The 7th Annual NPM sponsored by FEMA has been underway for a week and Petaluma ALERT is registered as one of a few thousand communities in the country that are planning events and activities that are designed to make the public more aware and informed about how to Be Ready and to Be Prepared to cope with a natural disaster such as flooding, wild fires, and earthquakes.

Following Hurricane Katrina five years ago, a small group of local citizens brainstormed and launched a variety of Emergency Preparedness programs and projects using acronyms like: NERT, CERT, CERN, and ALERT.* In connection with the evolution of these pilot programs, over 100 residents have completed one of the twelve, 27-hour CERT courses offered in Petaluma since 2006. Over a dozen of these graduates are also FCC licenses amateur radio operators (Hams), and several also serve as disaster volunteers for the Sonoma County Auxiliary Communications Services, the American Red Cross, and the Salvation Army.

One unique aspect of the Petaluma ALERT leadership team has been its ability to field test new ideas designed to improve a community’s use of citizens as emergency/disaster response volunteers. Petaluma teams  have been among the first in Sonoma County to employ the use of FRS/GMRS (Walkie-Talkies) and Ham radios in its emergency communications plan. It conducted city-wide field exercises in 2008 and 2009. Its latest communication tool has been the use of Depiction, as a data gathering and mapping tool. Depiction designers have joined the 2010 NPM effort with a series of online webinars. Check out http://www.depiction.com for this month’s schedule of presentations. Just today (9-8-10), during the “Neighborhood Preparedness Mapping” webinar, the moderator announced that FEMA was recommending that CERT training programs include an orientation to Depiction. A U-Tube video is available at … http://blog.depiction.com

Stay tuned as we continue to promote local Emergency Preparedness opportunities. For example; this Saturday, from 1:00-7:00 p.m., at the Pelican Art Gallery, 143 Petaluma Blvd. North, a Petaluma ALERT information table will be on display.

 *NERT = Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams, CERN = Community Emergency Radio Network, CERT = Community Emergency Response Team, ALERT = Alliance of Local Emergency Response Teams