Can Sonoma County Communicate?

On 10-19-95, a special report TV show by PCMG, raised the question, “Can Sonoma County Communicate?” Now, almost 20 years later, this same question needs to be asked again; because WHEN, not IF a major disaster strikes Petaluma and/or Sonoma County, and all electric power is lost and most regular forms of communication are inoperable, how will Sonoma County communicate and exchange information with its citizens?

Participants in the 1995 TV show, hosted by Brad Bollinger, included the following guests: Christopher Helgren, Sonoma County Department of Emergency Services; Eric Swanson, Auxiliary Communication Services Team Leader for South County; Chris Albertson, Petaluma Fire Chief; and Bill Hammerman, Westridge Knolls Neighborhood Watch Facilitator. The current emergency service operations offered by these organizations and groups may be found by clicking on the following links:

Here is the episode:

PCMG.TV Special Report – Disaster Preparedness, Can Sonoma County Communicate from Wayne Dunbar on Vimeo.

Whether or not any significant changes have taken place to the different communication networks (County, City, or Volunteer Organizations), will be left up to their leaders to answer. The one area I can comment on is what happened at the neighborhood level between 2006-2011. Various acronyms were created as the emergency training programs were initiated and developed:

  •    CERT = Community Emergency Response Team
  •    NERT = Neighborhood Emergency Response Team
  •    CERN = Community Emergency Radio Network
  •    STAR = A “Safe-Trained-Alert-Ready” neighborhood team
  •    ALERT = Alliance of Local Emergency Response Teams

NHW-12-300x293[1]Before municipal sponsorship of the Petaluma CERT courses ceased, the FCC Certified CERT instructor had taught 12-27 hour courses and graduated over 120 citizens, 24 of whom became licensed amateur radio operators. Following Hurricane Katrina, the term “Neighborhood HamWatch” was adopted to identify those licensed Hams who would serve their neighborhood emergency response teams. NHW is a voluntary program all amateur radio operators who want to provide a helpful service to their neighbors during times of extended power outage. These volunteers included those certified ACS, Red Cross, ARES, and SATERN who would serve their neighbors prior to any deployed assignment, following the official declaration of an disaster by their emergency leaders.

There are three main NHW purposes: (1) Get on your radio and talk to other operators from other neighborhoods, and thereby ease tension and isolation associated with an extended power outage; (2) establish a NHW net and communicate with local EOCs through ACS and ARES operators; and (3) send welfare traffic at the request of neighbors to extended family outside the stricken area to relieve concerns and reduce clogging  of any telephone systems that might still be functioning. Hopefully, this blog will attract licensed Hams in the 94952  and 94954 zip code areas, and motivate them to register their name, call sign, and e-mail address with the Petaluma NHW Network. Please e-mail Bill Hammerman at [email protected]


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