National Traffic System (NTS)
Training (Part 3)

This is the third of a series of briefings on traffic handling. The source for this material is N0WPA (now K0RM) and the Colorado ECom web pages.

Let's spend a couple of minutes going into more detail of the preamble. The preamble is the section of the amateur message form where all the administrative details of the message are recorded. There are eight sections or blocks in the preamble (two of them are optional fields).

The FIRST BLOCK is the MESSAGE NUMBER. This is any number assigned by the amateur who first put the message into NTS format. While any alpha-numeric combination is acceptable, usually, traffic handlers use a numeric sequence starting with the number 1 at the beginning of each year.

The SECOND BLOCK is the PRECEDENCE. The precedence tells each traffic handler the relative importance or how urgent a message is. Within the NTS format, there are four levels of precedence:

- abbreviated with the letter "R". Most amateur traffic is handled using this precedence; it's for all traffic which does not meet the requirements for a higher precedence.

- abbreviated with the letter "W". This precedence is for an inquiry as to the health and welfare of an individual in a disaster area or a message from a disaster that all is well.

- abbreviated with the letter "P". This precedence is for important messages with a time limit; official messages not covered by the EMERGENCY precedence or notification of death or injury in a disaster area. This precedence is usually associated with official traffic to, from or related to a disaster area.

- there is no abbreviation for this precedence; the word EMERGENCY is always spelled out in full. This precedence is for any message having life and death urgency which is transmitted by amateur radio in the absence of regular communications facilities. This includes official messages of welfare agencies requesting supplies during emergencies; or other official instructions to provide aid or relief in a disaster area. The use of this precedence should be limited to traffic originated by officials. If there is any doubt as to the use of this precedence, it should NOT be used.

The THIRD BLOCK is for HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS. This is an optional field at the discretion of the originating ham. These are a set of specified additional handling instructions - there are 7 of them; they are standard; and they are identified as HXA, HXB, HXC, etc through HXG.

The FOURTH BLOCK is the STATION OF ORIGIN. This is the first ham that put the message into NTS format. If a non traffic handling ham NØAAA wants to send a message and he gets his traffic handling buddy next door NØBBB to format it and send it, NØBBB's call sign is the station of origin.

The FIFTH BLOCK is the CHECK. The check is the number of words in the text. This excludes the preamble, address and signature. We'll have a whole session on the check next web page.

The SIXTH BLOCK is the PLACE OF ORIGIN. This is the city and state, or in Canada, the city and Province, or the city and county if elsewhere than the originator of the message lives. This is NOT the city and state of the ham who originated the message - it is, rather, the location of the individual - whether they are a ham or not. I live in Colorado Springs - but if a ham friend (or non ham friend) who lives in Monument, CO calls and I originate the NTS traffic, NØWPA is the station of origin, but Monument, CO is the PLACE OF ORIGIN.

The SEVENTH BLOCK is the TIME FILED - and is an optional field unless handling instruction BRAVO is used. Although we haven't covered HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS in detail - HANDLING INSTRUCTION BRAVO means cancel if not delivered within X hours of filing time - and so obviously you would have to have a filing time. Unless the message is time sensitive, this field is normally left blank for routine messages. If it IS used, it is usually the ZULU time the message was first placed into the National Traffic System.

The EIGHTH and last BLOCK of the preamble is the DATE. THIS IS USUALLY the ZULU date the message was first placed into the National Traffic System.