The National Traffic System (NTS) is a system organized by ARRL to move messages in radiogram format across the United States and Canada. In times of emergencies, the NTS system interfaces with ARES® and other disaster relief organizations to move emergency, priority, and welfare traffic in and out of the affected areas. During non-emergency times, the system is used to pass routine messages such as "Welcome to Ham Radio" or "Happy Birthday" to maintain the proficiency of participating Amateur Radio Stations.
The NTS divides the U.S. and Canada into three large geographical areas: the Pacific Area Net (PAN), Central Area Net (CAN), and Eastern Area Net (EAN). Traffic is routed across these three areas via the Transcontinental Corps (TCC). The TCC is the backbone of the NTS.
PAN, CAN, and EAN are each divided into multiple regional nets. There are a total of fourteen regions across the U.S. and Canada. These regions differ from the FCC Call Sign Regions. The Pacific Area Net is composed of Regions six, seven, and twelve. California is located in region six (RN6) along with Nevada and Hawaii.
Each region is further subdivided into "sections". Los Angeles County is located in the Los Angeles (LAX) section. Orange County is located in the Orange section, as are the counties of Inyo, Riverside, and San Bernardino. Below the section are the "local" nets. These might be comprised of a single town or a group of small towns or other geographic area as needed. Hypothetically, the Los Angeles Section could be subdivided to include a local "San Fernando Valley" net if needed.
Operating Mode and Spectrum
The National Traffic System is not limited to a single mode nor any specific area of the Amateur Radio band. NTS uses FM, SSB, CW, along with digital modes such as PACTOR and RTTY. Whatever moves the traffic will do just fine.
Local and sectional nets tend to be FM on VHF / UHF. The Los Angeles Section Net meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 8:30 pm (local) on 147.945 MHz (−) PL 156.7 Hz (the SCRN repeater system).
As you move further up the food chain, these nets tend to use CW and digital modes. There are two Southern California Nets: The SCN meets Monday – Friday at 7 pm (local) using CW on or about 3.537 MHz. SCN/V (FM) meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 9 pm (local) on the 2 meter repeater on Keller Peak at 146.385 MHz (+) PL 146.2 Hz.
NTS nets are manned by a small number of extremely dedicated and highly proficient Amateur Radio operators. I strongly recommend monitoring these nets. NTS operators may be Amateurs but they are very professional moving traffic. If you plan to join an emergency communication group such as ARES or RACES, you can't learn traffic handling from anyone better then these NTS operators.