National Traffic System (NTS)
Training (Part 1 of 5)

This is the first of a series of briefings on traffic handling. The source for this material is from N0WPA (now K0RM) and can be found on the Colorado ECom web page.

The purpose of using a standard or a specified format in any field of endeavor is so that everyone knows what to expect. The amateur radio message form, or radiogram, is a 'standard' used for passing message traffic via the National Traffic System. If amateurs are practiced using a standard on a regular basis, use during emergency situations would be very natural. While the published standard may not be perfect for all applications, it serves as a baseline which can be readily adapted for use with a specific served agency.

The amateur message form is broken into 4 parts:

  1. The preamble; often referred to as "the header". This consists of administrative data such as the message number, originating station, precedence and date/time of origination. The combination of the message number and the originating station serves as a unique message identifier which can be traced if necessary.

  2. The address. This includes name, street address or P.O. box, city state, and zip of the individual to whom the message is intended to be delivered. The address should also include telephone number since the majority of amateur radio messages are ultimately delivered via local phone call in the destination area.

  3. The text; the text of the message. The text should be brief and to the point; limited if possible to 25 words or less. Care should be taken to avoid contractions - as the apostrophe is generally not used in CW; the contraction for I WILL could cause undue stress to the receiver!

  4. The signature. This can be a single name, a name and call sign; Mom and dad, a name and a title, -- whatever is needed to ensure the recipient can identify the sender. The amateur originating a message should have enough information so that a reply message can be returned to the originator.