The top three major problems during the response phase of Hurricane Katrina (2005), according to one government official were “Communications, Communications, Communications.” The ability to communicate, when most communication systems were inoperable, was the major reason PetalumaNet initiated a series of events and meetings (Sept.-Oct. 2005) that focused on how Sonoma County emergency response teams would communicate when a major disaster, such as an earthquake, occurred.

Over the past four years and seven months various acronym, like those listed below, were created to represent the various components of an Emergency Readiness & Disaster Preparedness Blueprint for the Greater Petaluma Area.

  • CERT = Community Emergency Response Team
  • CERN = Community Emergency Radio Network
  • NERT = Neighborhood Emergency Response Team
  • COPE = Citizens Organized to Prepare for Emergencies
  • ALERT = Alliance of Local Emergency Response Teams
  • DP4VP = Disaster Preparedness for Vulnerable Populations

Over the past five months, one of those programs – CERN – has experimented with various procedures and protocols that amateur radio operators (Hams) at the neighborhood level might use in establishing a communication network capable of reporting disaster intelligence information to the City’s EOC (Emergency Operations Center) in order that the municipal emergency response professionals can manage the incident and make the most effective and efficient use of available resources.

The Petaluma ALERT, CERN-O-GRAM, that was sent out yesterday (5/24) for this Wednesday’s F2F (Face-to-face) meeting of CERT-NERT radio operators listed a discussion item related to the use of a “self-activated” NERT Net, using the County’s Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) protocol for amateur radio operators.

Stay tuned for additional CERT-NERT-CERN news and updates over the summer months. Next September is the 7th annual National Emergency Preparedness Month, and Petaluma ALERT will, once again, sponsor a series of public information events for the community in partnership with FEMA and Citizen Corps.

If any reader would like to become involved with these volunteer-citizen emergency preparedness initiatives, contact Bill Hammerman, at