Tag Archive: Traffic Handling

Mar 04 2011

What is the point in being a good Ham any way?

I was thinking about my amateur radio experiences over the years and things I have done to improve my skills and knowledge of amateur radio and it dawned on me “what is the point of being a good Ham anyway?”

I will give you a good example from my own experience. I have tried nearly every aspect of amateur radio except for satellite communications and EME. I was Digital Net Manager for NTS here in Texas and hold a brass pounders medallion for my NTS work. I am an Asst. RACES radio officer and Asst. EC for the city of Mesquite Texas. I have taken and passed ARECC level I, II, and III. I served two terms as president of the Ham Association of Mesquite and was head of the education committee for a year and net coordinator for the weekly information net for two years for that same organization. I have served as Asst. Section Manager under five Section managers. I am or have been an Official Observer, Chairman of the speakers bureau, VE, Technical Specialist, Official Relay Station, Official Emergency Station for the ARRL. The list goes on and on. I have even spent many hours calling nets on HF and VHF for NTS, and other organizations.

So what is the point? Well at this stage of the game the only unfulfilled goals I have in the hobby is to become Section Emergency Coordinator or District Emergency Coordinator for ARES in my area or Section Traffic Manager. This will never happen though because it is not in the cards for me.

When the Section Traffic Manager position became vacant a few years ago the appointment went to a fairly new ham that didn’t even know what the TCC was. I was available but I received no call. The same with SEC and DEC. DEC has become vacant several times over the past few years. I have thrown my hat in but it is always somebody that is a better political choice or a buddy of the SEC. When the last SEC retired I volunteered for that but It was better to have someone that has been a Ham for a little over a year as Section Emergency Coordinator. Well I guess it helps to be friends with the section manager, training and experience doesn’t.

So we come back to the question “what is the point in being a good amateur radio operator?” Well it is not about personal gain. Being a good ham brings the satisfaction of knowing you are the best you can be in the hobby. The knowledge that you have taken the time to learn and train for the time when you are needed to provide communications for those that can’t. Not only the little old lady that just lost her house due to a flood but the government agencies that can’t get on the same page with there radio equipment. The ability to bring others into the amateur radio community using your knowledge and enthusiasm for the hobby. The ability to take a newly licensed radio operator and guide him into a position where he can enjoy the hobby as much as you do. Those are some but not all of the reasons for being a good amateur radio operator.

So go out and be the best Ham you can be. Learn, Do, Teach. Bring new people into the hobby. Elmer the ones that are already here. Spread that infection that is know as love for the hobby and let the appliance operators seek the glory.

Ain’t that right Jay?

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • FriendFeed
  • Identi.ca
  • LinkedIn
  • Ping.fm

Feb 13 2011

What the Heck is NTS?

This is the second in a series of Articles I am writing to try and demystify emergency and disaster communications. This time we will talk a little about the National Traffic System.

What is the National Traffic System?

The Public Service Communications Manual tells us:

The National Traffic System is a means for systematizing amateur traffic handling facilities by making a structure available for an integrated traffic facility designed to achieve the utmost in two principal objectives: rapid movement of traffic from origin to destination, and training amateur operators to handle written traffic and participate in directed nets. These two objectives, which sometimes conflict with each other, are the underlying foundations of the National Traffic System.“

OK, what does all of that mean? Well the NTS has a structured net schedule which operates in a cyclic fashion so that written message traffic can move through the system in the quickest possible fashion. The NTS has also developed a set of tools that standardize messages as they come into the system and to speed them through the system. Fledgling net controls can also hone their skills by calling one of the semi formal NTS nets so they will be ready when it really counts. Now most of that stuff can be kind of dry and may be the focus of a future article but for now lets go with the basics.

Who should handle traffic?

All amateur radio operators should learn the basics of how to handle NTS message traffic using the standard ARRL Message form. It doesn’t matter if you move traffic on phone, CW or by digital means. NTS messages follow the same format on all three. The format that is most commonly used is the standard ARRL radiogram but that may not always be the case. This format has been used for NTS messages for longer than most traffic handlers can remember. If you look around on the world wide web you will find that there are many message forms out there but they all follow the basic radiogram format. The Red Cross health and welfare form is just a radiogram with the Red Cross header on it. The ICS-213 is different but can be adapted to serve.

Why should I learn to handle record message traffic?

Sometime, somewhere you may find yourself in a position where you don’t have telephone or cell phone access and you will have the need to move information from point A to point B. It may just be a message to tell loved ones that their family is ok and will contact them soon or it could be a list of supplies that are needed at a hard to get to shelter. If the need for operators is for those that have traffic handling skills and you have not practiced you may find yourself sitting at the staging area playing cards for sticks of gum instead of participating in the recovery operations.

When would NTS be activated?

Well being part of ARES the National Traffic System activates any time ARES is active and can activate independently of ARES if the need to move written Message traffic should arise. During the recovery efforts in California after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 NTS moved health and welfare traffic out of the area for weeks. The same can be said for hurricane Katrina. In both cases NTS operators moved traffic for other organizations also like the Texas Baptist Men, Salvation Army, and the American Red Cross just to name a few.

Well where do I find these NTS Nets?

The best way to find NTS nets is to ask some of the folks you talk to on the air. Normally you can find at least one traffic handler in the bunch. We are lucky here in the DFW area, we have two local traffic nets everyday. If you don’t know anybody that can point you to an NTS net then go over to the ARRL website and check out their free net directory. Most NTS nets can be found on 40 Meters during the day and 75 Meters at night. There are even one or two on twenty meters.

OK, how do I become a traffic handler?

Well you the truth of the matter is you already are. Being a member of NTS is like being a member of ARES. Because you are a licensed amateur radio operator you are a member of NTS. The question is are you willing to participate?

Its pretty simple

  • familiarized yourself with the tools (Radiogram, ARL numbered radiogram, etc.)
  • find and participate in a few nets (Local, State, Regional)
  • develop your skill by self training and on air training
  • maybe pass a message or two
  • have a good time

Amateur radio is not “Just a Hobby” sometimes we have to do a little work to accomplish our goals.

That doesn’t mean we can’t have fun while we do it.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email
  • FriendFeed
  • Identi.ca
  • LinkedIn
  • Ping.fm