MONTE VISTA – On June 27-28, the San Luis Valley Amateur Radio Association (SARA) joined amateur radio, also known as HAM radio operators, across the country for a 24-hour field day. The operation was set up in the parking lot of Calvary Baptist Church, and the group had to erect a towering antenna and two shorter ones to connect them to the world. By using a generator and other alternative energy sources, including solar power, local HAMs were able to contact other HAMs thousands of miles away. Working in shifts, they were able to continue from Saturday noon to Sunday midnight.
Amateur radio is a hobby of using various types of radio communication equipment to connect with other people who have the same interest. HAM radio is the popular term for amateur radio, derived from “ham”, as a nickname for an amateur radio operator. Amateur radio got its start in the 1920s and since then it has continued to grow. Today, HAM radio operators have a global network and can even reach the International Space Station.
Although HAM is a fun pastime, it can also be used as an important means of communication in an emergency. One of the primary goals of the San Luis Valley Amateur Radio Association (SARA) is to be able to provide emergency communications capabilities to people living in the valley, in the event that the existing infrastructure fails. One project they are currently working on is establishing a direct communication link between Monte Vista PD and Alamosa EOC. Their intention is also to establish links with other ministries in the future. Currently, several people in law enforcement and other agencies in the San Luis Valley are licensed HAM radio operators. They include Rio Grande Sheriff Don McDonald, Officer Christopher Lavery in Alamosa, and Officer Josh Hill in Monte Vista.
The field day was a great opportunity for the group to test their communication skills. “Working on the bridge to communication is a big part of what we do. That’s why we’re doing this to show that we can do it. We can set up a remote operation and there are HAMs all over the country doing that today. They’re in state parks, they’re in federal parks, they’re on private land,” said SARA Secretary Adam Lock.
Rio Grande Sheriff Don McDonald also took part in the field day and shared, “With me, I’m the Rio Grande County Emergency Services Sheriff, that’s definitely at the top of my list. . Part of the communications is this group here. Even from my office, I have a radio and it’s in my office, so I listen to stuff. If anything happens with the communications down, I know I can make a few calls and we’ll be covered.
The SARA group is now almost a year old after starting in the fall of 2019. They already have a repeater on the air in Monte Vista and they are almost done with installing a second repeater on a different frequency range. The group is made up of volunteers who all share a passion for amateur radio. According to their website, the group exists to “1. Promote amateur radio within SLV, the United States and the world. 2. Provide instruction and encouragement to people new to amateur radio. 3. To help provide emergency communication to our San Luis Valley communities when needed. More information about the group can be found online at their website https://k0slv.com