in Oklahoma City, the PLACE OF ORIGIN would be Oklahoma City in the preamble. The PLACE OF ORIGIN relates to the signature and should make sense to the addressee as the place the signing party is located. It must stay with the message to the point of delivery.
The state is given by the US standard two letter code as in "LITTLE ROCK AR", or "OKLAHOMA CITY OK". Note that no punctuation’s are used.
The originating station should ask the person for whom the message is originated about replies. If it is unlikely that the addressee will know the reply address, include a full address for reply as part of the signature.
The OPTIONAL "TIME FILED" is used only when filing time has some importance relative to the precedence, handling instructions, or meaning in the text. TIME FILED is the time when the message is created by the station of origin. The time figures are in the 24-hour format followed by the letter "Z" to denote UTC time, or local time, as in "0215Z" or "2215EDT". It is acceptable to specify local time as "L", as in 2215L.
UTC (Z) date and time is customary on ARRL messages (an unmarked time is assumed to be UTC). To avoid ambiguity, mark the time with a Z, time zone designator, or L.
The TIME FILED is normally omitted on routine traffic having no special time concerns. If used, the filing time must stay with the message to the point of delivery.
Month must be used on all
messages. (If TIME FILED is used, this date must agree with that time); this
entry is the month in which the message is created and is written in the
preamble as the three letter abbreviation: The month/day is assumed to be UTC
unless marked otherwise by a time. The abbreviations:
JAN, FEB, MAR, APR, MAY, JUN, JUL, AUG, SEP, OCT, NOV, DEC.
The DAY FILED is the day of the month on which the message was originated and must be used on all messages. (If TIME FILED is used, the date and time must agree). The day is written in figures only, no leading zeros. On voice, two digit days are spoken as two separate digits ("one seven" rather than "seventeen", etc.). The month/day is assumed to be UTC unless marked otherwise by a time.
End Part one
Edited from NTS-MPG for net presentations.
Tom Harris, K5WTH
PART TWO, NTS TRAINING
This lesson will present
the basics of transmitting the message on voice, and will include:
(1) Tools used in transmitting the message.
(2) Rules for voicing the different parts of the message.
(3) Voicing the message exchange with examples, fills.
(4) Booking and sending multiple messages.
(5) Station Operations.
On voice we are faced with number different situations. We must say words to induce correct copy, and are forced to deal with language perceptions. The tools and rules that will be presented this evening tend to minimize the variability caused by those situations and will lead to accurate message transmissions. With a little practice these will become second nature to you.
Amateur radio protocols are not so formal that you will be excused from a net if they are not followed to the letter. Use of the following methods as uniform as possible does however help assure both efficient and accurate traffic handling and net operations. If you use these techniques you will be understood anywhere in the NTS.
All operators should memorize the phonetic
alphabet and number pronunciation, and be fluent in spelling groups of words
Pauses are crucially important tools in voicing messages. Pauses exist between words, letters and groups for clarity and separation, at the end of the Preamble, after each line of an address, the mandatory listening pause after the first BREAK, and even after every five lines of Text. Additionally, pauses may be used to listen for interruptions throughout the message transmission to improve efficiency.
A clear group pause will distinguish between words such as "SPRINGDALE" and "SPRING" "DALE" easily. Pauses are essential to allow copying time for the receiving operator also, and longer pause after longer groups, especially after the city in the Preamble or the Address.
The receiving operator hears such pauses as clues to what is coming next in addition to aiding in correct group copying. Use pauses, they're free.
These words are spoken to begin or end the message, indicate information for the receiving operator, or to separate parts of the message or books. They are not written in the message or counted in the check. They are usually spoken in a different tone of voice to distinguish them from written parts of the message. The list follows.
The proword “number” begins message copy. It tells the operator to copy everything after hearing the word “number”.
The proword “end” signals the end of groups to be copied, in other words, the end of the written message.
In other words, written copy is begun with “number” and terminated with “end”.
Used to begin transmission of a book of messages. To begin the book say “BOOK OF (#)” then begin the fixed parts of the message. The corresponding words to end the book are “END BOOK”. The (#) is the quantity of individual messages in the book spoken as words without using the “figures” introducer.
Used to end copy of a book of messages. In other words book copy is begun with “book of (#)” and terminated with “end book”.
The proword “break” marks the start of the text, and “break” at the end of the text marks the start of the signature. The “break” is also used to separate parts of booked messages.
Used to indicate you are going back to spell the group just voiced. It is used with ONE GROUP AT A TIME, and is said IMMEDIATELY after voicing the group, followed by either phonetic or letter spelling of the group.
Say the group(s), then "I
say again", repeat the group(s), and then continue.
Stop, say "I say again", go
back to last group (or proword) sent correctly, and continue, starting with that
correct group or proword.
NO MORE, ONE MORE (1), MORE (2 or more):
Indicates if you have additional traffic to follow or not. These terms follow the “end” or “end book” termination of copy.
Indicates the end of your
transmission and signals the receiving station to go ahead:
The “OVER” may be used between messages or after other transmissions whenever the transmitting station wishes to signal or force the other station to go ahead.
The “OVER” is useful in preventing two stations from transmitting at the same time. It is used effectively when the words of the transmission are not themselves a clear indication for the other station to “go ahead”. “Doubling” by two stations can result in much wasted time and copying errors.
Receiving station acknowledgment of message(s) copied. It is not necessary to repeat message number(s) or other parts. (“MESSAGE(s) RECEIVED”, “BOOK OF (#) RECEIVED”, are in wide use. For the sake of brevity and efficiency ROGER is the preferred method. ROGER, meaning received-understood, implies all messages were received.)
Roger means “received and understood”. It does NOT mean “yes” or “affirmative”.
“Q” SIGNALS ARE NOT
USED OPERATIONALLY ON VOICE!!!!!!
Introductory words are spoken to alert the receiving operator to a special type of group to follow such as initial(s), figure(s), mixed groups, or amateur call signs... not normal spoken words. The sender implies that the group he or she is about to be send is going to be one character at a time, letters phonetically if present.
EMAIL, PACKET, and INTERNET addresses are also sometimes introduced in this manner.
Used to introduce a group of one or more numbers. Say “figure(s)”, and then voice the numbers one digit at a time, group pause, and go on to the next group
Avoid the use of “figures SEVENTEEN” in place of “figures ONE SEVEN”; or “figures FIFTY TWO” for “figures FIFE TWO”, etc.
Used to introduce the telephone numbers in an address or signature when no zip code is present (thus forcing the receiving station to skip the zip to the telephone number line.
Used to introduce a single letter initial,
phonetic pronunciation mandatory, as in the
initial in a proper name, John R Smith: "JOHN initial ROMEO SMITH".
Used to introduce a group of 2 or more letters,
as in an abbreviations and acronym’s. I.e. NTS would be said as NOVEMBER TANGO
Say “initials” then immediately voice the letters phonetically.
Used to introduce an amateur call sign in the Address, Text, or Signature, but not in the Preamble.
The normal voicing of such addresses is to treat all the groups formatted in the address as individual groups using the previously described and phonetics as required.
These addresses may be introduced as “email address”, “packet address” and “internet address” when it is desired to avoid having to introduce every group within the address.
Following are the guidelines for voicing parts of the message during transmission.
“Q” signals are not used operationally on voice.
When voicing a group try to understand the perception of the group by the receiving operator. Although context sometimes helps in group perception, surprises in formatting often make it safer to treat each group individually when making the decision to spell. When there is any chance of misunderstanding or ambiguity you may spell the group. Voice the group, use the operational words “I spell” immediately, and then spell the group with letters or phonetics.
Spell only one group at a time using the operational words “I spell”.
