Earthquake risk is slight but preparation is only defence

There are a lot of things to worry about in the Cayman Islands these days.

Earthquakes aren’t one of them.

It’s true the fault line near Grand Cayman – the Oriente Fracture Zone – has been more active than normal recently. It’s also true that there is some risk of a damaging earthquake.

However, since the Oriente Fracture Zone is about 25 miles offshore and deep, it is unlikely an earthquake could cause significant damage.

Even if there were a strong earthquake near the Cayman Islands, our building standards, largely because of our high hurricane risk should get the country through with a minimum loss of life.

Tsunamis are also a risk of earthquakes, but since the type of fault near the Cayman Islands doesn’t usually cause vertical displacement, a tsunami is unlikely unless an earthquake causes an underwater landslide.  Even if that happens, Cayman’s bathymetry, in particular the lack of much of a shallow shelf around the Islands, would probably prevent the kind of damage that other places experience from a tsunami.

Despite the small risk, it is still possible that Cayman could experience a damaging earthquake or tsunami. Earthquakes and tsunamis can’t be predicted in advance, so preparation is the only real defence.

Thankfully, because of the high level of our disaster preparedness for hurricanes, Cayman is fairly well prepared for earthquakes and tsunamis as well.

Hazard Management Cayman Islands has comprehensive disaster response and recovery plans in place.   In the aftermath of a damaging earthquake, Cayman’s National Emergency Operations Centre, along with its 18 subcommittee would swing into action.

Cayman also subscribes to the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, which would provide an immediate source of funds for recovery in the event of serious damage.

Hazard Management Cayman Islands has also undertaken an effort to increase earthquake awareness by designating 14 December as Earthquake Awareness Day and through earthquake education campaigns targeting children in schools.

Some of the schools have conducted earthquake drills, as have many private sector businesses.

Because of their relative rarity, any strong earthquake would come as a shock to the people of the Cayman Islands. Despite this, the island is fairly well prepared.  There’s always room for improvements, and through the enforcement of a strong and improving building standards and the efforts of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, the country can put earthquakes in the back of its mind and focus on more substantial risks.