Ground starts shaking … so, you “Duck, Cover, and Hold On.” That has been the basic message of the “Great California ShakeOut!” drill for the past two years. This annual event has now spread to include the entire state. It has been estimated that over eight million citizens participated this year.

Although the final report indicating the final number of  2010 state-wide participants is not yet  known; an article in yesterday’s Press Democrat reported that more than a million Bay Area residents – including 50,000 in Sonoma County – were registered to take part in the drill.  Of that number, 14 were Petaluma area Hams who demonstrated how a neighborhood emergency radio network can transmit disaster related information to a Neighborhood Net Control Center, which then sends emergency and priority traffic on to the City’s EOC (Emergency Operation Center). According to the Great ShakeOut Registration Roster, Petaluma Alert (Alliance of Local Emergency Response Teams) was the only “neighborhood” group in Sonoma County that registered its intention to participate with a field exercise.

Following the exercise, which included a Ham emergency radio operator from each of the six Police Beats in Petaluma, plus four South Sonoma County Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) Team members, a debriefing session was conducted at the Petaluma Senior Center. The results of that discussion will be shared at the next meeting of Petaluma ALERT. Their goal will be to develop a plan of action that will provide the training and practice drills necessary to improve their effectiveness in the event of a real earthquake in the North Bay Region.

As most Californians know, an earthquake comes without any warning; consequently, there is little time to seek safety or to evacuate their neighborhood. It has been estimated by geological experts that a major quake measuring 6.7 magnitude or greater, will occur in the S.F. Bay Area by 2038. Professional first responders will not be able to meet the needs of its citizens; neighborhoods will be on their own.  Ever since Hurricane Katrina, five years ago, when most means of communications were down, communities all across the nation have been offering training and educational opportunities for residents to learn how to be prepared and ready to cope with a major natural disaster for 72 hours or longer.

There are several organizations in Petaluma and elsewhere in Sonoma County that provide these opportunities free or at minimum cost. Citizens should contact their local police, fire, or sheriff’s office, as well as the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, and DP4VP (Disaster Preparation for Vulnerable Populations) for additional information.

P.S. New readers of this blog site may not know that over 70 Emergency Preparedness entries have been made on Petaluma360 since March of 2006, and may be accessed by the index to the right of this page.