Category Archives: traffic handling

Give me a ring

Sending the telephone number from a radiogram’s address block is pretty straightforward, with a catch. How you introduce the phone number varies, depending on whether the radiogram has a ZIP code. If we just sent a ZIP code, we introduce the telephone number with the word, “figures” alone. If there is no ZIP code, we introduce the telephone number with two words: “telephone figures.” This tips off the receiving operator that there’s no ZIP code and that he should move to the telephone line. In either case, we say “figures” only once per telephone number, like this: “Figures five seven four, five five five, one two three four.” Note that we don’t transmit the dashes in the telephone number, we just pause where the dashes are. Up next: Take a break.

(This is the 12th in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Going to town


We transmit city names without introduction. Unless the city is well known, we then say, “I spell,” followed by the city phonetically. We say the state name in full, even if it is abbreviated in the radiogram (as it usually is). We introduce ZIP codes with the word, “figures” (not, “ZIP figures”) and then transmit them one digit at a time. There’s a special rule for nine-digit ZIP codes and I admit it’s a bit weird. A ZIP code of 21200-1234 would sound like this: “Figures two one two zero zero, dash, I spell delta alpha Sierra hotel one two three four.” Why do we spell out the dash? Beats me, but that’s what it says in the official NTS guidelines. Fortunately, radiograms rarely have nine-digit ZIP codes! A typical city line would sound like, “Burket, I spell, bravo uniform Romeo kilo echo tango, Indiana, figures four six five zero eight.” Next week: telephone numbers.

(This is the 11th in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Hitting the street

Before we transmit the numerical part of a street address, we say, “figures.” Then we transmit the house number one digit at a time. Next, we say the street name. Unless the street name is a very common word, we then say, “I spell” and then spell the street name phonetically. In the street address, we do not expand abbreviations or compress words to abbreviations. If the radiogram reads, “Ave,” we say “Initials alpha Victor echo.” If the Radiogram reads “Avenue,” we say, “Avenue,” not “Ave.” So, an address like this: 1234 Woodlan Rd, would sound like “Figures one two three four, Woodlan, I spell, whiskey Oscar Oscar delta Lima alpha November, initials Romeo delta.” PO Box 1234 would sound like “initials papa Oscar, box, figures one two three four.” 313 4th St would sound like “figures three one three, mixed group four tango hotel, initials Sierra tango.” Next week, going to town.

(This is the 10th in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Addressing the addressee

The pause we take after sending a radiogram preamble is the only introduction the address needs. We don’t say, “Going to,” we just say the first name of the addressee. If the first name is unusual or could be spelled in more than one way (e.g. Jon and John or Chris and Kris), we follow the name with the words, “I spell,” and then spell it phonetically. If there’s a middle initial, we say, “initial,” and then the initial phonetically. Then we say the last name. It is best practice to always spell the last name, even common last names, so we again say, “I spell” and the spell the name phonetically. If there is a call sign after the name, we say, “amateur call” and then the call sign phonetically. Here’s how “Chris B. Johnson W9XAB” should sound: “Chris, I spell, Charlie hotel, Romeo, India, Sierra, initial bravo, Johnson, I spell, Juliet, Oscar, hotel, November, Sierra, Oscar, November, amateur call whiskey nine x-ray alpha bravo.” Next week: Addresses.

(This is the ninth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

When did it start?

Radiogram preambles end with an optional time filed and mandatory date filed. We transmit both without introduction. We say all four digits of the time filed (if present), one digit at a time. If a letter is present to indicate the time zone, we say that letter phonetically. We transmit the date by saying the month name in full (even if it is abbreviated in the radiogram), then the day, one digit at a time. For example, we say “Indiana, zero nine one three Zulu, April one five.” After we say the last digit of the date, we pause and take a breath. That pause signals that the preamble is finished. We do not say “break” here. Next week: Addressing the addressee.

(This is the eighth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Where ya’ from?

After a radiogram’s check, we transmit the place of origin, without introduction. This is almost always a city or town name, followed by a state or province. Immediately after the check we say the city name, and then say “I spell,” and then spell the city name phonetically (spelling can be omitted only if the city is well known and understood). Then we say the state name in full, even if it appears in the message as a two-letter abbreviation. For example, we say, “one five, Claypool, I spell, Charlie, Lima, alpha, Yankee, papa, Oscar, Oscar, Lima, Indiana.” We don’t say, “Place of origin, Claypool, I-N.” Next week: Time and date.

(This is the seventh in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Send a check

Every radiogram preamble has a “check.” The check is the number of word “groups” in the text of the message. We send the check one digit at a time, without introduction. For example, if the message text has 15 word groups, we say, “alpha bravo nine Zulu alpha, one five,” not “alpha bravo nine Zulu alpha, check one five,” and not “alpha bravo nine Zulu alpha, check fifteen.” Some messages contain ARRL numbered radiograms (an explanation of which is beyond the scope of this article). In that case, the letters “ARL” precede the check, like this: “A-R-L one five.” Note that this is one of those rare times when we do not use phonetics. Next week: Every message comes from somewhere.

(This is the sixth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)

Station identification


Every radiogram has a station of origin; the call sign of the ham who first transmitted it on the radio. That means if another ham gives you a message via telephone and you transmit it on the radio, the radiogram’s station of origin is your call sign, not his. We transmit the station of origin phonetically, without introduction. For example, “number one five, routine, alpha bravo nine zulu alpha,” not “number one five, routine, station of origin A-B-9-Z-A,” and not “number one five, routine, amateur call alpha bravo nine zulu alpha.” Next week: How to send a check.
(This is the fifth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.) 

Handle the handling instruction


ARRL Form FSD-218 defines seven possible handling instructions, each represented by one of the letters, A through G. Not every message has a handing instruction. When present, we send it after the precedence. We introduce it with the phonetics “hotel x-ray” and then we give the letter phonetically. For example, we say, “routine, hotel x-ray charlie,” not “routine, charlie.” When a number is involved, we say it one digit at a time. For example, “number one two, routine, hotel x-ray alpha five zero,” not “number one two, routine, A fifty.” Next week: Station of origin.
(This is the fourth in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)  

Stay In A Routine


After we transmit a radiogram’s message number, the precedence is next. “Precedence” is the word we use to describe how urgent a message is.  It also determines which messages get sent first.  Possibilities include “routine,” “welfare,” “priority” and “emergency.” Definitions of each appear in ARRL Form FSD-3.  Experienced traffic handlers know that the precedence always immediately follows the message number, so we don’t introduce it, we just say it.  For example, we don’t say, “number one five, precedence routine.”  We instead say, “number one five, routine.” Next week, we’ll cover handling instructions.
(This is the third in a series of short traffic-handling columns I submitted to the Kosciusko County ARES newsletter.)