On Saturday December 28, 2013, Alameda Police Department contacted the Alameda CERT group for assistance with searching for a missing 68 year old woman with Alzheimer's. CERT leaders put into action their call out plan, which included contacting Ham Radio operators to assist with communication between the search teams and the Command Post. I would like to thank these operators who came out to help: Ron Bigelow KF6LSY, Anthony DiSalvo KI6TZG, Patrick Preminger KJ6UHO, Rose Kennedy K6LEZ, Marianne Schenone KI6MTU and Eric Yeh KJ6UHP. If I missed any operators please let me know.

The woman was last seen at 12 noon on the 28th in the area of Lincoln and St Charles. She had recently moved to the area to be with her son and daughter in law, so she was not familiar with all the streets or landmarks. She was also assumed to be walking her 10 year old Labrador.

APD Officers had been searching for the woman all day including use of a Search Dog from County Search and Rescue. The dog traced the womans scent but lost it at Atlantic and Webster. Since the woman had her dog with her and was assumed to have no money, it was unlikely that she would have been able to take a bus anywhere. It was presumed that she continued walking and the Search dog lost the scent due to the increased foot traffic in the area.

APD activated their Code RED calling feature to send out voice and text messages to people and businesses in town about the missing woman as well.

As darkness fell and it became colder they called Alameda CERT about 10:30 pm to see if they could provide additional personnel in looking for the lost woman. CERT Leader Ron Bigelow, KF6LSY, activated CERTs text and calling tree to notify members of the pending search. This initial call out included about 50 people. He also requested help from the ARES group to assist with communications.

APD set up a command post at City Hall West on the old Navy base and requested all volunteers to meet there for a briefing and assignments. Ron Bigelow set up a portable radio station and acted as CERT Incident Commander. Dean Lauerman acted as Operations Chief. While the command post was being set up, Linda Juhala called the remainder of the people on the Activation list, about 100 people. We had 16 people show up to assist with the search. 

CERT Leader Dean Lauerman coordinated with the APD staff on scene ( a Lieutenant, a Sergeant and a patrol officer ) to develop a search grid and dispatch the 2 person Search teams. APD requested that we start with the Navy Base property and when that was completed search the streets and public areas from the base to Webster Street. APD was in overall command of the operation and CERT and ARES volunteers assisted them as requested.  APD had also requested the CHP helicopter with night vision optics to assist. This was invaluable to help cover the large open areas of the old Navy Base, especially the runways and outer perimeter.

But they still needed hands on searching done of the area, side streets, bushes and multitudes of small areas around the base. Each team included a radio operator and another volunteer. They used both Ham and FRS radios depending on whether or not there was a Ham Radio licensed volunteer available or not. Each team was given an area to search and tracked on a map. When the team was done with their assigned area, they returned to the command post, were debriefed as to what area they covered and what was discovered and then were re-assigned to a new search area.

Ron Bigelow also acted as Radio Officer and helped keep in contact with the search teams that were in the field, relaying information and providing answers to questions as they arose. He also made sure that they kept in radio contact so we knew they were safe.  It took about 4 hours for the teams to search from Webster Street to the Navy Runway fence line. At 4 am the APD staff decided to suspend search operations for the night. All teams were recalled, given a final debrief and released from duty to go home and get some rest.

About 11 am on Sunday, only 7 hours later, APD again requested CERTs help to continue searching for the missing woman. They wanted to get more volunteers out in the daylight when it would be easier to see. CERT Leaders began the process again to contact their members for another search. Fortunately we received a cancellation message within about 30 minutes. The woman and her dog had been found at the Bay Farm Island Library. This is on the opposite end of town from where she was last reported seen.  At this time we still do not know where she was all night or how she got to the library.

APD and CERT leadership want to thank all the volunteers that came out to help search in the middle of the night and to those that we woke up and said they were not available for the first night but could help out later if additional resources were needed.

Alameda CERT has been contacted 5 times to assist APD with searching for lost people. The first was in 2011 when a woman was lost on Bay Farm Island. CERT and ARES volunteers helped APD search BFI from 11 pm – 2 am. The woman was eventually found at the Alameda Hospital.

The other three requests were cancelled within 30 minutes as the missing person was found each time.

The ARES group in Alameda works closely and supports the Alameda CERT program by providing the vital communication links needed to keep all members safe and help coordinate search activities. These types of events also help our operators to gain real world experience in working with CERT, APD and search teams to accomplish the required goals.

We will continue to make ourselves available to APD or AFD as requested to provide volunteers as needed. Other tasks we might be asked to assist with are:

·         Communication between the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and other vital areas of town in the event of a communication failure.

·         Communication between a Red Cross shelter and the City or the Red Cross

·         Assist with Medical Points of Distribution (PODs) to get medical and humanitarian supplies to a large number of people.

·         In the event of a large scale disaster, communicate between the EOC and Neighborhood CERT teams to relay information on problems in town that city officials need to be aware of.

These Search and Rescue call outs provide a wonderful chance for us to test our gear, skills and communication abilities in a safe and secure environment. By doing this now, we learn what works and what does not and what we will need when a real disaster happens. This makes us better prepared to be communicators in rough conditions when we may not have access to water, power, shelter, etc.

It is a good idea to be cross-trained as a CERT volunteer as well. You learn a lot of good information about Disaster Preparedness, get some good stuff from AFD and provides another way to help out your community. If you have not yet gone through the CERT training course offered by AFD, the next session of classes is coming up on Jan 25.  You can see a full schedule for the year at http://alamedaca.gov/emergency-info/cert

Alameda CERT will be having an Urban Search and Rescue training class on February 8, from 9 am – 2 pm. This class teaches you how to search an outdoor area, what to look for, how a person tends to react when they are lost and what they are likely to do.  Also how to organize a search team and conduct a search of a specific area. After the classroom session there will be a hands on exercise where teams are created, Command Post is setup and a search is conducted for a missing individual.

There is also an FRS Communication class happening January 11. This teaches CERT volunteers how to be communicators, radio protocols, best practices and how to use an FRS/GMRS radio. It is a good class for Ham radio people too if you have never taken this type of class before so you can learn how CERT communicates and their procedures.


This is all done at the AFD training facility at Alameda Point. If you are interested in attending this class, you can sign up by calling the Veronica at the AFD administration office and signing up. Her contact information is Veronica Hallam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call  (510) 337-2121





01/08/2014 - Follow Up

According to APD, Harriet was found the next day, Sunday, by someone near Godfrey Park. This person gave Harriet a ride to Petco to get some food for her dog and then to the Bay Farm Island Library where he dropped her off.

When he returned home, he got the voice mail about the missing person and realized who she was and called APD.

About the same time, someone near the Library saw Harriet and also called APD.