Spell with letters or phonetics based on radio conditions, interference, or type of group. Spell and use phonetics where mandatory. Use only standard phonetics. Over-use of phonetics is controversial, but the objective in traffic handling is absolute accuracy in copy
SPELL THE FOLLOWING TYPE GROUPS (PHONETICS OR LETTERS)
1. City of origin, unless very common and understood.
1. First names, unless unique and understood without ambiguity.
2. Street names, unless very common and understood.
3. City name, unless very common and understood.
1. Unusual words; and plurals as needed to emphasize the “s”.
2. Words with numerous spellings (to, too, two, for, four).
3. Words that seem out of context.
4. Spelled-out numbers.
1. First names and address names in signature, unless unique or very common and understood.
WHEN THERE IS ANY DOUBT ABOUT CORRECT COPY, SPELL IT OUT!
Prowords, Introductory Words, and Operational Words are set aside for special purposes and are recognized by traffic handlers. Any other words used are likely to cause confusion or be written down by the receiving operator.
In other words, the proper use of pauses, prowords, operational words and rules for voicing each individual group of the properly formatted message is sufficient and expected practice for proper perception and copy by the receiving operator. The object is to have the receiving operator copy the message exactly as it is written on the sending copy. Avoid surprises. Treat the unusual with spelling or “I say again” for clarity.
SENDING AT THE PROPER SPEED FOR ACCURATE COPY IS THE HARDEST SKILL TO LEARN IN TRAFFIC HANDLING!
Clear sending, using introductory and operational words and expected transmission protocols properly, and using proper spacing between groups, are crucial for accuracy.
.End Part Two
Edited from NTS-MPG for net presentations.
Tom Harris, K5WTH
SENDING MESSAGES ON VOICE
Part Three- NTS Training
Amateur radio operators handling traffic have an ethical obligation to consider every message a "ball in play" until it is relayed, delivered, or serviced. Each station handling a message represents the entire amateur community. The objective of traffic handlers is to be like a fax machine in the chain of message relaying. Whatever goes in should come out the other end with reliability, accuracy, and promptness. The skills of both the transmitting and receiving stations in exchanging formal written messages involves speech perception and spelling problems unique to voice operating. The skills do require some practice. Unlike casual note taking, copy of the formal radiogram must produce the result of having every group transcribed exactly as it was written on the original message.
Sending messages for
officials during disasters often puts the operator between the public and help.
Getting the job done right is critical to public safety and welfare.
The transmitting operator must send clearly and at a speed which will allow the receiving operator to copy perfectly without rushing. Transmit, do not "read", the message. This is one of the hardest skills in traffic handling to master. Use pauses to frame groups clearly.
Assume the receiving operator is copying with pencil and paper unless advised otherwise.
A useful trick to overcome the natural tendency to speak too rapidly is to say a group or phrase, pause, spell it to yourself as though you were writing it, and continue when you visualize that the receiving operator is also finished.
It always takes less time to send a message correctly the first time than it takes to negotiate repeats and fills of missing or uncertain parts. The importance of clearly spaced group sending can not be overemphasized.
Two stations passing traffic on voice seldom have the luxury of duplex operation like they have on the telephone. They must work together using the skills that come from proper training and experience to know what each other is doing. The art of "transmitting" a message is knowing when you are doing it right, and knowing the other person is following along in step, when you are transmitting in the blind.
The receiving station should only interrupt for fills at those specific “break” points where listening pauses are mandatory unless it is known that the sending station is able to hear between groups, otherwise parts of the message may be missed. The receiving operator must develop certain skills and disciplines to assure accurate copy and efficient operation. These skills are complimentary to those involved in transmitting messages on voice.
The message copied should be an exact replica of the message held by the transmitting station; letter for letter, group for group.
No part of the message may be altered, even when it appears necessary, except for appending corrections to the check value. If part of a message appears to be in error, confirm the part with the sending station. If it is correctly received, leave it alone. You never really know what the message originator had in mind!
Do not assume that you have copied a group correctly. If you miss part of a group avoid guessing about the missing part. Check each group to see that it fits the context and makes sense. If the sending speed is too fast, ask for reduced speed. If interference is present, ask for a shift in frequency if possible. Ask for a repeat or confirmation if you have any doubt. Only you know for sure that you have copied every group with certainty. Do not acknowledge the message until you are certain you have it copied it completely and accurately. Take the time!
If interference or static is present, or you make a copying mistake, mark the groups or parts of words which might be in error (underline). If the sending station is “listening between groups” interrupt with the group or segment. The sender will repeat. Otherwise, mark (underline, circle, etc.) groups you are not sure about as you go along. You can ask for “fills” formally after the “break” at the start of the text or at the end of the message. Read the message to check for questionable context. Ask for “fills” or confirmation until you are certain that you have the entire message correctly copied. Do not be afraid to ask or worry about taking the extra time. The benefit of being able to interrupt the moment you have a receiving doubt is obvious. You get to fix things as you go along, thus saving formal fill requests later, and valuable time.
Acknowledge the message only after this process is completed. Do not worry about taking the extra time. Other operators will respect your care.
Try to accept only those messages you can forward or deliver in a timely fashion. Sometimes you may be asked to do otherwise as a liaison station or for “store and forward”.
If you accept a message, and are unable to pass it on promptly, try to find another station to accept it and keep it moving. There are many ways to move a message along. Phone a fellow amateur to take custody if you can not handle it properly. Mailing, personal delivery, telephoning neighbors of the addressee, etc., are alternative methods to direct telephone delivery. Ask fellow amateurs for help if you have difficulties. Messages should be delivered within 48 hours if possible.
Once you acknowledge a message, it is your message to handle. Do not go back to the station from which you received it and bother him with delivery problems or change your mind about accepting it, however, it is reasonable, in some circumstances, to find the station from which the message was received and confirm the message content, but it is your responsibility, not his, to service the message.
Emergency messages should be handled by the fastest path available, on or off radio. Notices regarding death or serious illness are often better delivered by relief agencies or public safety officials unless you have had the proper training and feel comfortable handling this type of message.
HX codes regarding delivery, progress and replies are part of the job. Failure to honor these requests is as serious as not delivering the message at all. If a reply is requested by HXE from the addressee, and no reply is forthcoming, send a service message back and say so. In these type messages, the "ball is in play" until the originating station receives his expected response. An “ARL SEVEN” reply request in the text is an option for the addressee to approve.
Originating a message for a third party (Someone other than yourself.) without permission is a fraud and forgery. (Strong words!) Generating messages about a third party or their property or status without their permission is also considered very poor practice. Respect privacy.
DO NOT service back changes of addresses, phone numbers, or other personal information about the addressee without their permission. The original message might be intended to pry into the private affairs of the recipient.
It is not proper to comment on the content of a message on the air, (legality excepted), or allow such a judgment to affect how a legal message is handled. The originator and the addressee deal with the content of messages. Any legal message placed in play in the traffic system should get the same good service. Even an apparently pointless message is at least giving the system some practice, and it is improper to assume that the message is pointless to the originator or addressee.
Accept only messages in which content and purpose comply with the FCC regulations in force regarding third party traffic, the prohibition of "business" traffic, encryption, and other rules regarding prohibited communications.
It is difficult to examine a message and conclude with certainty what purpose or meaning is in the content in all cases. If in doubt, it is not mandatory to accept the message---refuse it. If you know by some other means than content that a message is business related, or otherwise illegal, do not handle it. If you wind up with such a message, and do not wish to send it along, send a service message to the originating station. You are the licensee held responsible by the FCC. Handling messages is a voluntary service.
End part Three
Edited from NTS/MPG for net presentations.
Tom Harris, K5WTH
SENDING MESSAGES ON VOICE
Part Four – NTS Training
When sending a book of messages with different addressees to different receiving stations on the same frequency it is customary to check each station is ready to copy before starting, and to say the call sign of the station to copy each variable part just ahead of the proword NUMBER introducing that part. This assures each station knows what to copy. All stations obviously copy the book’s fixed parts. The SENDING station arbitrates relays.
