Emergency preparedness is back in the headlines due to the recent major earthquakes in Japan (6.5) and Ecuador (7.8). Many people have been killed or trapped beneath collapsed buildings, power outages have occurred, and hundreds of people have been left homeless. Many Californians may ask, “Can it happen here in the Bay Area?” Geologist have replied that it isn’t a question of IF, but WHEN. For more information see a previous post “Disaster Preparedness – Neighbors Helping Neighbors.”
It is just a coincidence, but the 110th anniversary of the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake was last Monday, August 18th. Amateur radio, often called “ham radio,” has consistently been the most reliable means of communication in emergencies when other systems of communications failed or were over worked. In Petaluma, a small group of volunteer amateur radio operators conducted a city wide drill to test their ability to communicate in the event of a disaster that creates an electric power outage. This group, also known as the Petaluma Neighborhood Ham Watch Network, tested their radios using a repeater frequency as well as five simplex frequencies to communicate with ham radio operators in the four quadrants of Petaluma: North, East, South, and West.
The major goal of this group is to: (1) provide simple conversational contact with amateur radio operators in other neighborhoods, (2) establish two-way communication with an amateur radio station located in the local government Emergency Operation Center (EOC), and (3) to provide Internet messaging service for neighbors to distant relatives. The Petaluma NHW Network conducts weekly check-ins on Tuesdays at
8:00 p.m., on 146.910 -88.5, as well as monthly face-to-face meetings to learn more about their radios.
Any local Hams who want to become involved with the Petaluma Neighborhood Ham Watch Network or seek additional information, e-mail Bill Hammerman, KI6GOO, at [email protected] .
Last week’s Petaluma City Council meeting (7/6/15) featured a two part presentation by members of the Fire Department related to Emergency Preparedness. You may want to also see my earlier post Can Sonoma Communicate?. Part I of the meeting reviewed what was learned from the recent Napa Earthquake, and Part II reported on the city’s current readiness in the event of a major disaster. Here is the video segment of the city’s meeting on this agenda item:
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One important point expressed was that citizens should be prepared to react and to be prepared to be self-sufficient because they could be on their own for three-to-five days without assistance from the city’s first responders. Over the past several years, there have been various Disaster Preparedness programs offered by local groups and organizations that address these needs.
One major concern of this blogger has been how will neighborhoods communicate with one another when all power is out and normal means of communication by telephone, cell phone, computer, etc. are not available. This concern motivated a group of local licensed amateur radio operators to form a Neighborhood Ham Watch (NHW) network that been has conducting weekly Ham radio check-ins, as well as monthly face-to-face meetings for education and training.
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 Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs), and (3) send welfare traffic at the request of neighbors to extended family outside the stricken area to relieve concerns and reduce clogging of telephone systems that might still be functioning.
Hopefully, this blog will attract the attention of licensed Hams in the 94952, 94953, 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, KI6GOO, at [email protected]