By Christopher Tobutt
On Wednesday 29 January, after an official announcement regarding Tuesday’s 7.7 magnitude earthquake, media representatives were invited on a tour of the heart of operations: the Hazard Management Centre, on the 4th Floor of the Government Administration Building.
Hazard Management Director Danielle Coleman said that the teams were divided up into ‘Teams’ and ‘Clusters.’ “We activated about five or six Emergency Support Teams,” she said. All relevant government agencies are continuing to monitor the situation, and provide feedback to the Centre.
Next, Ms Coleman gave out some useful tips what to do in an earthquake: “If you feel a very strong earthquake make sure you know as a family what to do about it. Duck, down, cover, and hold onto furniture. Sturdy benches and tables are good to go underneath for protection. If you are in your bed, stay in your bed, put your pillow over your head. If you are in a car, keep your seatbelt on because potentially you could be shaking around and knock your head, so keep your seatbelt on and park the car.” It was also a good idea, if driving, to park your car at the side of the road, and then afterwards, drive with caution because there might be damage to the roads.
Ms Coleman reminded the public that Hazard Management is not a 24-hour service, although it would be called upon by 911, so it is always a good idea for people to be informed, and have a plan. “If it is at night then you can log on to verified Hazard Management Information so you can keep updated and don’t share information that is not verified,” she said.
It isn’t always such a good idea to leave your building following an earthquake, because in the Cayman Islands that might make you more vulnerable to the effects of a Tsunami. Whether you left or not depended very much on whether or not you were in an area likely to be affected. Hazard Management’s Simon Boxall said: “We are very low lying and very coastal, so often when you feel a violent earthquake there is not always time for a warning to be issued by government. The response is according to your own location.”
Preparedness and Planning Officer Teresita Ebanks described exactly what happened immediately after the earthquake was felt on Tuesday: “At 2:19 We issued an notice… of what precautions persons should take to preempt a Tsunami because at that point we could not confirm that a Tsunami was going to occur; but we wanted each person to be aware that there was a potential for one, given the magnitude of the earthquake. Then we gave regular updates every 20 or 30 minutes, letting persons know what was taking place. We also notified our shelter operations in the event that we did need shelters and we notified the Red Cross and they opened their shelters. Ms Ebanks praised all the agencies who had responded so well: “The RCIPS cordoned off the sea coast that was identified (as a Tsunami-danger area) So the police were doing an amazing job in making sure that human life was a priority as well as by securing property…we are still telling people to be mindful especially in regard to sinkholes on the road, so it is good to be vigilant,” she said.