In a stack of numerous stations copying such a book off net, it is efficient to stop at the end of each station’s variable part(s), get fills settled and acknowledgment with that station, and excuse the station from the stack so it may return to the net for other business.
Transmission of books to multiple receiving stations is usually encountered only on Section or Local nets, seldom on Region or higher nets where liaisons are dispatched singly. It requires skill in dispatching, and by the sending station to control the sending process, but it can save considerable net operating time when done properly. It is an optional strategy.
Note that the SENDING station performs like a net control when handling a group of stations receiving parts of a book. If the stations are dispatched from a net the Net Control Station will assign the messages to each receiving station and the sending station copies along, or the sending station is advised by the NCS which stations will handle which messages at the time of the dispatch. The sending station controls the exchange on the assigned frequency or on the net until the assignment is complete.
Stations passing traffic individually and on nets should be familiar with message formatting and sending methods. The customary practices help the stations know what to expect of each other. Once contact is made the same basic sequence of exchanges is used by all stations when passing traffic, regardless of how they got together.
Quantity is usually only given if there is more than one message assigned to the receiving station and the NCS wishes to have the station send fewer than the total to permit other net business to be injected.
Listen to the dispatch carefully in case the NCS specifies a different calling order. The first station call sign in the dispatch initiates the exchange. Other arrangements are made for relays, etc. If the SENDER is asked to initiate the exchange, it asks the RECEIVING station “ready to copy?”, the RECEIVING station answers “ready to copy”.
The art of moving off net frequency and making contact requires a little care and practice. The RECEIVING station is usually addressed first in the dispatch when being sent off frequency from a net. The NCS will say the RECEIVING stations call sign, the SENDING stations call sign, the assigned frequency and the traffic destination (quantity) to be passed.
In some cases the Net Control Station will give the call signs in a different order based on the type of dispatch. Listen to the instructions carefully. Transmitting in the right order will avoid “doubling”. The NCS needs to hear that both the dispatched stations have acknowledged and are going; otherwise a call to verify the dispatch was copied may be made, wasting net time.
When two stations move off the net to exchange traffic certain customs of calling and answering are used. These customs help prevent the confusion of two stations calling each other at the same time, or on two different frequencies, or each station thinking the other is going to do the calling.
At or near the assigned frequency the receiving station calls first, regardless of the dispatch order, so the transmitting station tunes around to find it. If a relay station is dispatched to help with the exchange the relay station picks the frequency and makes the calls for the other stations.
The receiving, or relay, station selects the frequency as close as possible to the assigned frequency. It is also customary that any shifts or searches are also done in the same direction, i.e., if stations move down to the assigned frequency, and find the frequency busy, they would move down another 2.5 KHz or so, or to the next available clear frequency. This is not a hard and fast rule, but moving in the opposite direction should be done in limited fashion since most stations would not be expecting it. Moving too far in the expected direction will also usually result in the other station becoming lost.
If a relay station is dispatched to aid in the exchange the relay station will usually initiate the contact for obvious reasons. The relay station will initiate an exchange with the sending station then pass the message to the receiving station, keeping the original holder on frequency for any confirmations.
The assigned traffic is exchanged promptly.
Stations handle only assigned traffic. If other traffic comes up, or some traffic may not be passed, or is refused, the stations return to net and inform the NCS. The NCS may have made other arrangements for other traffic held or need to make new assignments. Stations pause briefly to listen for calls from others when their business is concluded, then return to net promptly. Chatting with stations is considered poor practice and may keep others waiting.
The order of transmitting when returning to a net is not important except that stations should not interrupt ongoing transactions. Receiving-station-first may be exercised when returning if both stations know they are returning together.
It is not necessary for the returning station to indicate the assigned traffic was passed. The NCS assumes it cleared the dispatched traffic. A station would report “no joy” if that was not the case. It is not necessary for a returning station to remind the NCS of its remaining pending business.
A station may be dispatched off net to pass traffic to a particular station already participating in an exchange at a stack (frequency off net). In some cases there may also be another station waiting in line. The NCS will assign the order of business at the stack. Each subsequent station assigned to the stack will be instructed to exchange traffic with one station there following another particular station already there.
The station moves to the stack frequency, waits for its turn, and then promptly calls its station immediately following the departure of the station it is to follow. Calls should be made promptly so the assigned station does not escape back to the net. The miss will require another dispatching round and wasted net time.
End Part four
Edited from NTS/MPG for net presentation.
Tom Harris, K5WTH
Part Five – NTS Training
Earlier lessons have dealt with the skills required to format and to pass traffic from one station to another. In order to provide a discipline to facilitate passing traffic among larger numbers of stations an additional layer of skills and organization is required. This additional layer is referred to as the network, or “net” for short.
The ARRL National Traffic System is composed of nets operating at different levels as a function of area covered. They are linked for traffic flowing in both directions by assigned liaison stations, and scheduled to operate sequentially to permit traffic to flow throughout the country. A complete “cycle” of NTS nets consists of the sequence of Local/Section nets, Region nets, Area net, Region nets, and Section/Local nets. Notice that the Local/Section nets and Region nets meet twice during the cycle, the early sessions for outbound traffic, the later for inbound traffic.
REGION NETS: 12 Regions; each provide the SENDING and RECEIVING reps for the Area Nets mentioned above, and have liaisons from each Section Net within their region.
SECTION NETS: Each NTS affiliated Section net, or combined Section’s net, provides liaisons to the early and late sessions of their respective Region Net.
LOCAL NETS: Within Sections; sometimes meeting only once daily, generally have liaisons from and to their respective Section Nets. Such nets generally cover smaller areas such as those covered by local VHF/UHF repeaters.
The above nets operate on a variety of bands and modes although most HF operation is on 80 or 40 meters. The NTSD, the digital branch of the NTS, operates in parallel with the voice and CW nets providing manned and monitored digital message forwarding between Regions and/or Areas using HF Amtor/Pactor or other modes.
During disasters special public welfare nets may be set up to facilitate the movement or archiving of large amounts of public traffic related to the emergency. These nets work closely with the regular NTS nets (and may be one and the same), and operate using the protocols presented in this manual. Traffic is usually, but not always, in formal ARRL format.
During disasters local ARES/RACES groups will run nets to facilitate the movement of traffic for served agencies and for handling public welfare traffic. These nets are managed by Section and Local ARES/RACES officials and operate using the protocols presented in this manual. They may use special message forms and numerous ad hoc structures to meet the local needs. Public welfare traffic is handled in formal ARRL format. The regular NTS activates special support for such nets as required. Traffic may be written formal traffic or tactical communications as required by the situation and served agency needs.
DISASTER, SPECIFIC SERVED AGENCIES: ARES/RACES may, from time to time, set up nets devoted to serving one or a small number of specific served agencies in order to accommodate the needs of those agencies. Liaison with other ARES/RACES or NTS nets is arranged by the local ARES Emergency Coordinators or RACES Officers. These nets also use these net protocols.
In addition, local ARES/RACES or other amateur groups may evoke special nets for other special purposes such as those listed below. Generally they all use the standard net protocols, making only minor changes to suit the special purposes. These may use formal written traffic as well as tactical traffic as needed.
PUBLIC SERVICE EVENT NETS, special nets, usually local in scope, to facilitate the safe operation of events such as parades, walkathons, bike rides, etc. These nets may use mostly tactical traffic, but in certain emergency situations generate formal written traffic to preserve a record of unusual events and better serve the organizing officials.
The purpose of a traffic net is to provide a controlled meeting of stations having business to conduct. The net is directed by a net control station which controls everything that goes on during the net meeting.
A net format, or schedule of operation, is established for the net to insure the orderly flow of intended business, and to help stations participating on a regular basis to know the order of business to be expected. The net format is established by the net manager and sets the business sequence. If the net control does his or her job properly, all stations having traffic to pass will get their chance in an orderly fashion.
