Once, again, seven years to the day in the Gulf Coast area, another tropical storm (Isaac) is following a path similar to Hurricane Katrina (2005). After it made landfall (6:45 p.m., CDT, 8/28/12), the winds gradually increased to a Category 1 Hurricane (80 mph, with gusts up to 100 mph). The torrential rains that had fallen began to cause catastrophic flooding, and eight hours after landfall, over 500,000 people in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas had lost electric power.

Shortly after midnight, another report stated that power was out for 482,000 customers across southern Louisiana, with about 157,000 of them living in New Orleans. This natural disaster, as of 10:00 a.m., PDT, 8/29/12; is still in progress, and once again, one of the major lessons learned from Katrina is “lack of communications with citizens, when electric power is lost.” Power failures can also happen when earthquakes strike, as many Californians know from personal experiences over the years.

One government official interviewed by CNN, who served during Hurricane Katrina, stated that most emergency rescues made during the first 24-hours, were made by neighbors helping neighbors. It was stories like this that motivated Petaluma citizens in 2005-2006 to initiate a pilot project that eventually resulted in an all-volunteer emergency response project known as CERT-NERT-ALERT.

Communication-wise, the American Radio Relay League’s motto says it all, “When all else fails … there is amateur radio.” Seven years after Katrina, a group of Petaluma Hams are hoping that “Neighborhood HamWatch” groups will help meet the need for communications among residents when there is a loss of power during a major disaster.

Stay tuned. Hurricane Isaac is still blowing, and this blogger will continue to “preach” about the use of volunteer Ham Emergency Radio Operators in our neighborhood areas.

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