How Do I Deliver a Message?

Post date: Aug 10, 2016 7:32:46 PM

After learning how to originate and to relay traffic, you've started to accept traffic. Great! It's one thing to accept traffic for yourself, but something entirely different to deliver a message to someone who might not even know what amateur radio is.

This isn't just something to make you worry. Sadly we do have operators among us who don't get enough practice delivering messages to the public and sometimes forget that they're dealing with people who don't even know how to spell NTS, much less how to make sense out of "NUMBER EIGHT FOUR SEVEN ROUTINE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS FOXTROT ONE ZERO..." I just got a service message back on a birthday greeting I sent to someone. The service message said "wrong number," but it turns out that the number was right. The recipient had no idea what was happening and didn't wait around for two minutes of baffling words to get to the signature to learn who sent the message.

NTS just isn't as useful as it should be if we do stuff like this.

How do we avoid this trouble? As usual, Methods and Practices Guidelines is a good place to look. Chapter 8 deals with interacting with members of the public, including the delivery of traffic.

In a nutshell, the recipient does not want a "radiogram" and the way that we relay the message along NTS is not how we will deliver the message to the public. They don't care about message numbers, handling instructions, stations of origin, or anything like that. We—traffic handlers—need that kind of information to ensure smooth and effective operation. When it comes to the originators and recipients of messages, what they care about is who sent the message and what it says.

My advice is get to the point, and get there quickly. If I have a message for Alice in Hilliard from Bob in Chicago, when I talk to Alice I'm going to say, "Hello. I am an amateur radio operator and have a radio message for you from Bob in Chicago. I'd like to read it to you and can send back a response if you'd like." I then read the message directly in plain English, no mumbo-jumbo ALFA ROMEO LIMA SEVEN X-RAY.

After I read the message, I ask if they need me to repeat anything. Once that's taken care of, I ask if I may send a message back for them. Once that's addressed, I'll ask if they've got any questions about this service provided by amateur radio operators to ensure that we have communication even when phones, cell towers, and Internet service are taken out by disaster. If they say they want to hear more, I give them only a few sentences: amateur radio also known as ham radio operators use their radios and antenna systems to talk to people all over the world. It's a great hobby, a way to learn how electronics work, and because we can talk all over the world gives us the chance to provide international goodwill. We also serve our communities by providing communications services when things like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina strike. Those disasters make it impossible for entire parts of the country to communicate but because our radios don't need wires or have limited circuits for calls we can send and receive messages for people who are affected. To keep ourselves in practice, we relay routine messages like the one you just got so we're not rusty when it's time to perform the service under stress. If you or someone you know would like to learn how to do this, I'm happy to give you my number and point you to the local clubs to help you get started.

Here's the critical part of MPG, quoted verbatim.


Messages are important to both the addressees and the originators, and, because our free public service is a novelty to many, we have an opportunity to serve the public and make a good impression on the people we encounter. Much of what people know about Amateur Radio will be learned from the experience of receiving a message, and how well (or poorly) the delivering amateur presented himself or herself.

In today’s telemarketing world, the first consideration in delivery style is to make immediately clear that your call is not a sales pitch or solicitation. Ascertain if you have reached the correct residence or location then explain who you are and why you are calling.

Use care to explain that you have a greetings message so that the party on the phone does not jump to the conclusion that you are bearing bad news. People naturally think a "radiogram" is used only for the worst kind of news.

If the message is bad news, extra effort has to be made to soften the blow. Explain that the message might not be good news and you wish to help them understand the content clearly. This is a difficult and delicate matter requiring serious tone, calm voice, and sympathetic attention to the reactions of the party on the line. Messages concerning death or serious illness might be better handled if you contact the local American Red Cross or police for assistance.


A good way to deliver a routine message might be as follows:

"Good (evening), is this the (addressee last name) residence? (on the affirmative) May I speak with (addressee name) please?".

If asked, identify yourself and your purpose without revealing the message contents (reserved for the addressee). When contact is made:

"Good (evening) Mr. (Mrs., Ms.) (name), this is an Amateur Radio operator here in (city).

We are the Hams you hear about who help with communications during emergencies. We also send radiograms for people as a daily free public service, and I have a greetings message here for you from (place of origin). I will read it through for you and would be happy to repeat it if you care to write it down."

This allows the person to ask you to wait until they get pencil and paper before starting, if they wish.

Read the message text slowly and clearly, using plain language (translating ARL messages with blanks filled properly), and saying "period" for X-RAY as needed, etc., then say:

"... and the message is signed by (signature) from (place of origin) at (time filed, if present) on (date).”

Reading the message preamble, prowords, OP NOTES, or full addressee information, is not done unless there is some information contained therein which might need to be discussed to verify the correct delivery.

Ask if they would like you to repeat the message again to permit them to write it down, or simply to hear it again. Repeat the message, if required.

Offer to send a message back, or perhaps a message to another party of the addressee's choice. A reply may have been requested in the text by ARL SEVEN, or in the preamble by HXE. These requests are honored differently. See the later sections below.

Recipients may or may not ask about how the message system works. This is your chance to talk about Amateur Radio. They will be amazed to hear your story.

Happy traffic handling!

Matthew KD8TTE, ORS