How many readers remember that two of the very first categories of this Petaluma360 blog site in March 2006 were titled, Our Cyberplace and Our Information Highway. They reported what was happening with the pilot projects sponsored by PetalumaNet, founded in 1995. Over the ten year period, 1995-2005, PN expanded its mission to promote greater use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) in the schools to include all sectors of the community, such as: government, health care, business, and non-profit agencies. Once the City of Petaluma established its Telecommunications & Technology Advisory Committee in 2005 (now known as the Technology Committee), PN faded from the community’s radar screen as an ICT experimental group of volunteers.

Within weeks of Hurricane Katrina (10-19-2005), PN announced the NERT concept (Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams) on an Internet TV show titled, “Emergency Readiness – Can Sonoma County Communicate?” One of NERT’s mission was to promote greater use of amateur radio technology to transmit “disaster intelligence” information from the neighborhoods to the City’s EOC (Emergency Operation Center.)

Six years later (October, 2011), NERT’s Ham Emergency Radio Operators (HEROs) adopted the Neighborhood HamWatch model in order to field test various ways in which amateur radio technology might be used to transmit and receive “disaster intelligence” information, when due to lack of power or structural damage, all normal means of communications are inoperable. How the various governmental and non-governmental agencies, who receive these messages, use this disaster information is the responsibility of the leadership or managers of these organizations.

Over this past week, Petaluma Neighborhood HEROs have field tested how amateur radios could be used to communicate with the School District Administrative Office. The signal strength of both dual band and handy-talkie two meter radios, using a simplex frequency, were used in reaching all the public school sites within the Petaluma City limits (Petaluma City School, Waugh School, and Old Adobe Union School Districts), as well as the other nearby elementary school districts (Cinnabar, Dunham, Liberty, Two Rock Union, and Wilmar Union.)

Once again,, a unique method of Information & Communication Technology (ICT) has demonstrated its usefulness in a major disaster situation. Since the California Great ShakeOut Day is scheduled for next Thursday, October 20, Petaluma Neighborhood HamWatch will repeat their “signal strength” field test to those public schools and parks that are located in the neighborhood areas of the volunteer Ham emergency radio operators who are available to participate. Stay tuned for additional blogs about our Neighborhood HEROs.