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NTS Letter

The NTS Letter
November 1, 2023


From the Editor

We hope you enjoyed the premier issue of The NTS Letter. National Traffic System LogoWe heard from many of you and thank you for your kind words of support. We hope you will spread the word to others. Feel free to share this newsletter with those who may or may not be ARRL members but who have shown an interest in message handling. (Of course, you could encourage non-members to join.) Also remember to send news or suggestions from your Sections. We want to hear from you.

NTS 2.0 Update
  • We have begun to produce PowerPoint presentations and training videos, which will be available on the NTS2 website. The first training video is now available at This video is about the APRS-NTS Gateway, and information on this topic can be found later in this newsletter. The teams are currently producing a video about the encapsulation of ICS-213 and other agency forms for use particularly on voice and CW networks.
  • Because we believe recognition is so important not only for showing appreciation, but also for motivating and encouraging traffic handlers, we have been working on a recognition program for both new and experienced traffic handlers. More on that in an upcoming issue.
  • Because emergency service agencies expect delivery of messages within 30 minutes, as reported last month Don Rolph, AB1PH, has conducted transcontinental tests on 20 meters using digital modes to explore how propagation issues affect point-to-point communication across the country. Don reports these were mostly successful but says more tests will be conducted on 30 meters. He welcomes more operators to participate in these tests.
  • There are no updates on the new net directory, but we continue to press forward.
ICS-213 Compatibility: Using Radiograms to Pass Served Agency Forms

From the website:

Example of ICS-213 General Message FormIn emergencies, practice exercises, and other scenarios, radio amateurs will likely pass messages for the various served agencies, such as FEMA, Red Cross, and others. It is important that we are able to relay these messages in a way that is compatible with the agencies' existing methods. While NTS stations are used to using the standard radiogram format, agencies will use their own forms, such as the ICS-213 form pictured here.

As part of NTS 2.0, numerous NTS stations and EmComm operators have worked together to define methods and procedures for passing these various agency forms encapsulated within radiograms. This allows the NTS relay stations to handle radiograms as they are used to, while served agencies can continue to utilize their forms.

The NTS 2.0 website discusses how to encode these complex forms for transmission through the National Traffic System as radiograms, and their final delivery to the served agency in the native form format.

We realize that radiograms with encapsulated agency forms are much longer than traditional radiograms and take more time and effort when passed on CW or voice modes.

We expect these forms to be passed primarily via digital modes for most emergencies, but there can indeed be circumstances when they need to be sent via voice or CW. This could be due to the scale and type of emergency, or because of delivering station capabilities. To be prepared for these circumstances, we hope voice and CW participants and their nets will take pains to become familiar with the forms and develop proficiency through the practice of handling the encoded forms on those modes.

The NTS 2.0 Digital and EmComm working groups have developed encoding for:

  • ICS-213 form
  • Texas EMA STAR form
  • HICS-213 form
  • ARC-213 form

It is anticipated that encoding for more forms will be established as we move forward.

We will be updating this material as it is developed.

Massachusetts Rhode Island Digital Net

A New England NTS net played an integral role in a recent ARES Simulated Emergency Test on Cape Cod. The Massachusetts Rhode Island Digital Net (MARIDN) meets weekly for the purpose of passing formal, written NTS messages within, into, and out of the Sections of Eastern and Western Massachusetts and Rhode Island. MARIDN is supplemental to the Massachusetts Rhode Island Phone Net (MARIPN) and Massachusetts Rhode Island CW Net (MARICW). MARIDN uses digital modes rather than phone or CW, particularly the fldigi suite of software.

One of the Many Tools in Our Toolbox

The Cape & Islands ARES team has long embraced NTS as one of many tools in our toolbox for passing messages in emergencies. During exercises, the team routinely uses NTS procedures to pass formal traffic between field stations. For the recent exercise "Cyclone," held August 5, 2023, the Cape & Islands ARES team ran a tactical voice FM simplex net. Then participants passed formal, written NTS traffic via voice from field sites to exercise Net Control, then to exercise NCS liaison N1ILZ. Later in the exercise, N1ILZ was NCS for a session of MARIDN, during which NTS exercise traffic was passed to the greater NTS system for delivery.


Tactical voice nets are essential for ARES emergency operations. But there will always be a need for a way to pass formal, written traffic. This is where NTS shines.

NTS nets can employ voice, CW, and digital modes. MARIDN is exploring how to use the fldigi suite / NBEMS to operate an NTS net on HF (80 meters). Advantages include faster message transmission and error correction.

The Cape & Islands ARES group fully embraces NTS as one of many "tools in the toolbox," including the relatively new MARIDN.

-- Jon McCombie, N1ILZ, Eastern Massachusetts Section Manager and MARIDN Net Manager

Liven Up Your Routine Traffic

As active traffic handlers, many of us have relayed or delivered a "Welcome to amateur radio" radiogram to a newly licensed amateur. Some folks do not like accepting these types of messages, claiming that it is next to impossible to deliver radiograms when they contain incorrect phone numbers or no phone numbers at all.

Perhaps it is time to inject some variety into our routine traffic!

Some folks have started creating fun "quiz" sessions where answers are submitted via radiogram. Others confirm their POTA (Parks On The Air) contacts via radiogram. One innovative amateur even offers free certificates for special event contacts, providing the other party "QSLs" via radiogram. (Otherwise, a self- addressed, stamped envelope is required.)

The possibilities are endless; the only limit is your imagination.

I would like to suggest another idea for originating meaningful routine traffic: Many ARES groups and clubs conduct communications for walkathons, parades, and other public service activities. Why not thank the participants via radiogram?

