Although Thanksgiving has come and gone, and we all have expressed our “thanks” for various reasons: families, good health, friendly neighbors, and meaningful jobs; there is one community group of emergency preparedness volunteers that I’m thankful for – amateur radio operators who volunteer to establish an effective communications network when electric power is out and most normal means of communications are inoperable. Some readers might ask, “What’s the big deal? Learn to live with it.”

If you review the news reports about various emergency situations and/or related natural disasters that have happened in the U.S. over the past few years, that’s what most have done. On the other hand, however, many communities have also reported that Ham radio operators, whether or not they are members of a certified amateur radio group or not, have stepped up to the plate and volunteered to be deployed or assigned to provide a basic communication service until normal services have been restored.

One little known group that was created following hurricanes in Florida – Neighborhood HamWatch – was the creation of local community volunteers. I’m thankful that Petaluma has now had such a group since 2010. Although the group is not as large as it was originally, a core group of 8-10 Hams still conducts weekly check-ins on Tuesday evenings, at 8:00 p.m. Any FCC licensed amateur radio operator may participate. The purpose of these weekly nets is to use their Ham radio equipment, to share emergency information and meet other Ham Radio operators.

Although checking-in each week is the ideal goal; it isn’t necessary to participate every week. The realistic objective is to have Hams, ready to tune into a Simplex frequency during an emergency situation with their radio equipment charged up and operational. Checking-in periodically, at least once a month, would satisfy that goal. Petaluma would be better prepared to meet its community challenge if it could encourage more Hams to participate.

The Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) holds an annual Field Day event. In 2014, over 45,000 from thousands of locations in the U.S. and Canada participated. Many Hams prefer not to be members of highly structured organizations. A local NHW Network group would be one way to become involved. Wouldn’t it be great if 50 or more Hams in Petaluma became active NHW Net volunteers?

If you live in the 94952, 94953, or 94054 zip code areas and are interested in learning more about your community’s NHW Network, please contact Bill Hammerman, KI6GOO, at whammer@petalumanet.org. You would help Petaluma become better prepared and ready to communicate “when all else fails.”