What is the NTS?
The NTS is a field organization of the ARRL (American Radio Relay League) which was formed to pass formal written messages (traffic) from any point in the United States to any other point. The NTS has it origins in the earliest days of radio as indicated by the name, "American Radio Relay League." These messages, which are put in a standard format called a "radiogram," are relayed from one ham to another, using a variety of modes, including voice, Morse code, radio teletype, or packet. The message is ultimately delivered to the addressee by an NTS operator who lives fairly close to the recipient, either by telephone, mail, or hand delivery (uncommon).
During disasters or other emergencies, radiograms are used to communicate information critical to saving lives or property, or to inquire
about the health or welfare of a disaster victim. During these times,
the NTS works in concert with the ARES (Amateur Radio
Emergency Service) and other emergency and disaster relief
organizations, such as the American Red Cross and The Salvation Army.
Messages can originate from either hams or non-hams. Non-hams who would like to send a radiogram should contact a ham friend or neighbor; or they can contact a municipal RACES Radio Officer, who probably can put them in touch with an NTS operator. There is no charge for a radiogram. Radiograms are one way hams serve the public, and they are welcomed as a way to train new traffic handlers and keep the experienced handlers in practice.
Messages are usually relayed using a system of "nets." Nets are on-the-air meetings of message handlers at an appointed time and a designated frequency. There are four levels of nets, each covering broader territory -- local, section, regional, and area. Local nets relay messages to and from the Section nets; Section nets to the Region nets; Region nets to the Area nets. These nets are held throughout the day in order to move messages around the country. (Only designated operators participate in the Region and Area nets. These nets are not open for general participation.)
Hudson County Procedures
Messages from or to Hudson County residents are handled primarily by the Northern New Jersey Voice Nets (NJVN). All hams are invited to listen to or check-in to these nets. There are two each evening:
NNJ Section Nets: Messages to and from the Northern NJ voice nets go through the NJ Section Nets. You are welcome to check into these nets, too:
Region 2 Net: Messages out of or into the NNJ nets go through the Region 2 Net (NJ, NY, APO/FPO AE), which you can listen to (but should not check-in to):
Eastern Area Net: Messages out of or into Region 2 go through the US Eastern Area Net (EAN), which you can listen to (but should not check-in to):
TCC: Messages between the three US Area nets are exchanged by the Transcontinental Corp (TCC), volunteers who communicate at unpublished times and frequencies.
NTS messages can also be initiated or relayed using digital modes.
For long distance relays, there is a digital HF (High Frequency) version of NTS, called NTSD (Digital). NTSD operators use the Clover, Pactor, and Amtor digital modes on the 80, 40, 30, and 20 meter HF frequencies. Designated NTSD operators in each region and area relay messages, either between regions or to and from the area stations.
At the local level, packet is often used. NTS packet messages can be initiated and sent by any packet-capable operator. Messages for delivery are posted on cooperating NTS PBBSs (Packet Bulletin Board Systems). Messages come into these BBSs from the NTSD HF network or from local packet networks in nearby sections or regions. In addition, any voice NTS messages that might not have been picked up on a voice net (see above) can be posted to an NTS PBBS. One of the big advantages of a PBBS is that it will hold messages for later pickup, perhaps by an NTS operator who wasn't able to listen to the voice net.
The NTS Hudson County Packet page on this site has more information about packet NTS operations in Hudson County.
How to Become an NTS Message Handler
Any Amateur Radio license holder can become an NTS operator. To get started, you first might want to read about general NTS system operations, standard net procedures, and the radiogram format. Here are some information sites on the internet:
Then, when you're ready, simply check in to any local net when the net control asks for check-ins. Be sure to mention that this is your first check-in to an NTS Net. (You'll find the other operators eager to help and very patient.) Remember that your participation is always voluntary. Even if you check in, you don't need to handle any traffic if you don't want to.
And remember, NTS message handling skills are valuable in other volunteer services, including ARES and RACES.
If you'd like more information about NTS
activities, contact Dave Struebel, WB2FTX, who is the Section Traffic
Manager for Northern NJ :
Links to More Information About NTS