National Traffic System (NTS) Training Manual

By R. Bruce Winchell, N8UT
Copyright 1997
Permission is hereby granted for non-profit reproduction of this material provided this statement is included and the material is used in its' entirety, or properly credited by same, if used in part.


Whenever the Authors have attended a class on the NTS, the instructor managed to "lose" 90% of his students in the first ten minutes. They simply go into too much detail. The NTS is not a difficult service to understand. There are, unfortunately, a lot of little details concerning the Radiogram forms. Most instructors get side-tracked by these details. They drone on and on about details and their students feel overwhelmed. The students seldom become involved in the NTS. They have been led to feel that there is too much to absorb.

We have addressed the need to keep it simple. A definite attempt has been made to apply the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) principle to the main text of this manual.. Some of the manual contents were left in Outline format so that different concepts and statement relationships can be very clearly understood. A set of Appendixes furnish the details on various topics . . . not the main text.

The purpose of this manual is to provide a simple teaching tool for you to use in learning about the National Traffic System (NTS)


by John Freeman, KB8ZDX

The National Traffic System (NTS) seems, to a lot of operators, to be this big, huge, complex operation that is very difficult to understand. Some of you may feel that you have to be an Extra with 20 years experience as a Ham to get involved in NTS because its all done on the HF bands and they use a language . . . so different that you need 20 years of just listening to understand it. WRONG!!

After going over this material, you will understand that it is not complicated or difficult to be involved in the NTS. Its' members are operators just like yourself. You do not have to hold an Extra, Advanced, or General License. There is a place for everyone in the NTS. These materials are designed to teach you not only how to get involved, but how to be effective once you do get involved.

This subject will be broken down simply.As you go through the manual, it will become more complex only because we put most of the details at the end. If you start at the beginning and work your way through, you will have absorbed enough simple background information to make sense out of the rest.

The most important part of the NTS and this manual, is the part that the authors cannot include.That part is you. This manual means nothing unless you use it to improve yourself and your operating skills. We welcome the opportunity to help you do that.


I. What is NTS?

II. Traffic - What is it?

NTS messages may be sent to, or by, anyone.You do not have to be a ham to initiate or recieve a message. A licensed ham must, of course, handle the transmission of the traffic.



Explanations of this simple form have probably stopped more people from participating in the NTS than anything else. -- It is just a piece of paper! -- This is not a confusing IRS tax form! -- It's simple! -- If you can remember your name and callsign, know what you want to say, and who you want to send it to, you are already 3/4 done with this form. -- No Mysticism or Rocket Science is involved.

THE FOUR PARTS OF A RADIOGRAM and the basics of what to do with each one of them. This is dealing with the very top of the Radiogram form.You should have a copy of the Radiogram in front of you. This won't make much sense without it.

  1. Preamble

    The top part of the form, with all the little boxes, is called the Preamble. The different parts of the preamble are highlighted below. Look for the heading on the Radiogram form and read the description for that area.

  2. Address

    This is the address of the individual to whom the traffic is supposed to be delivered. It goes under the word "TO" on the form.

  3. Text
  4. Signature

    This can be a single name, a name and callsign, or a name and title. Just enough information to enable the receiver to identify the sender. The Originating amateur should provide enough information that a reply can be sent.

    (NOTE: Amazingly, on the ARRL Form, FSD-244, RADIOGRAM there is no mention of this fourth part of the form! [It's there ... just in invisible ink] Put it anywhere you want.)

  5. OK, You are done . . . NOW WHAT?

That's all there is to filling out a basic NTS Routine message on a Radiogram form. It really is simple when you don't get bogged down in all the fine little details right away. Go over this a few times and actually fill out a blank form while you are doing it.

To get used to how it feels to actually put your voice to it, go to Appendix "C" where you will find a message all written out. Just read it out loud several times.

Sending Procedures

When and Where to send a "Radiogram"


RADIOGRAMS may be passed via any means available to an Amateur Radio Operator . . .voice, phone. Repeaters, simplex, VHF, UHF, HF, as long as you have the privileges to operate on a frequency, you can pass messages there.You may use:

Traffic Nets - There are specific times, days of the week and a variety of frequencies available for formal "Traffic Nets". Check with your local Net Manager, Emergency Coordinator or Net Liaison to find out when and where they meet. The ARRL Net Directory is a good source of information. We have also included several Appendices at the end of this manual which are lists of various nets at different levels.

During a Club Net, ARES Net, District Net, etc. is the perfect time to pass some traffic, even if just for practice. You can usually locate someone who will receive the traffic and will also work with you on your technique.

