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 on a 24-hour field day. The operation was set up in the parking lot of the Baptist Church of Calvary, and the group had to erect an imposing antenna and two shorter ones to connect them with the world. 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.
HAM radio is a hobby that involves using various types of radio communication equipment to connect with other like-minded people. HAM radio is the popular term for amateur radio, derived from “ham”, as a nickname for an amateur radio operator. HAM radio got its start in the 1920s and has grown steadily since then. Today, HAM radio operators have a global network and can even reach the International Space Station.
While HAM is a fun hobby, it can also be used as an important communication medium in an emergency. One of the main goals of the San Luis Valley Amateur Radio Association (SARA) is to be able to provide emergency communication capabilities to people living in the valley, in case the existing infrastructure breaks down. A project they are currently working on is to establish a direct communication link between the PD of Monte Vista and the EOC of Alamosa. Their intention is also to establish links with other departments later. Currently there are several people in law enforcement and other agencies around the San Luis Valley who are licensed HAM radio operators. They include Sheriff Don McDonald of Rio Grande, 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 the bridge to communication is a big part of what we do. This is why we are doing this to show that we can do it. We can set up in 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 Adam Lock, secretary of SARA.
Rio Grande Sheriff Don McDonald also attended the Field Day and said, “Being the Rio Grande County Emergency Services Sheriff is really high on 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 happened with the communications failure, I know I can make a few calls and we would be covered.
The SARA group is now almost a year old and started in fall 2019. They already have a repeater on air in Monte Vista and they are almost done with a second repeater installation on a different frequency range. The group is made up of volunteers who all share a passion for HAM 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 new people interested in amateur radio. 3. Help provide emergency communications to our communities in the San Luis Valley when needed. More information about the group can be found online on their website. https://k0slv.com