While everyone is still up in arms about everything that went wrong at the Owen Roberts International Airport on Grand Cayman during Hurricane Dean evacuations, let’s take a look at what went right.
First and foremost, Cayman Airways alone got 5,300 off the island and flown to safety. We don’t have the numbers for the other airlines or charters, but we know more than 7,000 people were evacuated from Thursday to Monday.
That’s a lot of human bodies.
In all of July we had 26,895 people arrive at their airport. If you divide that figure by the number of days in July, you get a little more than 867 passengers arriving, on average, each day.
Of course we realise the airport is handling arrivals and departures on any given day, but even double the number of daily arrivals in July, getting each of the more than 7,000 people evacuated during Dean was an enormous feat.
We would argue against those who complain the airport wasn’t operating normally during the evacuation.
What exactly is ‘normal’ during a disaster?
Chaos – hopefully controlled to some extent – is usually the norm in any disaster.
Owen Roberts International Airport wasn’t built to handle a mass exodus of people over a few short days. That’s not its purpose.
And as nice as the new airport will be, we doubt a repeat of the Hurricane Dean evacuation process will go without its glitches.
What the experience at the airport does is give everyone an opportunity to re-evaluate how things will be done in future disasters when it comes to airlift evacuations.
That doesn’t just include airport or airline personnel – that includes everyone who has designs to leave this country when a major storm threatens.
A viable evacuation plan should be a part of everyone’s personal, total hurricane preparation blueprint.
Were there problems at the airport during the evacuation?
Sure there were.
There will probably be problems again when that many bodies are trying to leave a small island.
We would hope that everyone – residents and visitors – maintains cool heads and calm during any evacuation process. Expect hitches, but have an attitude of being part of the solution, not part of the problem.