By setting and keeping regular meeting times, the net becomes a known quantity. Stations with traffic can count on there being a regular means at a regular time for passing their traffic. The net's connections with other nets are established and maintained so that stations will know that traffic can be relayed to its destination. The ARRL National Traffic System (NTS) is so organized and operates daily to maintain scheduled traffic pathways nation-wide.
The key to successful net operation is order and discipline. The net control bears a large responsibility in this regard, but the individual station checking into the net must know the correct operating methods in order for the net control to maintain smooth operation. An operator not familiar with normal net operation methods can disrupt the flow. The role of the net control station is obviously very important, but, as in the case of the orchestra leader and players, the individual operator is just as much a part of the team.
Participating in a well run traffic net and having all your business handled efficiently is a rewarding experience, and a lot of fun. When the NCS and participating stations know the words used, and how to respond, the net goes smoothly.
Net Managers are appointed in the NTS for Local and Section Nets, reporting to the Section Traffic Manager; and for Region and Area Nets, reporting to the Area staffs.
The Net Manager designs the format for the net, establishes the schedule of operations, days and times, makes sure the format is consistent with the NTS structure and guidelines; maintains manning assignments, establishes liaison assignments and agreements, and supports day to day operations. The NM assures that the net meets standards set by the NTS and its Terms of Reference, particularly with respect to schedules and liaison assignments with other NTS nets for which the net is responsible, as well as standard operating practices operators expect to find.
The NM is responsible for training net members in traffic handling, net operations, and liaison.
The NM is responsible for maintaining an operational plan for regular operations and for emergency operations. The NM cooperates with the Section Traffic Manager, for Local and Section Nets, in establishing emergency plans with the Section Emergency Coordinator for the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), and for RACES cooperation.
The NM is also responsible for collecting the daily net operation statistics and reporting summary data monthly to the STM for Local and Section Nets NTS. The NM of Region and Area Nets is responsible for net operations, reporting the net operation statistics monthly to the appropriate Area staff, and for seeking, training, and promoting operators for higher level nets and/or the TCC , per the requirements of the Area staff.
.NET CONTROL STATION (NCS)
The net control station calls the net at the scheduled time and frequency, checks in all stations, lists all traffic and other business for the net, assigns stations to receive traffic, instructs stations when and where to pass traffic, controls all transmissions on net frequency, maintains a list of all participating stations and their whereabouts, and checks stations out of the net.
Responsibilities of the NCS include knowing the proper routing for traffic, the areas served by the net, required and possible alternative liaisons, emergency plans for the net, directing how to make best use of station capabilities, frequencies and modes, asking questions of net stations when information is needed, and the ability to anticipate the needs and frustrations of stations waiting to check into the net or conduct business.
The net control station reports on each net session to the Net Manager including information on which stations were present, liaison stations, traffic handled, session time, newcomers, and other information required by the Net Manager. Net reports are filed within a few days in order to keep current the information on net operations.
It is crucial that the NCS keep a record of all listed business and stations in the net, and be able to update the record as traffic is dispatched, stations leave and return to the net, and business is cleared and stations are excused. This can be a daunting task on large traffic nets.
Unscheduled liaisons from higher nets should be handled by the NCS with priority. Traffic from these stations should be dispatched promptly for delivery or holding for later outlets.
The Alternate Net Control backs up the NCS in case the NCS is not able to make the session, or leaves the net for any reason.
The Alternate Net Control function is optional, is used primarily on large Local or Section Nets, and is called for each session at the discretion of the NM. This station should monitor the net operation, record all the same information that the net control does, and be prepared to step in immediately and assume the net control duties should it become necessary for any reason.
LIAISON STATIONS, DUTIES:
Liaison stations are assigned to carry messages between nets. In the NTS, each Region and lower net Net Manager is responsible for assigning liaison stations going to and from higher level nets, and for stations going to and from other NTS cycles of operation at Section level. Liaison stations always check into nets giving their liaison assignment so that the net control will know that all representation is present and accounted for.
The NCS should always assure that all liaison assignments are filled, even if volunteers must be solicited, or the NCS performs the task(s). An NTS net frequently feeds another net or function. Even if all traffic to that destination has not been cleared, the rep needs to be excused on time. Additional stations can be sent, of course, or traffic can be held until the next cycle.
Stations do not have to wait for the Net Manager to solicit them to perform the various jobs on the net.
When a station has learned the basic traffic handling and net skills, and becomes familiar with the specific assignments, it may express the interest in accepting a job, or volunteer to fill a vacancy, temporary or permanent, as the situations present themselves. Many amateurs have been baptized by fire by volunteering for liaison or NCS duties when a station was not present on the net, and afterwards have become regulars at the task. Other experienced stations on the net are always willing to answer questions or train newcomers in the various jobs. All stations are welcome and encouraged to learn and move up in the system.
The format of the net, that is the opening and closing statements, liaison list, sequence of calling liaisons, etc., is a matter determined by the Net Manager and documented for the NCS stations..
Consult with the NM regarding the net format. You should also find that the format is followed closely day to day and the basics can readily be learned by listening to the net. Although formats vary across the country and with the level of the nets, the basic syntax for commands and requests is uniform throughout the system.
Generally, liaisons are called after the net preamble, traffic dispatching is begun, and other stations, with or without traffic, are then checked in. Stations are often excused as soon as there is no more business for them, except for liaisons on lower nets which may be held to accommodate late checking stations, but only until it is time for them to leave for their assigned destination nets.
The backbone of Section and Local traffic nets is made up of the regular stations checking in to bring traffic to the net, or to receive traffic for delivery in the local area. On Area and Region Nets the assigned liaisons are the conduits for the traffic. Once accounted for, all the net business can be conducted.
On the other hand, on Local and Section nets, traffic is received for delivery throughout the net coverage area. It is essential that there be stations present capable of delivering all such traffic for the system to work. This means stations throughout the coverage area should check into these nets even if they have no traffic of their own. Having outlets is the key to success.
Traffic for the public or served agencies is inserted into the system by stations checking into Local and Section level nets with originated traffic.
Daily NTS traffic can not be delivered unless stations check into their Local or Section level nets at the other end of the cycle to receive and deliver it, or pass it to other Local nets. Participate by checking into your Local or Section NTS nets often---daily if possible. Learn the other net jobs as you participate.
New amateurs will find it quite amazing that they can check into your local net, pass a radiogram to a local station, and find out that the message may be delivered anywhere in the country that night or the next day by this magical system of liaisons and nets.
If you have never delivered a radiogram to someone, and hear one listed on a net that you might be able to handle, ask an experienced operator to walk you through the process after the net. Delivering radiograms to the public is a richly rewarding experience, it’s easy and fun; a great chance to have a conversation about Amateur Radio, offer to originate a reply message, and perhaps encourage someone to get into the service.
End part FIVE
Edited from NTS/MPG for net presentations.
Tom Harris, K5WTH
NTS NET CONTROLLER DUTIES
Part Six NTS Training
The NCS makes the net “happen”, directing all activities and managing the sequence of traffic dispatching to achieve an efficient and orderly net to accomplish the mission. The NCS is a manager, supervisor, tutor and mentor, and facilitator. The NCS becomes the individual the net stations expect to take care of the business of controlling what they do.
The net control will arbitrate the net's adaptation to unusual circumstances which might arise due to missing personnel or outlets, liaison needs, and the need to use other bands and/or modes. The NCS will also oversee emergencies of any sort, implementing the emergency plans of the NTS, and decide questions of routing, maintaining order and discipline, setting the example for the highest standards of operating practice, provide on the job training for stations, and the use of station’s capabilities to the fullest extent possible.
