Two earthquake related events took place this past week. Thursday was the annual Great California ShakeOut Day, and Friday was the 25th Anniversary of the Loma Prieta quake (1989). The focus of the Great ShakeOut was to help people to “Be Ready & Prepared” for a major  shake, which included how to “Duck, Cover & Hold On.” Friday’s article explained what causes a major 6.8 earthquake and how to protect homes and buildings.. Both news items were important, but for different reasons.

However, there was another brief ShakeOut event that took place here, in Petaluma, that not many people knew about. From 10:30-10:45 a.m., a local Neighborhood HamWatch “signal strength” check-in drill was held. Only six amateur radio operators (aka Hams) were able to participate. This wasn’t the first time such an exercise has been conducted locally. It had its beginning in 2005, following Hurricane Katrina, when a FEMA official was quoted as saying, “The three most important lessons learned were communications, communications, communication.” PetalumaNet introduced the NERT concept (Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams) on a TV show (10-19-2005) titled, “Emergency Readiness – Can Sonoma County Communicate?” One of NERT’s missions was to promote greater use of amateur radio technology to transmit “disaster intelligence” information from neighborhoods to the City’s EOC (Emergency Operation Center.)

Following another Florida hurricane, five years later (October, 2010), when due to lack of power or structural damage and all normal means of communications are inoperable, the Neighborhood Ham Watch model was adopted for Petaluma. “The goal of the NHW program is to provide a way for every capable Amateur Radio operator who isn’t involved in a deployed active ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency Services(R) operation to serve his/her community in an emergency communication role. Ham Watch amateurs are good communicators, and have ample stations with emergency power they can use during periods of extended communications outages that often follow major disasters. These amateurs augment the active ARES volunteers and are active participants of the emergency communications system at the neighborhood level.”

Program objectives include: “(1) Communicate neighborhood conditions to local EOCs. Emergency managers will be provided access to first-hand information. They will handle health and welfare messages, report crime and fulfill other community needs. (2) Relay information from local Emergency Managers back to their neighbors so they are better informed of relief efforts.” In addition, NHW operators can get on their radios and talk with each other. and can send messages to families outside the disaster zone.

Any Petaluma area Ham who wishes more information (http://www.hamwatch.me/) or would like to become involved with our Petaluma NHW group, please contact Bill Hammerman (KI6GOO) at whammer@petalumanet.org