Last week was filled with various amateur radio exercises and drills held across the country. Locally, Sonoma County ARES and Marin CERT held simulated emergency tests in connection with Thursday’s statewide ShakeOut! According to the media, “At 10:15 a.m. on Thursday, more than 6.9 million Californians in schools, businesses, nonprofit organizations and state, county and city offices in each of the state’s counties participated in the Great California ShakeOut earthquake preparedness drill.”

What prompted such a large number of people to take part in drills that ranged from two-and-a-half minute drop, cover and hold on exercises in schools to large scale community response drills that included search and rescue, plus evacuation exercises? Was it connected to the fact that the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake occurred about this ytime 20 years, ago? Or, could it be connected to the 2007 prediction that California was 99.7 percent likely to have a 6.7 magnitude or greater earthquake sometime in the next 30 years? For whatever reasons, the degree of participation was tremendous.

The Sage of Petaluma II recalls that shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast region in 2005, a small group of Petalumans met at the Senior Center to discuss how we might cope with a mega-disaster in Sonoma County. Then, it was on October 19, 2005, that the Neighborhood Emergency Response Team (NERT) concept and model was announced on the Internet TV show titled, “Sonoma County Disaster Readiness: Can Sonoma County Communicate?” This forum was sponsored by the Pacific Clearstream Media Group.TV and chaired by Brad Bollinger, Editor in Chief of the North Bay Business Journal. Panel members included Chris Helgren, Deputy Emergency Services Coordinator, Sonoma County Department of  Emergency Services; Eric Swanson, Unit Leader, South Sonoma County Operational Area, Sonoma County Auxiliary Communications Services; Chris Albertson, Petaluma Fire Chief; and Bill Hammerman, PetalumaNet community volunteer. The first Petaluma CERT course was offered by Bill Paxton and Kevin Marks, in 2006.

In 2008, “An Emergency Readiness & Disaster Preparedness” blueprint was prepared by

 Petaluma ALERT (Alliance of Local Emergency Response Teams.) One of their communication exercises, last year, included the use of Ham radios and walkie-talkies. Another such drill is scheduled for next month. Petalumans should be proud of their neighbors who have volunteered to learn how to Be Ready and how to Be Prepared when a major disaster occurs in their community. Happy birthday Petaluma NERT!

Note: Don’t let the acronyms scare you. CERT = Community Emergency Response Team, and ARES = Amateur Radio Emergency Service.