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National Traffic System (NTS)

Messages that will ALWAYS get through!

NTS is an integral part of amateur radio’s public service effort, with origins in the earliest days of ham radio. Among the NTS functions are disaster messaging services, community outreach, and cost effective messaging to and from remote areas (including the high seas).

NTS operates with strict protocols that result in very effective and quick exchange of information via a format known as a radiogram. Operators find handling traffic an enoyable and rewarding experience, affording them the opportunity to use their skills for community serivce.

See the Traffic Nets page for is a schedule of nets in the Los Angeles Section. All the nets are looking for new members and are glad to offer help to any interested hams. Please contact the Los Angeles Section Traffic Manager for information on how to participate.

NTS Nets for Field Day

The LAX NTS group will be bringing up several traffic nets during Field Day, to assist the local clubs and other participating groups to pass their bonus points traffic.

Your group gets 100 bonus points if they originate a radiogram addressed to either the Section Manager or the Section Emergency Coordinator. The message should include your club’s name, number of participants, Field Day location & number of ARES operators involved.

You can also get 10 points each for up to 10 additional radiograms, addressed to anyone. These can be radiograms originated at your Field Day site, or they can be relayed from another site. Traffic must leave or arrive at the Field Day site by amateur radio, during Field Day, to be counted, but the messages can be further relayed later, on regularly scheduled nets. Delivery can be during Field Day, or it can be later.

So, taunt your rivals, brag about your visiting dignitaries, send a note to your mother, or your out-of-town disaster contact! Please provide as much address info as possible and either a telephone number or (lacking that) an email address. If you want delivery to a Field Day site, please provide a cell phone number of someone who will be there. Bad or incomplete info makes it very difficult to deliver messages!

Copies of the radiograms must be submitted to ARRL with the score package. They must be properly formatted, and the times and stations for the relays must be filled in. Use your club call for the originating station. See FD_club_traffic_guide for information on formatting radiograms & details of digital format.

The LAX traffic nets will be on Saturday evening & Sunday am, beginning on the hours listed. They will last for 10 minutes or until all the listed traffic has been passed.

2 meter simplex nets (noon, 2 pm & 5 pm Saturday, 9 am Sunday) on 145.555 MHz. Net Control will be at the Pasadena Radio Club site W6KA, which can reach into the South Bay. Use relays if necessary. We are working on getting a net in the Valley; volunteers welcome!

So Cal Net, Keller Peak repeater
146.385 MHz + PL 146.2
9 pm Sat

80 meter CW nets
3.537 MHz
7 pm Sat

RN6 (6th Region)
3.575 MHz
7:45 & 9:30 pm

We will try to have traffic handlers monitoring these frequencies at other times also. If you want to make a sked, you can arrange it before Field Day starts, or you can arrange it (if you must) by cell phone.

You may also send your traffic by WinLink2000 to K6FRG or W0RJA. If you are familiar with batch file format, you may send batched traffic for NTSD by WinLink2000 to W0RJA.

NTS Online Training

If you're interested in learning to handle NTS traffic, but missed the last TFC school, here's your opportunity to get started. Why would you want to? Here are four good reasons:

  • Excellent training in accurately & efficiently passing messages of any sort
  • Good experience operating in directed nets
  • May be useful in a disaster
  • Hones your operating skills in general

Try this for home study:

  1. Read Chapter 5 of the ARRL Operating Manual. It is a rather old write-up, but still very relevant.
  2. Read the NTS Manual (Section II of the Public Service Communications Manual).
  3. View Kate Hutton's TFC School slide presentation (pdf version).
  4. Listen to some traffic nets.
  5. If you have questions, send Kate an email.
  6. For more details, consult the Methods & Practices Guidelines (MPG), Appendix B of the PSCM. Ease into this. Start with Chapter 1 on the ARRL Message Format.

NTS and the March of Technology


The Area Staff Chairs of the NTS have approved updates to the ARRL PSCM Appendix B, Methods and Practices Guidelines, Chapter 6, NTSD and Radio-email. These revisions provide for a structure and guidance on how the ARRL Field Organization may use Radio-email to provide nation-wide messaging in the modern email format via Amateur Radio with near real-time delivery anywhere in the country, 24/7. It also provides for integration of the ARES®, NTS and NTSD efforts nation-wide.

The new Radio-email system uses the Winlink 2000 network, infrastructure independent local automatic email service modules, plus station-to-station, radio-all-the-way transport services provided by the NTS/D to support all Sections. The Winlink 2000 network also provides us with a firewall and white list protected interface with the public internet for handling welfare and agency messaging with internet addressees. New types of message formats are included, and guidance on handling ICS-213 and other similar message formats is included.

As with any email system, it is necessary to know the addresses of stations on the network in order know how to address messages. Radio-email may be sent to multiple addressees with multiple copies and binary attachments. ARES®, NTS and NTSD may, therefore, assign client Target Station addresses to be the outlet clients for messaging on the network. Sections, for example, will be able to send public welfare emails from shelter victims directly to internet addressees, or at other shelters, and receive replies. Radiograms may also be sent in the standard ARRL format, carried by Radio-email, directly to network stations in the NTS/D for handling. You may have agency and our own leadership officials, using their own computers, exchange Radio-email messages between all sites where amateur field stations are deployed. In each of those examples, no intermediate relaying manpower or nets are required within your “last mile” disaster area.