Don't worry about getting everything perfect. Practice makes us all better. If you listen to an NTS net for ten minutes, you will hear some of the old-timers make some blunders. It's no big deal! The most important part is to listen to how the traffic is handled and passed, then practice what you know is correct out of what you hear. People who are involved in the NTS nets welcome newcomers. Just tell them you are new to the system and they will coach you. Of course, there is always the net "Grump". Don't worry about him.

If you never learn any more than this about the Radiogram, you will do just fine passing traffic in the NTS with what you have learned so far. By the time you compose and send 10 or 12 messages, the Radiogram form, these simple procedures, and what to say, will be permanently imprinted on your brain.

We will now go into a little more depth and examine some of the finer points.


THE NTS STRUCTURE - How it works

Reminder: The NTS is made up of several associated, yet totally separate Nets held on various levels.

Another Simplified Summary of the NTS Structure

To make sure that you understand this structure, we are going to explain it another way. The United States and Canada are divided into three Areas: Eastern Area, Central Area, and Western Area. Inside each of those three Areas there are a total of twelve smaller Regions. Inside each of those Regions is an unknown number of Locales.

Picture in your mind, two funnels ... with the big ends put together.These two funnels now represent the NTS System. The flow of traffic is always from one of the small ends to the other small end. The small ends are the Local Nets. Your message may rattle around in the funnel assembly for a while, but with enought movement it will eventually reach the other small end.

HOT TIP: If you are sending a message out-of-state or country, when you list your traffic with a net, list it as:"One... through ...for [ State of destination].If someone is on the net who can skip one or more of the normal steps of progression, they will pick up your message and get it through quicker. This just cuts out a number of "middle men".


This information applies regardless of any mode of message transmission or mix thereof.

This section is to explain what can go in the little box marked "HTX" in the Radiogram Preamble. Again, there is no mystery to this if it is presented simply.

Sometimes there are some special things that need to happen to a message. Have you ever gotten a letter from the Post Office that you had to sign for? Someone wanted to make sure that their message was delivered. Have you ever sent a letter or package "Second-Day Air" so that the Post Office would rush it through? You can do exactly the same type things with an NTS message by plugging in some standard coding in the HTX box of the Radiogram. The codes are pretty self-explanitory and can be found in Attachment "B" at the end of this manual.

PRE-FORMATTED MESSAGES (The "ARL" Stuff we promised to explain.)

If you listen very long to NTS nets, you will soon discover that many messages that you hear are very common and identical. To cover this fact, the NTS uses sixty-nine different pre-fomatted messages. The first 26 are emergency related messages. Numbers 46 through 69 are common greetings.

Using the ARL messages saves everyone time. The next time you want to send Grandma a "Merry Christmas" greeting, instead of putting "Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" in the text area of a Radiogram, you would simply put "ARL Sixty One". The person who eventually takes the message for delivery to Grandma has to dig out his little chart of ARL numbered messages, call Grandma, and read the words of the message to her over the telephone. Simple. (Except that most Grandmothers will send a return message ARL 12).

Multiples of the ARL messages can be strung together in sequence on a single Radiogram to form a pretty impressive message that would be much longer than the recognized maximum of 25 words.

OK, that's neat. But how do I put it on the Radiogram . . . What do I say?

A list of the standard ARL messages can be found in Attachment "C" at the end of this manual.


Let's again go back to the Radiogram form. This time we will look at the "Precedence" box in the Preamble.We stated that over 90% of NTS messages passed carry a "Routine" precedence. This is true. There are some other designations that can go in this box.

Emergency Messages: An Emergency Message is 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. Emergency messages have top priority and must be handled before any other message is processed. These messages can include official messages of welfare agencies during emergencies requesting supplies, materials, or instructions vital to relief to stricken populace in emergency areas. During normal times, it will be very rare to hear one of these messages, as they are usually used in areas very close to the disaster scene, and on local nets.

Priority Messages: This is a second level priority used for 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. This is where the "Time Filed" box on the Radiogram form becomes important to use.

Welfare Messages: These messages are either an inquiry as to the health and welfare of an individual in a disaster area or an advisory from the disaster area that indicates the condition of an individual, family, or group. From a Disaster scene,Outgoing welfare messages usually are handled first, with Incoming welfare inquiries being handled second. Welfare traffic is handled only after all emergency and priority traffic is cleared.

Routine: Most traffic during normal times. In disaster situations, traffic should be handled last, or not at all when circuits re busy with higher-precedence traffic.




HXA (Followed by number) Collect landline delivery authorized by addressee within _____ miles. (If no number, authorization is unlimited.)

