Special care is required when preparing written third party message traffic for transmission over the amateur NTS traffic networks. What is third party traffic? The generally accepted definition is "short written noncommercial messages between people who are not amateur radio operators".
The objective of NTS is to cause these written messages to transit the NTS system, word for word, character for character, and be able to be handled without alteration via any of the common modes of transmission currently in use such as CW, SSB, VHF-FM, Packet, or PACTOR. It is desired to reproduce the message at the far end of the system exactly as it was initially sent.
The main source for any volume of such traffic is usually either of two occurrences.
1. An unplanned event, which forces people to use the Amateur NTS
networks due to failure or overload of normal regular commercial
2. A planned event, such as a convention, fair or other public gathering which encourages use of the amateur traffic networks more or less as a novelty.
In either case, the average person will need help in composing their
messages so they can be properly and expeditiously handled by the NTS
operators. This will
be especially so with Health & Welfare traffic coming from disaster shelters in times of emergency.
If any large volume of third party traffic is expected, the radio operator proper must be assisted by another person or persons ("public counter" assistants) who can take care of preparing the messages for transmission. The operator will have his or her hands full just working the radio. The people detailed as counter assistants must be trained and familiar with this kind of message work, but they need not be licensed radio operators.
There are several things that must be considered when taking in
traffic from the general public:
1. The average sender has no idea about putting his message into the standard format which we require to be used, in order for the generated traffic to be capable of being properly relayed through the system. They will need assistance.
2. The word count of the message text must be kept under control to avoid network overloading. Improper or illegal content or symbols that cannot be transmitted must be kept out of the text. The message must be composed so as to convey the desired meaning without unnecessary wordage, and to minimize the possibility of being misunderstood by the recipient.
3. Addressing must be properly done in order for the message to be
at its ultimate destination.
a) All messages must be sent to a person or organization by name.
b) The address must also contain a physical location where the addressee can be found in order to deliver the message. Street number and name, Rural delivery route, post office box, hotel/motel name and room (if known) are common ways of providing this information.
c) The address must also contain the destination City, State or Province, Country if not in USA or Canada, and postal code, if known.
d) If at all possible, the address should include a full ten digit telephone number NPA-NXX-NNNN, which will greatly aid expeditious message delivery.
4. The sender only needs to furnish the address, text and signature of the message. Normally, messages should be written either by the sender him/herself or the operator's "public counter" assistant for the sender, on plain half sheets of paper 8 1/2 by 5 1/2 inches in size. This is plenty large for the average 25 word message, and will help discourage excessive wordiness in message texts. Pre-printed blanks are not necessary for messages being sent and represent an unnecessary expense and logistic problem.
5. Messages must be signed properly with a name so the recipient
know who sent it. The sender should also furnish local contact
so they can be reached if there is an answer to their message or if
problem occurs with delivering it. This information should be
on the back of the message blank
for future reference if needed.
Appropriate message numbering, precedence, handling codes, Station of Origin's callsign, check, originating point , filing time (if used) and date must then be properly appended as a preamble in order to route the message correctly through the NTS system from origin to destination. The entire message should then be carefully checked over in regard to legibility and completeness at this time. These tasks are best left to the counter assistant who is trained and knows how to do them.
At this point the message is ready to be handed to the radio
for transmission. The written message copy is now the "document
record" for the message, and after the radio operator notes on it
the time sent, frequency, and the
callsign of the station it was sent to, it should be filed in the Originating Station's "Sent" file. The FCC no longer requires copies of amateur messages to be retained, but it is a good idea to keep them on file for at least a year anyway, "just in case".
Only by careful attention to all these details will good service be provided for the public. Messages that are properly originated have a much better chance of making it through the NTS system to destination than those which are not.
Ed AL7N April 16, 2003