The updated chapter 6 may be found at:

73, Robert Griffin, K6YR Santa Barbara Section Manager

What does this mean to the everyday traffic handler?

In summary, it means that, in addition to the FM, SSB & CW traffic nets & the Pactor NTSD system, traffic handlers now have a third option for moving traffic: radio email through WinLink (WL2K). Used by yachters for many years, this system allows transfer of email by HF to & from a station isolated by a large stretch of water or by emergency circumstances, etc. Email may be sent to another WinLink station or to a regular internet email address, by radio to a WinLink or WINMOR gateway station, where it may enter the regular internet for the rest of its journey. Furthermore, the email addressee may reply to the email, even if they are not a ham.

There are several advantages here. The emergency communicator is not constrained to use the NTS radiogram format. Small attachments, such as ICS 213 for example, may be sent. Conversely, traditional radiograms may be carried by radio email to an NTSD station, for insertion into the traditional NTS system in a manner that is independent of scheduled “long-haul” net times. These radiograms will then be cleared & delivered in the usual way by local traffic handlers near the addressee’s location. Traffic handlers may also use radio email locally to move traffic that has been stalled by net schedules, technical difficulties, high traffic volume, etc.

NTS traffic handlers live by the PSCM Appendix B, Methods & Practices Guidelines (, otherwise known as the MPG. It is our comprehensive manual, not always easy to read, but meant to cover every situation that arises in moving traffic. The change mentioned above is an updated version of Chapter 6 of the MPG, which covers digital modes & procedures, long needed due to the advance of technology in the amateur radio world. The statistics that are gathered every month show that roughly half of the long-haul traffic is carried by NTSD & the other half by the traditional SSB & CW nets.

The NTS logo points out that traffic handlers value “Pride, Service, Tradition, Innovation.” This update is the innovation side showing up. The radio email option will make NTSD accessible to more hams, through WINMOR, which uses a sound-card interface rather than an expensive TNC. Emergency communicators should also find it more adaptable to their needs, making it easier for them to use the services of NTS operators when they are needed.

(Note that, Chapter 6 v. 6.08 is so new that it hasn’t been uploaded to the MPG pages on To get it, you must use the link provided by K6YR above.)

Kate Hutton K6HTN
Section Traffic Manager
Los Angeles Section

ARRL's Introduction to the NTS

Click here for the League's PowerPoint presentation.

Volunteers Needed Now!

ARRL’s Los Angeles Section is looking for operators interested in becoming National Traffic System (NTS) net control stations. No experience is required. You will learn efficient net operations and proper traffic handling techniques. This is an opportunity to increase your ham radio skills. You do not have to be an ARES member. However, many of the ARESLAX’s current and previous net control stations would make excellent NTS operators. The new NTS net will be a section-wide VHF/UHF phone net for the purpose of exchanging radiogram traffic.

For CW operators there already exists a local NTS CW net, Southern California Net (SCN). SCN is a training net and meets at 7:00 PM local time, Tuesdays and Thursdays, on 3.537 MHz. The net will slow down to the slowest operator's CW speed, but you are encouraged to ask for slower if you need it. There is absolutely, positively and without a shadow of a doubt nothing wrong with asking for a slower speed. Also, personal coaching is available via telephone. In the future the LAX's local NTS is anticipated to expand to HF phone, PACTOR and Winlink service.

There is an National Traffic System (NTS) relationship with ARES. NTS supports ARES’s disaster mission by providing “beyond the disaster area” communications.

If you are interested in volunteering to be an NTS net control station, please send me an e-mail expressing your interest.


David Greenhut, N6HD
Section Manger
Los Angeles ARRL Section

New CW Ops!

Last August, LAX ARES/NTS completed its first Morse code class in a rather long time. The 8-week class was held at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, on Wednesday evenings. The class was organized & led by Kate Hutton K6HTN, LAX Section Traffic Manager, but the actual code instruction was all done by, a well-known web-based Morse trainer.

We had 25 RSVP’s, 20 of whom actually showed up for the first class. Five of these students had passed Element 1 at 5 WPM in the past and were taking the class as a refresher. Summer vacations and lack of practice time or motivation took their toll, but seven of the original members plus one late entry finished the class. Six of those people had “eyeball” CW QSO’s at the classroom tables, during the last class and were declared ready for the practice nets.

One of several slow-speed practice nets available is run by the Pasadena Radio Club W6KA, at 7 pm on Sunday nights, at 28.130 MHz. The students were also encouraged to have face-to-face and on-air QSO’s with each other and to join the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) to find slow speed contesting opportunities.

It seems that we created quite a “buzz” at the hospital. Besides “serenading” the patrons of the nearby cafeteria, we seemed to have piqued the interest of the security staff who handed out the visitors badges. I’m told that one or more of them plan to sign up next time the class is offered.