HXB (Followed by number) cancel message if not delivered within _____ hours of filing time; service originating station

HXC Report date and time of delivery (TOD) 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

HXE Delivering station get reply from addressee, originate message back

HXF(Followed by number) Hold delivery until______ (date).

HXG Delivery by mail or landline toll call not required. If toll or other expense involved, cancel message and service originating station


Numbered messages have been established for some of the more common texts sent during emergencies and holiday seasons. When this common text can be used, an ARL NUMBER is substituted for the text and sent. The delivering station reads the actual text to the address, not the ARL NUMBER

The letters ARL are inserted in the preamble in the check and in the text before spelled out numbers, which represent texts from this list. Note that some ARL texts include insertion of numerals .Example: NR 1 R W1AW ARL 5 NEWINGTON CONN DEC 25 DONALD R. SMITH AA 164 EAST SIXTH AVE AA NORTH RIVER CITY MO AA PHONE 73-3968 BT ARL FIFTY ARL SIXTY ONE BT DIANA AR. For additional information about traffic handling, consult The ARRL Operating Manual, published by ARRL.

Group One--For Possible "Relief Emergency" Use

ONE Everyone safe here. Please don't worry.

TWO Coming home as soon as possible.

THREE Am in _____ hospital. Receiving excellent care and recovering fine.

FOUR Only slight property damage here. Do not be concerned about disaster reports.

FIVE Am moving to new location. Send no further mail or communication. Will inform you of new address when relocated.

SIX Will contact you as soon as possible.

SEVEN Please reply by Amateur Radio through the amateur delivering this message. This is a free public service.

EIGHT Need additional _____ mobile or portable equipment for immediate emergency use.

NINE Additional _____ radio operators needed to assist with emergency at this location.

TEN Please contact _____. Advise to standby and provide further emergency information, instructions or assistance.

ELEVEN Establish Amateur Radio emergency communications with _____ on _____ MHz.

TWELVE Anxious to hear from you. No word in some time. Please contact me as soon as possible.

THIRTEEN Medical emergency situation exits here.

FOURTEEN Situation here becoming critical. Losses and damage from ____ increasing.

FIFTEEN Please advise your condition and what help is needed.

SIXTEEN Property damage very severe in this area.

SEVENTEEN REACT communications services also available. Establish REACT communication with _____ on channel _____.

EIGHTEEN Please contact me as soon as possible at _____.

NINETEEN Request health and welfare report on _____ . (State name, address and telephone number.)

TWENTY Temporarily stranded. Will need some assistance. Please contact me at _____.

TWENTY ONE Search and Rescue assistance is needed by local authorities here. Advise availability.

TWENTY TWO Need accurate information on the extent and type of conditions now existing at your location. Please furnish this information and reply without delay.

TWENTY THREE Report at once the accessibility and best way to reach your location.

TWENTY FOUR Evacuation of residents from this area urgently needed. Advise plans for help.

TWENTY FIVE Furnish as soon as possible the weather conditions at your location.

TWENTY SIX Help and care for evacuation of sick and injured from this location needed at once.

Emergency/priority messages originating from official sources must carry the signature of the originating official.

Group Two--Routine Messages

FORTY SIX Greetings on your birthday and best wishes for many more to come.

FORTY SEVEN Reference your message number _____ to _____ delivered on _____ at _____ UTC.

FIFTY Greetings by Amateur Radio.

FIFTY ONE Greetings by Amateur Radio. This message is sent as a free public service by ham radio operators at _____. Am having a wonderful time.

FIFTY TWO Really enjoyed being with you. Looking forward to getting together again.

FIFTY THREE Received your _____. It's appreciated; many thanks.

FIFTY FOUR Many thanks for your good wishes.

FIFTY FIVE Good news is always welcome. Very delighted to hear about yours.

FIFTY SIX Congratulations on your _____, a most worthy and deserved achievement.

FIFTY SEVEN Wish we could be together.

FIFTY EIGHT Have a wonderful time. Let us know when you return.

FIFTY NINE Congratulations on the new arrival. Hope mother and child are well.

*SIXTY Wishing you the best of everything on _____.

SIXTY ONE Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

*SIXTY TWO Greetings and best wishes to you for a pleasant _____ holiday season.

SIXTY THREE Victory or defeat, our best wishes are with you. Hope you win.

SIXTY FOUR Arrived safely at _____.

SIXTY FIVE Arriving _____ on _____. Please arrange to meet me there.

SIXTY SIX DX QSLs are on hand for you at the _____ QSL Bureau. Send _____ self addressed envelopes.

SIXTY SEVEN Your message number _____ undeliverable because of _____. Please advise.