On traffic nets, the NCS is responsible for getting all net traffic cleared in the allotted time while maximizing efficiency to the greatest extent by moving the greatest amount of traffic possible per unit of time, and assuring that all liaisons to subsequent NTS nets are assigned and released to check into their destination nets on time.
Inexperienced net operators can dramatically slow down or confuse the net operation. We all, however, were beginners at some point. Hopefully new stations will always be welcomed warmly and have operations explained to them as needed. They should leave the net with a feeling of accomplishment and contribution, treated with respect and courtesy.
Newcomers can be helped along, and others can be taught new techniques as needed, preferably off net. The NCS is perhaps in the best position to provide feedback to the Net Manager concerning the need for training and tutoring. Such observations should be passed along, and the situation of a struggling net should be dealt with. Corrective action at this level is key to the success of the NTS in maintaining an efficient system to serve the public.
The Alternate Net Control backs up the NCS in case the NCS is not able to make the session or leaves the net for any reason.
Newcomers will very much appreciate a warm greeting, request for name and location, thanks for checking in when recognized and when excused, and perhaps even a few brief words on what is happening. This may be done after other pressing business is dispatched, often as the prelude to excusing that station. Mentors will often arrange with the NCS to have words with the newcomer off net or after the net is closed.
Keep the net roster close at hand. Stations always appreciate being addressed by name. The newcomer on Tuesday will be surprised to hear you use the correct name on Thursday when you are NCS. If the Net Manager does not maintain a specific roster, each NCS should. Newcomers may be listed as such in net reports so they might be put on the roster distributed by the NM.
Every effort should be made to clear a Transcontinental Corps station’s traffic, even if it is stored for later. Unlike other stations which are committed for the duration of the net, unscheduled arriving TCC stations may have to check into numerous nets, perhaps running concurrently. Getting their business handled promptly should be a high priority. Check them in, assign an outlet, and dispatch their traffic immediately if possible. Unscheduled reps from higher nets should be treated in like fashion.
Fill empty jobs. Others will watch to see that such matters are taken care of. If you, the NCS, plan to cover for missing stations, so state.
Attempt to route traffic for which no assignment has been made. Ask advice, or have a station take the traffic to another net or take it to store and forward on a later net or session.
Nothing pushes stations to become frustrated, or attempt to break the net, more than long periods of time without an opportunity to check in or return to net. A station failing to make contact after being dispatched off frequency need to get back and get their problem solved or their time is being wasted. On Area and Region Nets, where most all of the stations are liaisons, there is a deeper level of patience among the stations waiting to check in. They know the NCS knows all of the stations expected to be present.
Experienced traffic handlers expect the NCS to adhere to the usual net format, use customary operating syntax, and to understand their needs while making the experience of net operating pleasurable and rewarding. The NCS job is a leadership role, and experienced traffic handlers will readily respond to good leadership and operate as a supportive team to accomplish the mission. Remember that the NCS is there at the pleasure of the stations to help them get their job done. Customary practices help the net to flow smoothly. Properly done, this will make the NCS virtually “invisible” to stations that come to the net to get their traffic cleared in a prompt fashion.
. MAINTAIN CONTROL OF THE NET:
Always try to use consistent and customary methods for all calls, acknowledging, dispatching, and excusing. The NCS asks questions in a different way than issuing commands. Deal with stations according to the type request or command issued. Stations will get the message that they are expected to operate with standard practices. In other words, there should be no question left in the minds of the operators about what the NCS expects them to do, or which station is expected to transmit.
Maintaining the appearance of calm control is very helpful to the net. It is contagious, and makes everyone feel comfortable. You may panic freely between transmissions, then take a deep breath and make a calm call or send a snappy command sequence. Everyone will marvel at what a crisp net you are running.
Stations are generally happy to answer questions, and will respect your desire to get information required for making good NCS decisions. Ask and ye shall receive, most of the time.
Ignore calls from those who interrupt transactions or violate SPECIFIC CALLS. Make note of the station, complete the business in progress, and then call that station to service its request. If you make a specific net call expecting multiple responders, and the station does not leave a pause for legitimate replies, acknowledge it and repeat the net call. The station should get the message, hopefully.
If a station persists in interrupting, service it, even if out of order, and put the matter to rest. A brief explanation at excusing time or after the net can turn a confrontation into a friendly bit of help gratefully received. The offender and other net stations will not appreciate a contest of wills on the net.
QNM (You are QRMing the net, Stand by.) can ultimately be drawn from your holster in difficult cases, however your best weapon is usually courtesy and efficiency. Everybody respects the NCS running a net in that fashion. It, in and of itself, discourages confrontations and rudeness. As a last resort, any station may be excused from the net at any time. Technically, if you excuse an offending station from the net, and it persists in interrupting, it may be guilty of intentional interference. Most stations will get the message if excused and not cross that line.
Try to keep the matter from getting to this level. Throughout the years discipline on NTS nets has been taught by politely ignoring the undesired behavior and acknowledging the correct procedure.
As NCS you are the only station in the net directly communicating with each station with solicitations and commands and are, therefore, both the example and the tutor. The overwhelming majority of amateurs are eager to learn to do these things well. They learn from you, both technique and demeanor. The more they learn, the more fun they have... and the greater the feeling of accomplishment.
High level NTS nets usually begin dispatching as soon as the first traffic is listed. This is customary since the inbound and outbound liaisons are usually separate and known in advance.
On Local/Section Nets the NCS may need to ask for outlets or information to find paths. The NCS may sometimes ask for liaisons to check in first and list traffic in order to get a clear picture of the outlets needed and the loading volume. Outlets may then be assigned wisely and traffic dispatched in an efficient order thereafter
On Local/Section Nets the inbound traffic may be for any part of the covered area, and outlets for each area may or may not be present on a given session. At this level the delivery of traffic is often determined by the toll free calling range of individual stations. These nets often find it helpful to have traffic listed with additional information to help in this regard such as phone prefixes and zip codes or county are helpful.
Traffic is handled in order of precedence as much as possible with the means at hand to do so. Emergency traffic is handled immediately, and it is important to use any means available to get Emergency traffic delivered promptly, including telephone, public safety services, etc. Death and serious injury or illness messages are often best delivered by public safety or private relief agencies such as the American Red Cross.
It is equally important for the NCS to consider the overall net workload, time available, and situation. Nets operating during disasters may dispense with handling Routine traffic, and perhaps even Welfare traffic, for extended periods until the higher priority traffic is cleared. Multiple nets may be needed.
Should new or net stations declare an Emergency, they will check in with the word EMERGENCY, or use the international call MAYDAY. The NCS should stop all net activity and process the declaration by whatever means are possible to get the situation resolved. The response should use the fastest communications means possible and not be limited to amateur radio circuits.
The NCS may have to employ ingenious methods to expedite resolution. Net stations may be assigned to directly assisting the caller and handling the case on another frequency, for example. Calls to public safety or private relief organizations should be made promptly when necessary. Net stations should stand by to assist as information develops. Regular traffic handling may be suspended, or continued if the emergency is handled off frequency. Liaisons to other nets should still be excused for their assigned nets, or substitutes assigned.
The Net Manager should be contacted to assist when local disaster issues are involved and the net’s emergency response plan must be evoked. Section officials should be notified if the emergency is likely to trigger a disaster response locally. The NCS should extend net operations as warranted or ordered.
During disasters large volumes of welfare traffic may be encountered along with inquiries from large numbers of stations checking into the net from outside the affected area. The Net Manager should have a policy for dealing with this situation. The NCS must adjust how traffic is handled, and there are several points of interest.
In addition, at Section level, the Section’s emergency plans should include NTS support, and net controls should be familiar with how the Section’s activities are organized, and what changes might be needed on their nets. Extra liaisons with other Section nets are likely, and routing of traffic to and from served agencies must be clearly established.
Served agency traffic is essential to recovery in disaster areas and, if not sent with Emergency or Priority precedence, should still be given the highest level of attention.
