Almost seven years, to the date, our local newscasts are describing Hurricane Isaac and its projected path by Florida and the Gulf of Mexico, on its way toward New Orleans. No one, at this time, knows for sure what will happen over the next few days. Wikipedia, posted the following information about Hurricane Katrina that reached its peak strength on August 28, 2005.

Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest and most destructive Atlantic hurricane of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season. It is the costliest natural disaster, as well as one of the five deadliest hurricanes, in the history of the United States.[3] Among recorded Atlantic hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall. At least 1,836 people died in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee hurricane; total property damage was estimated at $81 billion (2005 USD),[3] nearly triple the damage wrought by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.[4]

Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005 and crossed southern Florida as a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing some deaths and flooding there before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 storm on the morning of Monday, August 29 in southeast Louisiana. It caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge. The most significant number of deaths occurred in New Orleans, Louisiana, which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland.[5]”

Hurricane Katrina (2005) revealed that one of the most important disaster response services was the ability to communicate when all electric power was out and most methods of communications, especially those designed to reach residents in their neighborhoods, had failed. Locally, that need motivated Petaluma citizens to initiate a pilot project that eventually resulted in the formation of emergency response programs known as CERT, NERT, and NWH (Community Emergency Response Teams, Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams, and Neighborhood Ham Watch.)”

Next month, September, will be our nation’s ninth National Emergency Preparedness Month, and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) will once again, encourage citizens to Be Ready & Prepared to cope with a major natural disaster such as a flood, wild fire, hurricane, and/or an earthquake. Being able to communicate – between neighbors – as well as with local government Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs) is essential; especially when all regular means of communications (telephones, TV, and radio) are down.

As the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national association for amateur radio, motto states, “When all else fails … there is amateur radio.” This year – 2012 – seven years after Katrina, I plan to invite those neighbors who are interested in our ability to communicate when such a disaster occurs to join me in establishing an emergency radio network for our Westridge Knolls neighborhood, consisting of both ham radios and walkie-talkies.

Stay tuned for additional posts over the new several days that will follow the impact of Hurricane Isaac upon the people and places in its path.