SIXTY EIGHT Sorry to hear you are ill. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

SIXTY NINE Welcome to the _____. We are glad to have you with us and hope you will enjoy the fun and fellowship of the organization.

* Can be used for all holidays.

From: FORM FSD-3 (Revised 5/05)



Remember, the message must have a number, precedence, Station of Origin, Check, Place of Origin and date or it is not a formal message.

Remember to pause and let up off of the mike for 2 - 3 seconds after giving the preamble to give the receiving station a chance to ask for "Fills" if necessary.


Remember to unkey the mike at the pause , giving the receiving station a chance to request for "Fills"


Remember to unkey the mike at the pause, giving the receiving station a chance to request for "Fills"

Try to keep the radiogram at 25 words or less. Keep them noncommercial in nature. No elements of the preamble, address or signature, no punctuation, and no big words. Letter-like greetings or closings are bad form. Remember to send a "Break" immediately before and after the text, before sending the signature.


"END OF MESSAGE, NO MORE" (If you have no more messages to the same receiving station)

'END OF MESSAGE, ( ) MORE" (If you have more messages for the same receiving station, insert the number of messages remaining at the ( )).

Remember to send slowly and pronounce the words carefully, but do not drag it out. Listen to the experienced operators send traffic to find the pace.



Arenac/Ogemaw ARES/RACES 145.270 Sunday-4:00P.M. Arenac/Ogemaw Cty.

ARPSA 145.310 Monday-8:30P.M St. Joseph County

Clare Cty. ARES/RACES Net 147.200 1st, 3rd Th-8:00P.M Clare County

Branch Cty. Emergency Net 147.300 Tuesday-7:00P.M Branch County

District Three ARPSC 145.310 Sunday-6:00P.M. District Three

Fenton Area ARA 146.780 Wednesday-11:00A.M. Fenton, Flint, Lansing

Fenton Area ARA 146.780 Saturday-9:00P.M. Fenton, Flint, Lansing

Genesee Cty. ARES 147.260 Wed.&Thurs.-9:00P.M. Genesee Cty

Genesee Cty. ARES 147.260 Friday-1:00P.M. Genesee Cty

Ionia Cty. ARES 145.130 Monday-7:00P.M. Ionia Cty.

Lenawee Cty. ARES 145.370 Sunday-9:00P.M. Lenawee Cty

Monroe Cty. RES 146.720 Monday-9:00P.M Monroe Cty.

Motor City Radio Club 147.240 Tuesday-9:00P.M. Southeastern Michigan

Northern Michigan Net 146.940 Daily-7:30P.M. Arenac, Ogemaw, Iosco, Oscoda Ctys.

Oakland Cty. ARPSC 147.140 Wednesday-9:00P.M Southeastern Michigan

RACC Club Info Net 147.160 Monday-8:00P.M. Southeastern Michigan

Saginaw Cty. ARPSC 147.240 Wednesday-8:00P.M. Saginaw Cty.

South Eastern Mi. Traffic Net 145.330 Daily-10:15P.M. Southeastern Michigan

Straits AreaAmateur Radio Club 146.680 Monday-8:00P.M. Northern Michigan and UP

Tuscola Cty. Amateur Radio 146.820 Sunday-8:00P.M. Tuscola Cty.

Two Meter Plus 145.470 MWF-9:00P.M. Jackson Cty.

Washtenaw Cty. ARES/Skywarn 145.150 Wednesday-8:15P.M. Washtenaw Cty.

Washtenaw Cty. RACES 146.920 Wednesday-8:00P.M. Washtenaw Cty.

If your Net is not listed or you know of more, please contact the author with the information for listing.



MI Amateur Comm. System 3953 Phone (LSB) Daily - 11:00 A.M. Michigan

MI amateur Comm. System 3953 Phone (LSB) Daily - 1:00 P.M. Michigan

Michigan Net (QMN) 3663 CW Daily - 6:00 P.M. Michigan

Michigan Net (QMN) 3663 CW Daily - 6:30 P.M. Michigan

Michigan Net (QMN) 3663 CW Daily - 10:30 - P.M. Michigan

Michigan Traffic Net 3952 Phone (LSB) Daily - 7:00 P.M. Michigan

Upper Peninsula Net 3921 Phone (LSB) Daily - 5:00 P.M MI, WI, IN, IL, MN

Upper Peninsula Net 3921 Phone (LSB) Sunday 12:00 P.M. MI, WI, IN, IL, MN

Wolverine Single Sideband Net 3935 Phone (LSB) Daily - 7:00 P.M. MI, OH, WV

If you are aware of anyother HF Nets in Michigan, please notify the author so that it may be included.