The NCS, on its own, may have to organize the opening of multiple nets for handling these situations. The Net Manager should be notified to organize the required shifts of operators, and to pass the word to the Section management.
End Part SIX
Tom Harris, K5WTH
Part Seven NTS Training
This evening’s lesson will cover guidelines for interfacing with the people we serve when delivering messages, sending service messages, soliciting replies, originating message traffic and some tips on disaster and public service communications operations.
Delivering messages to members of the public is a very important part of the message handler's responsibility. It is customary to route messages to an amateur station within toll free calling distance of the addressee and the receiving station typically calls the addressee by telephone and delivers the message.
If the addressee can not be reached in a timely fashion, or at all, it is the obligation of the receiving station to “service the message” back to the originator by radio message. An optional alternative is to mail the message to the addressee if telephone attempts are unsuccessful, informing the originator by service message. If the mailed message is returned by the post office, servicing the message again is customary.
Messages sometimes may be partially garbled in transmission, although we make every effort to prevent this. Messages may also be prepared with incorrect or incomplete information.
A message should be delivered only when the handling amateur is confident that he has received it correctly and is ready to make a proper presentation.
Let’s look at the following points we should consider in delivery preparation and style:
A complete and accurate address section of a message is the key to successful delivery. As mentioned in a earlier session, having the addressee's name as it might be found in the telephone directory along with an accurate street address, etc., will allow the delivering station to recover from most garbling or origination errors.
A few useful tips to follow for recovering from an incorrect telephone number (or none at all), or a bad address are:
1. Checking the directory under the addressee’s name even if a number is given will catch changed or incorrect numbers. The originator may have had an old or incorrect number.
2. Scan the telephone directory for names, addresses, or telephone numbers that have a significant match to parts of the message address. For unusual names this is a short task, not so for the Smith listings.
3. Contact the information operator for persons not found in the directory. New listings are constantly being assigned by the telephone company for people who move, etc.
4. If a telephone number is not listed (for privacy), the telephone information operator will usually say so. Messages in this case may be serviced back as “unlisted” or mailed at the discretion of the receiving station. Today many residential phones will not accept blocked numbers, or private numbers, from the calling end. Remove your blocking for the call.
5. Some areas have available a document known as a "Criss-Cross", often available for review at the library (or by telephone), or on the internet, which can be of great help in solving the tough ones. The document consists of listings by street address, by telephone number, and name. A little detective work with a map to check for proper street name and hundred block in a zip area can lead to finding the number by looking up the address. Police departments often have copies of the "Criss-Cross" at the local stations. A personal visit to the police station during slack hours is better than trying to ask for such information over the telephone. Police officers may not have the time to look things up for you.
6. Messages may always be hand delivered if the receiving station is willing. Take a written copy along to deliver.
7. Messages may be relayed to other amateurs who can make the telephone contact. Amateurs may sometimes be located through friends in clubs, etc., when they have unlisted numbers.
8. Check if the address or telephone number does not seem to match anything in your area. There is a Baltimore in MD and one in Ohio (discovered after hours of futile searching).
9. Repeat calls at different times to allow for the schedules of shift workers. Service after 48 hours, but persist in calling for addressees which might be away on vacation.
10. Important messages sometimes may be delivered by using the information from the "Criss-Cross", or other sources, to contact a neighbor of the addressee to either deliver the message or to help you get in touch with the addressee.
11. In emergencies, the telephone company, police department, and the American Red Cross, are well prepared to handle delivery of death or serious injury/illness messages. They are trained in dealing with the impact. Always consider the possible reaction.
Messages are important to both the addressees and the originators, and, because our free public service is a novelty to many, we have an opportunity to serve the public and make a good impression on the people we encounter. Much of what people know about Amateur Radio will be learned from the experience of receiving a message, and how well (or poorly) the delivering amateur presented themselves.
In today’s telemarketing world, the first consideration in delivery style is to make immediately clear that your call is not a sales pitch or solicitation. Ascertain if you have reached the correct residence or location then explain who you are and why you are calling.
Use care to explain that you have a greetings message so that the party on the phone does not jump to the conclusion that you are bearing bad news. People naturally think a "radiogram" is used only for the worst kind of news.
If the message is bad news, extra effort has to be made to soften the blow. Explain that the message might not be good news and you wish to help them understand the content clearly. This is a difficult and delicate matter requiring serious tone, calm voice, and sympathetic attention to the reactions of the party on the line. Messages concerning death or serious illness might be better handled if you contact the local American Red Cross or police for assistance.
MESSAGE DELIVERY EXAMPLE:
A good way to deliver a routine message might be as follows:
Read the message text slowly and clearly, using plain language (translating ARL messages with blanks filled properly), and saying "period" for X-RAY as needed, etc., then say:
"... and the message is signed by (signature) from (place of origin) at (time filed, if present) on (date).”
Reading the message preamble, prowords, or full addressee information, is not done unless there is some information contained therein which might need to be discussed to verify the correct delivery.
Ask if they would like you to repeat the message again to permit them to write it down, or simply to hear it again. Repeat the message, if required.
Offer to send a message back or perhaps a message to another party of the addressee's choice. A reply may have been requested in the text by ARL SEVEN or in the preamble by HXE.
Recipients may or may not ask about how the message system works. This is your chance to talk about Amateur Radio.
Leaving messages on answering machines is a controversial subject for a number of reasons. Often such machines do not give sufficient information to be sure you have reached the right addressee, and certainly not the individual addressee within a household. There is no assurance that the message will be saved and recovered properly or privately. There may be risk in leaving your contact information on a stranger’s answering machine.
Generally the delivery of the radiogram is not considered completed until the delivering station has contacted the addressee directly.
An amateur has an ethical obligation to keep a message "in play" until delivered, and to honor requests for service information specified in the handling instructions. The amateur has only three choices for the disposition of message traffic: (1) RELAY it, (2) DELIVER it, or (3) SERVICE it back to the originator. It is understood that a receiving station shall send back a service message for an undeliverable message even without any HX code or other instruction to do so.
If a station is unable to deliver a message after trying all the strategies it has available, it must originate a "SERVICE MESSAGE" back to the station of origin including as much information as possible to explain the problem. Do not report to, or send a service message to, the station that relayed the message to you. Deal only with the originator; you have the ball once you accept the message.
When a service message is required look up the full address of the originating station in the call book or QRZ, including telephone number if possible, to use in the address block of the service message. Use the ARL SIXTY SEVEN numbered radiogram and indicate in the text of the service message the original message number and addressee last name, and then add the explanation. The ARL SIXTY SEVEN message has two blanks and reads: “Your message number ____ undeliverable because of ____. Please advise.” Adding the last name after the message number backs up the number in case it is garbled in transmission. Note that “number” is included.
Service messages are given special handling since they affect timely delivery of messages. The service message designator “SVC” is placed ahead of the message number, and the precedence of the service message is the same as the message being serviced
Service messages from your station use your message number, the precedence of the message being serviced, your call sign and your city-of-origin.
There are several categories of messages requiring service.
HXC and HXD preamble requests are confirmations of handling which require service messages back to the station of origin.
HXC: “Report date and time of delivery to originating station.”
HXD: “Report to originating station the identity of station from which received, plus date and time. Report identity of station to which relayed, plus date and time, or if delivered report date, time and method of delivery.”
These service messages are done without the knowledge of the addressee since they are your responsibility as the handling station. HXC replies are negated by a service message for the undelivered message. The HXD information may be included within a service message.
The inability to comply with any other HX codes should be cause to generate a service message back so indicating.
You do not have to deliver a message to originate traffic. Feel free to solicit messages from friends and neighbors, or even by posting notices at work. Exposing the public to the services offered by Amateur Radio can be very rewarding. It may suddenly become clear to people why you spend so much time in the shack, and why Amateur Radio is such an important resource.
