Today’s Editorial February 07: Communication lacking

An earthquake shook the ground here Sunday proving disaster can strike the Cayman Islands at any time.

While this temblor did not cause any reported damage here, some people did feel it.

And who knows, the next quake could leave us with damage.

This shaker occurred just a couple of weeks after a disaster drill on Grand Cayman.

In that scenario Cayman Islands emergency officials responded to a staged school bus-tanker truck wreck.

The last such exercise was carried out in 2005 when an Owen Roberts International Airport emergency exercise was staged at the Grand Harbour shoreline.

A common thread to all three incidents – the two drills and Sunday’s earthquake – is a lack of communication.

In the 2005 drill there were conflicting reports from different departments on the actual number of fatalities.

This year’s drill started off with communication problems, especially involving the media. We were notified via email that the anticipated disaster exercise was under way.

It’s quite possible that in a real disaster email wouldn’t be an available option to notify the media. Too, there is no guarantee that the email is being monitored or that they system is working.

A phone call would have been a better method of letting media houses know of a disaster.

As the drill progressed it became apparent that there was a need for better communication between the police, fire and emergency medical services agencies that responded.

On Monday, following up on the report of an earthquake, staff at the Caymanian Compass was hard pressed to find anyone in the CI Hazard Management office to answer the phone and we weren’t offered the option of leaving a voice mail.

The information we gleaned about the quake came from a press release from Government Information Services. That release contained incorrect information, saying the quake was registered here, when in fact it did not. The equipment used to measure earthquakes in the Cayman Islands hasn’t been sited yet.

So it was necessary that we be able to communicate with someone in Hazard Management.

Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful.

It is vital that agencies and groups involved in any disaster in the Cayman Islands know how to effectively communicate with all media houses.

It is our job to get needed information out to the public.

That information needs to be accurate and timely.

Those of us who were here in 2004 during Hurricane Ivan know how much misinformation gets out without proper communication.

As Emergency Medical Services Manager Stephen Duval said after this year’s disaster drill, ‘Communication doesn’t begin at a major incident. It has to be long-term.’

We agree.