Today’s blog is based upon several Emergency Preparedness blogs from 2110, 2011, and 2012. Almost ten years ago, on October 12, 2006, a “Special Report” video titled, Emergency Preparedness-Can Sonoma County Communicate? was produced by the Clearstream Media Group. Panel members included the Deputy Emergency Services Coordinator for Sonoma County, the South County Auxiliary Services Communications Team Leader (ACS), the Petaluma Fire Chief, and a concerned local citizen.

Following Hurricane Katrina (August 29, 2005), a FEMA official was quoted as saying, “The three most important lessons learned were communications, communications, communications.” The ability of first responders, Incident Commanders, and EmComm Managers to communicate and to keep in touch with each other when all normal means of communications were inoperable was a major problem and concern. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a Red Cross volunteer on his way to New Orleans believed that the greatest cause of stress among the citizenry during a major disaster is lack of communication.

Before the “Special Report” TV concluded, the concerned citizen announced the creation of Petaluma NERT (Neighborhood Emergency Response Teams). These teams included a Team Leader, at least three graduates from a CERT course (Community Emergency Response Team), the creation of a Neighborhood Watch Group and a neighborhood electronic conference board. In addition, there would also be a licensed amateur radio operators (Ham) who lived in the area.

Fast forward to 2015, when today, a group of volunteer Hams known as the “Neighborhood HamWatch Network” has been conducting weekly check-ins and monthly face-to-face meetings for any local amateur radio operators. Although there are Hams who might also be affiliated with established emergency response organizations, such the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, and Auxiliary Communication Services; and are still at home; they may also participate in a local NHW Network before being called up and deployed to an assigned area in their community.

To date, the Petaluma Neighborhood HamWatch operators have conducted three city-wide exercises that have successfully demonstrated how the use of FRS (Family Radio Service) and Ham radios may be used to communicate from homes, schools, parks, and other public areas with the city’s EOC (Emergency Operations Center), once it is activated. One such drill has been scheduled for the 2015 California Great ShakeOut on Thursday, October 15th. at 10:30 a.m. Any licensed amateur radio operators living in the 94952, 94953, and 94954 zip code areas, who wish to participate should contact Bill Hammerman, KI6GOO, at whammer@petalumanet.org with their name, call sign, and e-mail address. Our goal is to eventually have at least one Ham from each of the 15 Police Department districts that make up Petaluma participate.

Stay tuned for more Disaster Communication blogs.