Is that Pete Golis meant to say in his  column, Sunday (T5), titled, “Ho hum, a new quake warning?” He reminds us that the April 18, 1906 quake was “the most cataclysmic event in the history of Sonoma County. Downtown Santa Rosa was reduced to a pile of bricks …. No home or building was left undamaged.” He goes on to give us the latest statistics from the U.S. Geological Survey: “Within the next 30 years, researchers say that there is a 7 percent chance an 8.0 or greater magnitude earthquake somewhere inh California. The potential for such in the Bay Area (i.e. the Rodgers Creek Fault) is less than 0.01 percent. The possibility of smaller quakes, greater than or equal to,  were also reported: 6.7 magnitude – 13.7 percent, 7.0 magnitude – 11 percent, 7.5 magnitude – 6.9 percent.

Although the usual suggestions were made for being ready and prepared for such an event, the message tends to fade away. Even though the ability to communicate during or after a quake was not mentioned, EmComm groups in Petaluma have experienced a drop in the number of licensed amateur radio operators willing to be available right after such an event. For example, our local Neighbor HamWatch Network, is one such volunteer group.

The goal of the Neighborhood HamWatch program is to provide a way for every capable Amateur Radio operator who isn’t involved in a deployed active ARES® operation to serve his/her community in an emergency communication role. HamWatch amateurs are good communicators, and have ample stations with emergency power they can use during periods of extended communication 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 heath and welfare messages, report crime and fulfill other communications needs. 2) Relay information from local Emergency Managers back to their neighbors so they are better informed of relief efforts.

Participation in the program requires operators to have the desire and capability to use their licenses to help their neighbors. There is no special training or equipment burden necessary. A valid license and a 2-meter/UHF radio and/or HF rig will do the job.

Neighborhood HamWatch operators also communicate with ARES® stations that are in direct contact with local government EOCs. Because of commercial outages, this may be the only link to the outside world for a neighborhood. Operators describe neighborhood conditions, medical needs, and dangerous situations to Emergency Managers and staff. Emergency Managers can relay messages back to neighborhoods.

How to get started? An informational brochure is available here, which will help explain the program and can be printed by local hams and distributed to their neighbors. This will acquaint neighbors with their next-door Amateur Radio operators and establish the Neighborhood HamWatch groups. ARES® ECs, and NCS’s can help by including a check-in option for Neighborhood HamWatch operators during or immediately following training nets so participating hams can begin establishing contact familiarity.

Petaluma area Hams (Zip Codes 94952-53-54) are encouraged to learn more about this neighborhood model by attending a monthly face-to-face meeting at the Senior Center (211 Novak). Contact Bill Hammerman (KI6GOO) at whammer@petalumanet.org.