Police, fire gear up

Cayman Islands police and fire services are getting ready for a storm strike within the next few days, making sure staffers are prepared and identifying safe areas to keep emergency response vehicles.

‘We’re on call all the time, 24-seven,’ said Chief Fire Officer Roy Grant.

As of press time Thursday, both Mr. Grant and Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said they had not cancelled vacations for senior officers who are off island. But a final decision will be taken closer to time.

All police and fire stations on island are manned during a storm. However, there are situations in which those might have to be cleared out depending on damage to the building or the strength of the storm that approaches.

Not all police and fire shelters on island are built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

In a Category 3 storm or stronger, Mr. Grant said the West Bay fire station would be cleared out and relocated to the John Cumber Town Hall.

‘During (Hurricane) Ivan that station took six, seven feet of water in it,’ he said.

The Frank Sound fire house is in what’s thought to be a safer location. The fire station at the airport serves as emergency operations headquarters, so it would not be evacuated.

‘I have no fear for that building whatsoever,’ Chief Grant said.

Both police and fire vehicles are kept in unspecified high ground locations in George Town and elsewhere during storms.

Both services, along with ambulances, can respond in heavy weather. However, police advise the public to use discretion when calling 9-1-1.

Emergency personnel cannot come out at the height of a storm. If 9-1-1 is called, that call will be noted and will be responded to according to priority when conditions are safe.

People are urged not to call 9-1-1 for service and then move to another location. However, if that must be done, callers are asked to notify 9-1-1 again when they are in their new location.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service will station officers in the various storm shelter locations. Those officers will provide security for the shelter for the duration of the storm.

After the storm both police and fire will coordinate with the National Hurricane Committee on search and rescue operations. An NHC sub-committee will direct land rescues; the police are in charge of sea rescues.

Police officers can arrest people for refusing to leave an area if the Governor has declared that area to be unsafe. Also, anyone who enters an unsafe area without authorisation has committed an offence and can be jailed for up to two years, if convicted.

The RCIPS commissioner can also declare a curfew and set up road blocks if it’s determined to be necessary. During a curfew, police have the right to stop and search any vehicle travelling on the roads for any reason.

Depending on how severe any storm damage is police will be stationed in certain areas to protect government buildings and other public assets such as gas stations, grocery stores, and water plants.

Both police and fire services believe they have sufficient staff and vehicles to handle emergency response. RCIPS officials said they have now returned their fleet to pre-Ivan levels.

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