Format's Not a Floormat

Question: When is traffic not sent in NTS format?

Answer: That depends.

Although the time-tested radiogram format serves the National Traffic System well on a daily basis, sometimes a variation or completely different form is appropriate.

For example, the Badger Weather Net, which handles almost 20,000 pieces of traffic each year, has a very efficient format for collecting weather reports for the U. S. Weather Bureau. They use only a message number (since the station of origin, place, and date are understood) and an abbreviated text as follows: (1) high temperature (in the past 6 a.m. to 6 a.m. period), (2) low temperature (same period), (3) 24-hour precipitation (rain, drizzle), (4) 24-hour new snow fall (to neARESt .10"), (5) ground snow depth at 6 a.m., (7) total weekly precipitation (on Mondays) --rain, water content of snow. So an exchange of a BWN message would sound like this:

NCS: "N9TVT, send your weather to N9VE."

N9TVT: "Number 1 60 44 2 0 3"

N9VE: "Roger Number 1"

It's done very quickly, and that efficiency starts as early as 3 a.m. on 3.985 MHz. The reports are taken until 7:15 at the very latest. This is another example of where Ham Radio really makes a difference, since the Weather Bureau does, indeed, put these daily statistics to use in forecasting, documenting trends, etc.

During times of severe weather, efficiency is always of paramount importance, and reports in a specific format are much more useful to the duty forecaster. If you've participated in a local or area net during severe weather, you know reports are made in the TLCS format.

1. Time of the event (not the time you send the report)

2. Location of the event (SW Jefferson County, South City of Fort Atkinson, Hwy 26 & Foxhill Road.

3. Condition ("1/2 hail, covering the ground)

4. Source (Station making the observation - This must be an Amateur Radio callsign.)

An exchange might sound like this.

Reporting station: "N9ZET, Hail and wind"

NCS: "N9ZET, go ahead."

Reporting station: "At 6:05, southeast Dane County, north of city of Edgerton, hail 3/4", measured 40 mph wind."

NCS: "Roger."

Wx Service (or liaison station): "Weather Service, roger."

There's a temptation to speak too loud or too fast in the excitement of sending important traffic. Too much volume can cause distortion. Speaking too fast often necessitates requests for repeats or clarification, so it actually s-l-o-w-s the process. If an operator speaks at longhand dictation speed - or writes it out while saying the message, it sets a good pace.

Traffic format is adjusted to the situation. The format is flexible -- just as all good operators must be. 73 -- K9LGU/STM