A curfew has been imposed on Grand Cayman.
While the island is under a curfew, Royal Cayman Islands Police officers are given broad powers by the governor to stop and search any vehicle on the roads.
‘It’s not something we do lightly,’ Police Commissioner Stuart Kernohan said.
‘This is to ensure that everybody has taken cover before the on-set of tropical storm force winds and stays put until the all clear has been announced,’ Governor Stuart Jack said Saturday.
At 4am Monday Dean was moving south of the Cayman Islands headed for the Yucatan Peninsula.
At that time it was near latitude 17.7 north and longitude 80.7 west or about 115 miles south-southeast of Grand Cayman and about 495 miles east of Belize City.
Dean is moving toward the west near 21 mph and a westward or west-northwestward motion is expected over the next 24 hours. On this track the centre of the hurricane will be approaching the East Coast of the Yucatan Peninsula tonight.
Maximum sustained winds at the centre of Dean are near 150 mph with higher gusts. Dean is an extremely dangerous category four hurricane and has the potential to reach category five strength within the next 24 hours.
Hurricane force winds extend outward up to 60 miles the centre and tropical storm force winds extend outward up to 205 miles. Estimated minimum central pressure is 926 mb.
The worst of the storm is expected to strike Grand Cayman mid morning Monday.
As of 10pm Sunday, there were 2,201 people in Government shelters, which have a capacity to hold about 4,010 people.
At midnight Sunday the Sister Islands – Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – were experiencing tropical storm force winds with maximum sustained winds at 49mph.
While the curfew is in place, there are certain businesses whose employees are required to travel to maintain essential services. Those include emergency services, health services, utility companies, communications companies, food and fuel distribution teams, and public works crews.
All those industries are given a ‘group exemption’ from the curfew.
Other employers who believe their staff should be exempt must make a written application to their local police station. A list of essential employees is required. If a curfew exemption certificate is given it has to be shown to a police officer, along with photo identification, upon request.
‘We will look at stopping people travelling when the weather’s getting too bad,’ Mr. Kernohan said.
RCIPS officers have already been called in to work in preparation for the storm. Commissioner Kernohan said officers will work in 12 hour shifts until they are released back to normal duty. He said Friday that all vacations had been cancelled, and added that some officers who were off island actually volunteered to come back to help during the hurricane.
All officers on island are required to report for duty, and those who do not could face disciplinary action. Mt. Kernohan said there may be a few cases where officers are unable to come in.
‘If it’s a reasonable explanation for failure to attend, then…we’d treat that on a case-by-case basis.’
RCIPS also has specific officers assigned in each neighbourhood to check on the homes and families of those who are on duty.
Response plans set
The Emergency Operations Centre at Cayman Islands Fire Service headquarters opened Saturday afternoon. The police command centre is expected to be ‘locked down’ by this afternoon.
There are an estimated 350 police officers along with 30 volunteer special constables available to respond to emergencies during the coming days and weeks. The commissioner said people should not be alarmed if they see some police officers carrying weapons.
‘We have the potential to deploy firearms, again it’s not something we take lightly, but if we need to, to protect the public…that’s exactly what we’ll do.’
Special constables are not allowed to carry firearms, nor are all RCIPS officers. Only specially trained groups of officers are given that responsibility.
Mr. Kernohan urged island residents again this weekend to be judicious in calling 9-1-1, particularly at the height of the storm. Police will generally not send officers to calls if storm conditions are simply too dangerous.
‘It’s difficult not to respond to somebody in dire need,’ he said. ‘The general tenet of (RCIPS) policy is that they will not be going out (during the storm). In a dire situation I’m not saying we’d absolutely not be deploying…but it would have to be considered very seriously.’
If police or emergency services cannot respond, 9-1-1 will log the call and dispatch the appropriate services when conditions improve.
To aid police response, officers will travel in 4×4 jeeps, not in normal police cruisers. The lower profile police cars will be kept at a location on higher ground to ride out the storm.
Mr. Kernohan said he didn’t want anyone to be surprised if they see officers riding around in the jeeps.
‘They tend to be stock jeeps but they are marked as ‘police’ with blue lights on them,’ he said.
RCIPS officers have several critical responsibilities during and after the approach of the storm.
Police officers will be stationed at each hurricane shelter for security. There may also be off duty police staying there depending on the situation.
Routine police patrols will stop in the hours just before the storm actually hits. They will resume as soon as is practical.
After the storm hits officers are deployed to protect public assets such as gas stations, food stores, water distribution systems, and government buildings.
Mr. Kernohan said police will be on the look out for would-be burglars.
‘We have robust plans to deal with looters,’ he said.
In addition, RCIPS has the responsibility to direct the removal and storage of bodies in the event of a mass casualty incident associated with the hurricane.
Mr. Kernohan said a morgue team has been assembled and temporary mortuary sites have been identified in case the worst should happen.