First Region Net 2.3948 LSB Daily-1:45PM New England States

First Region New 2.3948 LSB Daily-3:30PM

First Region New 3.3602 CW Daily-6:30PM

First Region Net 4.3602 CW Daily-7:45PM

First Region Net 4.3602 CW Daily-9:30PM

Second Region Net 2.3930 LSB Daily-1:45PM NJ,NY,APO/FPO AE

Second Region New 2.3930 LSB Daily-3:30PM

Second Region Net 3.3930\1930 LSB Daily-6:30PM

Second Region Net 4.3690 CW Daily-7:45PM

Second Region Net 4.3690 CW Daily-9:30PM

Third Region Net 2.3913 LSB Daily-4:00PM DC,DE,MD,PA

Third Region Net 4.3590 CW Daily-7:45PM

Third Region Net 4.3590 CW Daily-9:30PM

Fourth Region Net 2.7243 LSB Daily-1:45PM FL,GA,NC,SC,VA,VI,PR

Fourth Region Net 2.7243 LSB Daily-3:30PM APO/FPO AA

Fourth Region Net 4.3567 CW Daily-7:45PM

Fourth Region Net 4.3567 CW Daily-9:30PM

Eigth Region Net 2.3940/7240 LSB Daily-12:30PM MI,OH,WV

Eigth Region Net 2.3940/7240 LSB Daily-4:30PM

Eigth Region Net 4.3530/7040 CW Daily-7:45PM

Eigth Region Net 4.3530/7040 CW Daily-9:30PM

Atlantic Region Net 14303 USB Daily-6:30AM Worldwide

Fifth Region Net 2.7280 LSB M-S-10:30AM AL,AR,LA,MS,OK,TN,TX

Fifth Region Net 2.7280 LSB Sunday-1:45P

Fifth Region Net 2.7280 LSB Daily-3:30PM

Fifth Region Net 4.3650\7052 CW Daily-7:30PM

Fifth Region Net 4.3650/7052 CW Daily-9:30PM

Ninth Region Net 2.7282 LSB Daily-12:30PM IL,IN,KY,WI

Ninth Region Net 2.7282 LSB Daily-4:00PM

Ninth Region Net 4.3640 CW Daily-7:45PM

Ninth Region Net 4.3640 CW Daily-9:30PM

Tenth Region Net 2.7277.5 LSB Daily-1:45PM IA,KS,MB,MN,MO,NE,ND

Tenth Region Net 2.7277.5 LSB Daily-3:45PM SD,SK

Tenth Region Net 4.3590 CW Daily-7:45PM

Tenth Region Net 4.3590 CW Daily-9:30PM

Sixth Region Net 2.7275/3916 LSB Daily-3:30PM CA,GU,HI,NV

Sixth Region Net 4.3655 CW Daily-7:45PM APO/FPO AP

Sixth Region Net 4.3655 CW Daily-9:30PM

Seventh Region Net 2.7238 LSB Daily-9:45AM AB,AK,BC,ID,MT,OR,WA

Seventh Region Net 2.7238 LSB Daily-3:15PM

Seventh Region Net 4.3560/7048 CW Daily-7:30PM

Seventh Region Net 4.3560/7048 CW Daily-9:30PM

Twelfth Region Net 2.3923 LSB Daily-7:00AM AZ,CO,NM,UT,WY

Twelfth Region Net 2.7233 LSB Daily-4:15PM

Twelfth Region Net 4.3570/7063 CW Daily-7:30PM

Twelfth Region Net 4.3570 CW Daily-10:30PM

Eastern Area Net 2.7243 LSB M-F 2:30PM Eastern & Atlantic TZ

Eastern Area Net 2.7050 CW S&S 2:30PM

Eastern Area Net 3.3670/7050 CW Daily-5:30PM Region Nets 1,2,3,4,8

Eastern Area Net 4.3670/1810 CW Daily-8:30PM ECN & ARN

Central Area Net 2.14345 USB Dailly-2:30PM Region Nets 5,9,10

Central Area Net 4.3670/7052 CW Daily-8:30PM

Pacific Area Net 1.14345 USB Daily-10:30A Regions 6,7,12

Pacific Area Net 2 14345 USB Daily-2:30PM

Pacific Area Net 4 3651 CW Daily-8:30PM Regions 6,7,12 (Winter)

Pacific Area Net 4.7052 CW Daily-8:30PM Regions 6,7,12 (Summer)

Eastern Canada Net 4.3655 CW Daily-7:45PM Eastern Canada

Eastern Canada Net 4.3655 CW Daily-9:30PM Eastern Canada

Page Last Updated, 05/09/09

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