Never originate messages for a third party without their permission.
End Part Seven
Edited from NTS/MPG for net presentation.
Tom Harris, K5WTH
NTS, MESSAGE TYPES
Part Eight NTS Training
Traffic is often generated for various types of organizational activity, such as QSL bureaus, license renewal reminders or congratulations, welcoming messages from nets or clubs, even announcements. Such message traffic is often created in book form but may also be customized individual messages. These messages may be originated for delivery in local areas or throughout the NTS.
On occasion, such originations are much like public service event solicitations and may be handled in a similar fashion. Some of these originations are one time “mass mailings” presenting mainly problems of volume. Others may be continuing message generation based on organizational or individual policies for sending welcome message, greetings, or reminders, requiring a consistent long term working relationship with local NTS operators.
A few tips and suggestions for this type of traffic are in order:
Remember that amateur messages are communications which must comply with all FCC regulations in Part 97, as amended. Traffic may not directly or indirectly support the commercial purposes of any party, must not be encrypted and must meet all FCC and International Regulations regarding third party traffic.
Do not originate messages for a third party without their permission. Do not originate messages containing information about a third party without their permission. Respect privacy.
Although not a legal question in all cases, it is customary to limit amateur message traffic to matters not related to “causes”. Without enumerating all such cases here, it is suggested that it is wise to consult with the local STM regarding propriety of message content for “mass mailings”.
All messages created for mass message submissions and book transmission should meet the same standard criteria as individual radiograms, and should be handled according to standard protocols.
1. PREAMBLE: Message numbers should contain only figures, no punctuation, and no leading zeros. Do not use the optional HX code handling instructions unless really necessary. Do not use the optional filing time on Routine messages unless there is some compelling importance to the origination time. If multiple stations originate fractions of the total submission, the station of origin for each should be so entered accordingly. The place of origin may be a more complicated question. If the message source is a public event, the place of origin may best be shown as the location of the public event to indicate the appropriate information for the addressee. If the source is an organization, it may be wiser to use the place of origin for the station of origin for that fraction of the submission in order to aid routing of service messages.
2. ADDRESS: Use complete address names as might be listed in phone books at the destination. Include the zip code for digital system routing purposes. Include a valid working telephone number. Sending a large number of messages without telephone numbers is unworkable. Amateur traffic handlers are not a free mailing service! Use the information available in “criss-cross” type publications, data base sites on the internet, or commercial CD’s to get valid address and phone information. NTS injection points should refuse large submissions with any deficiency in the addressing.
3. TEXT: Use a minimum number of text variations. If variable words or phrases need to be included, attempt to group them so they may be sent in books as a single blank to be filled in within the variable text parts of the book as one group or phrase. Use ARRL numbered radiograms to the greatest extent possible. This can greatly facilitate the movement of the traffic through the NTS.
4. INSERTION: Establish, with the help of the local STM and Net Managers, and operators, a means of handling the outbound traffic within the limits of the manpower and resources at the origination point. Ask the local STM or Net Managers to advise and consult with the NTS Region and Area staffs regarding large traffic load insertions before the event.
5. SORT: For large amounts of traffic, organize all the messages according to destination areas, and then group the "books" within each. This will allow the traffic handlers to carry all the traffic up through the net system without having to reorganize and re-transmit at each level. It is not uncommon for auxiliary liaisons to be assigned to carry traffic through the Section to Region, and through Section and Region to Area, thus avoiding any re-transmission until the higher nets are reached.
6. SERVICE:. When a message is inserted into the NTS, the originating station is responsible for handling any service messages generated in the process of handling the traffic. There are no special exceptions to standard operating practices for this type message origination. Prompt responses to service requests and re-filing should be forthcoming.
If messages are originated using a club call sign, or at a public service event, the club or originating station(s) must make operators readily available to the NTS for handling service messages.
These large submissions of organizational traffic are to be serviced with the same techniques and integrity as any other amateur messages. The ball is in play until the messages are delivered, relayed, or serviced, and, when stipulated with HX codes in the preamble, serviced if delivered.
7. Maintain a ready record of all messages submitted to the NTS, and a means to record the history of service message requests or inputs. These records should contain re-contact information for all message originators in order to handle service message inputs. This is particularly important for traffic originated for the public or organizations, amateur or non-amateur.
The properly trained and practiced traffic handlers and net operators are the backbone of disaster communications. Amateurs having these skills may come from the NTS, or from ARES/RACES groups, even if these groups operate on separate bands. The important point is that they share the same abilities so that they will all understand each other when joining together to help the public in times of emergency.
Operators in the field, at shelters, emergency operating centers, at the American Red Cross and other served agencies, and in surrounding areas, will all encounter the need to pass written traffic accurately and promptly at some time during these situations.
Train in advance. Teaching operators how to handle this traffic during the emergency will hinder the effort and tie up valuable manpower.
The NTS, ARES, and RACES all work together during disasters. Be sure to have a program to train people in local clubs, groups, and ARES/RACES, so skilled people will be available when needed.
The Amateur Radio Emergency Service serves the public affected by disasters, and all agencies with whom prior agreements have been made to supply support communications in such situations. An exception is Emergency Management, which is served by RACES and covered by separate FCC rules and regulations. Both ARES and RACES operators need to work together, however. The ARES “served agencies” typically have need to communicate with the emergency management officials during such events.
Welfare messages for the public, to and from the affected area, will all be written formal traffic. Messages for agencies will be a mix of tactical traffic, sometimes verbally handled, and formal messages, which must be delivered to officials in order for them to have written record of requests for assistance, damage assessment, command information, and the like.
It is very important for amateurs to train with the officials for whom they might be handling traffic. It is easy for amateurs to communicate compared with the difficulty faced by officials when they have to write clear concise messages for delivery by third parties. They are used to getting on the phone and explaining what they need. Practicing with them will help them get used to the methods of writing good traffic and getting to trust what Amateur Radio can do for them. Being known in advance may be the only way an amateur might ever be allowed on the scene of a disaster to help.
As mentioned above, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service is an Amateur Radio service provided for government emergency management. It is governed by separate rules in the amateur regulations, Part 97.407, but it is manned by regular amateurs enrolled by emergency management for the purpose. The RACES rules limit operations to prevent Amateur Radio from becoming used as a business communications service for government. Amateurs performing service under RACES may also serve ARES and the NTS. Joint enrollment is strongly encouraged these days, and that suggests joint training and uniform traffic handling capabilities.
A large proportion of RACES traffic is formally written. In some cases the message format is different than the ARRL form. This form difference is designed to make RACES traffic more easily understood by operations officials, and their message centers, which deal with traffic from a variety of services and modes of transmission. The basic methods of message transmission and net practices are the same.
Welfare messages are generated by concerned people during disasters. Welfare messages from the affected area usually involve requests for assistance, or report on the status of affected people and property. Incoming welfare messages to the affected area requesting information on people or property are usually generated without any prior knowledge of status.
Outbound welfare traffic almost always has priority over incoming welfare traffic. People affected by a disaster often need to communicate requests for help or advise others of their safety.
Incoming welfare traffic creates a big problem. When many people are involved in a disaster, huge numbers of incoming requests for information may overload the limited amateur facilities and manpower in the area.
Additionally, there is great difficulty finding particular individuals in a disaster area for the purpose of delivering messages. American Red Cross shelters may not even have lists of sheltered people for up to 72 hours after the onset. Telephone service may be out, or limited by officials.
During disasters, it is important not to solicit inbound messages unless the amateurs in the area have approved incoming traffic, and have provided for the stations to archive it, or handle it with a means to deliver it. Amateur leadership in the area will advise when it is possible to handle incoming traffic. ARRL bulletins from W1AW will announce the NTS situation in this regard, or local leadership will announce the status on local nets. Typically the NTS will move inbound welfare traffic as close to the delivery area as possible, and have stations archive it where the local amateurs can check through it as time permits.