The ham coordinator of the public service event keeps an accurate roster of the volunteers, complete with phone numbers and email addresses. They will no doubt welcome the efforts of a local traffic handler sending a radiogram message on their behalf expressing a "job well done." It's a perfect match! The public service radiogram can be a nice acknowledgement and, at the same time, inject some variety into our daily traffic routine. - New England Division Vice Director Phil Temples K9HI

ME Traffic Handler Generates Radiograms from Local Library

From the e-mailbag: Al Sirois, N1MHC, of East Boothbay, Maine reports that he, with K1CYJ and KC1TKR, collected 28 NTS messages at the local library during an event called "Booktoberfest" and transmitted these over the Maine NTS System that day. Al says Heather, KC1TKR, a new licensee, came approximately 50 miles from Oakland, ME to take part in this activity.

According to the website at, Booktober festivities included "Boothbay Region Amateur Radio Station - Join members of the N1MHC Ham radio team to learn about the fascinating world of amateur radio and send a message to a friend anywhere in the world!"

Another good idea for traffic originations.

GTE: An APRS-NTS Gateway

APRS, an Automatic Packet Reporting System, is used by many amateur radio operators as a digital communications information channel, conveying announcements, bulletins, messages, alerts, and weather information. APRS-NTS Gateway ExampleEastern Massachusetts Assistant Section Traffic Manager, Michael Ford, WZ0C, has developed an APRS information service to allow APRS users to send a radiogram through his NTS Gateway (NTSGTE) to the Digital Traffic Network (DTN) where it is relayed as usual. This service would be useful if you wanted to send a radiogram and for whatever reason, such as perhaps you are traveling, are unable to check into a traditional NTS net. You can use this on any APRS client, such as the APRSdroid app or APRSIS32 on Windows. For information on how to send a radiogram via APRS, check the website at, Training and Documentation, Special Topics, NTSGTE: an APRS-NTS Gateway, or send an email to

NTS Update from Atlantic Provinces of Canada

The Canadian provinces have long been a part of NTS. In the Eastern Area Ontario, Quebec and the Atlantic Provinces were all part of what was called the 11th region, or ECN (Eastern Canada Net). ECN met nightly and sent a liaison station to the Eastern Area Net. Eventually, however, lack of participation caused that net to deactivate, and Eastern Canadian traffic was then routed via the 2nd region.

Recently however, Glenn Killam, VE1IJ, who recently relocated from Ontario to Nova Scotia, has been collaborating with Joe Earles, VO1BQ, of Newfoundland to revive an Atlantic Provinces Net. Glenn's article, "Atlantic Area Amateurs Needed for Traffic Net," is being posted to TCA Magazine in Canada with hopes of recruiting new traffic handlers. Someday, ECN could operate again, but meanwhile Glenn uses the NTS to send radiograms welcoming new amateurs and congratulating hams on their upgrades throughout the US.

Spotlight: Aaron Hulett, K8AMH

Many of you are familiar with the NTS Trivia radiograms from Little Elm, Texas, or have been a part of the ARRLNTS group on

Aaron Hulett, K8AMH, at Cedar Point, OH

Aaron Hulett, K8AMH, at Cedar Point, OH

The traffic handler behind both activities is Aaron Hulett, K8AMH. As you might tell from his call sign, Aaron grew up in Michigan where he was fascinated with weather, wondering how he could help during major storm systems. This led him to become involved with SKYWARN, which led him to amateur Radio. He received his license in 2005 and has been a big contributor ever since. His professional background has included program manager, paralegal, and software engineer. He currently works as a project manager for a managed service provider.

As a ham radio operator, Aaron has been active in both NTS and emergency communications. He currently serves as Section Traffic Manager for the North Texas Section and is a regular net control on the DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) Metroplex Traffic Net, which is an affiliate of the ARRL National Traffic System. He has also been assisting with the NTS 2.0 initiative to help expand participation and lay the groundwork for how the NTS can assist in today's incident response environment. He became involved in traffic handling after hearing the DFW traffic net shortly after moving to the area in 2017, and quickly became interested after seeing the potential the traffic system offered.

As a STM, he feels one of his primary responsibilities is to push the system to move out of its comfort zone and embrace growth and change. He has conducted a traffic system exercise simulating an infrastructure failure in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and coordinated with the Oklahoma and South Texas Sections to execute an exercise simulating widespread hurricane destruction affecting Houston. These have provided valuable insight into how the system can respond, and what areas to look at for refining operations and developing new best practices for traffic handlers, net control stations, and Section Traffic Managers overseeing operations.

Outside of amateur radio, you might find Aaron at a local amusement park, where he enjoys riding roller coasters, especially those with airtime. If you find yourself at Cedar Point, you may catch him riding Magnum XL-200 repeatedly during opening and closing weekends.

NTS Resources

The National Traffic System® (NTS) is a network of amateur radio operators who move information during disasters and other emergencies. General messages offering well wishes also move through the NTS to help test the system and to help amateur radio operators build traffic handling skills. While the NTS is primarily set up to serve the United States and Canada, it is possible to move traffic internationally through the NTS through various local, regional, area, and international network connections.

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Editor: Marcia Forde, KW1U, Section Traffic Manager -- Eastern Massachusetts, Western Massachusetts, and Rhode Island

ARRL Director of Emergency Management: Josh Johnston, KE5MHV

ARRL Emergency Management Planner: Jeremy Dunkley, KC1SIV

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NTS is a program of ARRL The National Association for Amateur Radio®. No other organization works harder than ARRL to promote and protect amateur radio! ARRL members enjoy many benefits and services including digital magazines, e-newsletters, online learning (, and technical support. Membership also supports programs for radio clubs, on-air contests, Logbook of The World®, ARRL Field Day, and the all-volunteer ARRL Field Organization.



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