How would San Juan County communicate if it lost internet and phone service?

EmComm Team set up equipment to communicate with other amateur radio operators

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times
  • Amateur radio operators provided communication in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
  • The San Juan County EmComm Team practiced on June 22 and June 23 in Riverside Park.

AZTEC — What would happen if the fiber network connecting San Juan County to the internet and the phone lines were to fail during an emergency?

The San Juan County Amateur Radio Emergency Communications Team, also known as the EmComm team, practiced for that scenario over the weekend in Aztec.

When other forms of communication fail, amateur radio operators can set up an antenna and send out messages.

Paull Holmes, the team lead, said the group tests the equipment to see if it is working.

“If we really need it, it needs to work,” he said.

They chose to do the test on June 22 and 23 because those days were set aside as “field days” for amateur radio operators. That meant operators around the world would be on the air trying to communicate with each other.

The San Juan County EmComm Team raises the antenna, Saturday, June 22, 2019, in Riverside Park in Aztec.

These operators send messages using voice, Morse code and digital communication.

The EmComm team made contact with other amateur radio operators in places like Illinois on Saturday.

The radio is intended to communicate with people far away.

“We might not be able to talk to somebody in Albuquerque, but we can talk to someone in Illinois or Florida,” Holmes said.

He said in an emergency the people in Illinois or Florida could relay the message to people in Albuquerque.

County spokesperson and member of the EmComm team Devin Neeley said amateur radio operators in Puerto Rico responded to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria to provide emergency communications.

The San Juan County EmComm Team dedicated one of its trailers to former member Floyd Bowman.

While amateur radio operators have responded to natural disasters in other areas, Neeley said he is not aware of the San Juan County EmComm Team being deployed.

"This is a hobby," Neeley said. "We enjoy this and we'll see if we make some good contacts."

In addition to testing equipment, the San Juan County EmComm Team used field day as an opportunity to dedicate one of its trailers to former member Floyd Bowman, who died in September. 

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at

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Paull Holmes tunes a radio, Saturday, June 24, 2019, in Aztec.