Incoming messages for served agencies regarding the relief operation have to be handled. Such traffic should be handled separately, routed through reliable paths, and should not be listed as welfare traffic.
No matter how upset outside originators may be, neither they nor you can do anything to make it possible to deliver traffic in the area until emergency organizations have done their work. An undeliverable message sent, and not answered, may actually generate more concern than no message at all. Listen, and do not transmit. You may hear enough information to help concerned people without wasting the time of amateurs on scene. On the other hand, a judgment may be made and inbound traffic accepted to help the concerned feel that they have at least made a reasonable attempt. Check that the area is accepting and archiving such traffic.
Overloading the message system with incoming welfare traffic may seriously hinder the passing of urgent traffic affecting the stabilization of the situation. Arranging for separate paths to the archiving site can help. This way the concerned originators of inbound inquiries at least will know that there are competent traffic handlers making the effort to service their requests.
The obvious point is that qualified traffic handlers are needed in quantity during such events. Untrained, but concerned, operators will attempt to do their best, but will not have the calm confidence of knowing the system and how to operate therein. Training is key. Every amateur in your local club or area should get at least a minimum of familiarity training in handling messages and where to find the nets that move them.
Handling routine traffic for people on a day to day basis is done with calmness and organization. There is no reason not to conduct operations during a disaster in the same fashion. In fact, it is more important to do so at such times. Official traffic is critically important at these times, demanding that the amateur system work at its best.
One of the most frequently asked questions about handling traffic during emergencies are why bother with formal traffic when it is so much faster to communicate with verbal exchanges. The reason is simple. Amateur radio does not manage the operations during such emergencies. It is the conduit for communications between officials, and they rely upon us to get a written record from point A to point B. They are busy people, and will respect and appreciate the professionalism of amateurs who can deliver their information in clearly legible, accurate, timely, written form.
It is entirely reasonable that ARES/RACES operations may from time to time use abbreviated message formats for handling written forms of tactical traffic. Often such forms indicate an addressee, text, source, and date/time group. Note that many served agencies require that the source be identified by full name, and perhaps title, to authenticate the message. Some consider a message without such a signature as invalid.
Even medical emergency reports during public service events are appreciated when they are written and handed to a public safety official at a command post. That official may have dozens of other matters in progress, and can not be expected to remember what an excited ham yells into his communications van.
There are many circumstances when verbal delivery is acceptable, but amateurs should make careful judgments about when it is safe to do so. When in doubt, write it out...and keep a copy of it in case you are asked to repeat it. Matters of utmost urgency may be delivered verbally, and then followed up with a written record and marked as handled if appropriate.
.Remember, the NTS is chartered to serve the ARES field organization during emergencies. Check around and ascertain if there are sufficient numbers of competent traffic handlers available to relieve the “iron men” during major events. The time and effort spent in training will pay big dividends.
End Part eight
Edited from NTS/MPG for net presentation.
Tom Harris, K5WTH
TACTICAL NETS, PUBLIC SERVICE EVENTS
BACKGROUND: Amateur radio has a long standing tradition of providing support in events where the official sponsoring organization can not provide all the communications required for adequate public safety. Competent service rendered by amateurs has proven valuable, and often essential, to public safety in these events by providing rapid alerting of officials when people need help.
There are many types of amateur nets that can be run in tactical fashion. Administrative nets for coordinating activities during disasters, social nets, swap nets, technical nets, etc. All such nets may be run in the same pattern as the formal traffic nets. Experienced net operators will appreciate the basic structure of the “directed net” in all such activities. The role of the NCS is to help conduct the operation in an orderly fashion.
OUR MISSION: The amateur mission in public service events is accomplished by providing communications for officials responsible for the event and public safety. As amateurs, we are not responsible for that safety. We facilitate the mission of officials who are, and can help by providing communications in depth over the full geographical area of the event.
Our mission is to communicate, not administrate, for the responsible officials. Our job is to pass their information and emergency requests back and forth with speed and accuracy.
PLANNING AND TEAMWORK: Working together to provide communications for this type event requires the support of planners, operators and equipment support people. Your ideas on how to do an effective job are valuable and most welcome during planning and operation.
Thorough planning with the officials prior to the event is essential to effective operation and full and proper use of the amateur resources. You should appoint a representative or ask the ARES EC to coordinate with the event officials during planning and operations.
When this kind of service is well planned with the officials, and well conducted by the operators, it provides a very rewarding opportunity to serve the public with our skills.
Even if you are new to this art you will find that your fellow operators, net controls, club officers, ARES members, and/or EC, will work together to help you do a good job in the true Elmer spirit of our service. If we operate effectively we set an example for other amateurs and other officials we might someday serve. Outsiders listening to our communications will judge Amateur Radio and our club or group based on what they hear.
ARES: The Amateur Radio Emergency Service, led by the local Emergency Coordinator, often supports these type events. The organizing and response skills, essential to the ARES role in emergencies, makes such groups well qualified to do the job, and working such events gives them valuable practice and experience. Joint operations with ARES, clubs, and individuals, provides benefits for everyone involved.
AUTHORITY: The applicable FCC rules have been clarified regarding support of public service type events. They have been moved from previously issued policy statements into the body of part 97. Note the words emphasizing the role of amateur radio in support of the public rather than the sponsoring organization.
The officials have provided medical stations along the course with medical staffs to assist the public with problems. Amateurs are stationed at each medical station and at key locations where contact is maintained with public safety officials, some of the event officials who move about and will require a shadow operator to be with them at all times.
The NCS is at a central location free of the responsibility of serving anyone but the net business. The NCS is able to communicate with the stations directly on simplex as well as through the repeater system in use. Additional “home” stations may be used for simplex relay where the geography demands. A second operator at the NCS station is often helpful to handle off air jobs such as logging event information.
A net station with a public safety agency mobile or field command post is an important provision for expediting emergency calls to public safety organizations. A home station standing by to make telephone calls to public safety agencies is also a wise precaution. This station may also back up the NCS and help relay when needed. Both are often used, the field command post usually being primary since they are usually in direct contact with police and fire resources on the course as well as with dispatch centers.
Any number of variations of this format is possible. Each event will present a different configuration problem to be matched with communications providers.
An amateur radio "directed" net is one in which all communications are supervised by the net control station (NCS). The NCS is responsible for communications on net frequency, sending stations off frequency, and assuring that all traffic is handled in an orderly fashion with appropriate priorities.
Stations check into the net, maintain a close listening watch for NCS instructions, and check out only with permission from the NCS. If a station can not listen carefully to the net for a period of time, it should check out and check back in when it is again able.
The NCS maintains a log of all stations checked into the net and keeps track of stations sent off frequency for passing traffic or for conversation.
Emergency messages are to be originated by the medical officials assigned to this event if possible. If none is available, and you encounter an emergency situation, notify the NCS to expedite the required response with officials. Event officials or medical personnel should make decisions regarding medical emergencies if at all possible. Often the officials in charge will request that no calls for emergency transport be made without the approval of the responsible event leadership or medical staff.
The station delivering the message should originate a priority message back to the official or station originating the request with information that an emergency response is in route, if possible, or at least that notification has been made. The station on scene should make note to check for such a response within a reasonable time, although it is difficult in some events to get feedback from busy public safety officials regarding the dispatch of the emergency response. As amateurs, however, we can inform the station on scene that the call was passed to those officials.
The station delivering an emergency message to public safety officials should do so in writing when possible. This may be done after the first verbal transmission to expedite the call (submit the written follow-up marked “handled”).
Names of injured persons should not be broadcast over the air unless absolutely required for their safety. Respect and protect the subject’s privacy.
End Part nine NTS Training
Edited from NTS/MPG for net presentation.
Tom Harris, K5WTH