Islands prepare for disasters

Disaster management teams on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac have been conducting exercises and preparatory work to deal with any potential crises.  

Emergency services surrounded the Truman Bodden Sports Complex in Grand Cayman on Friday after crews responded to a emergency evacuation staged by Hazard Management Cayman Islands.  

A team of 27 people rushed to the scene as part of a week-long training course in Mass Casualty Management and Incident Command Systems, designed to prepare emergency response teams for the real deal. 

Hazard Management Cayman Islands Deputy Director and course coordinator Omar Afflick said it was important to maintain a state of maximum readiness for a major incident and for crews to know how to work together. 

“It is important that we have pre-established procedures in place for rescue mobilization, incident site management and hospital reception in the event that we face a big emergency situation, especially those involving multiple victims and a multiple agency response,” Mr. Afflick said. 

“Because the Cayman Islands are relatively small in terms of size and population, we face some unique challenges; if we don’t practice before we face a major incident, it could easily overwhelm us.” 

For the first time in 10 years, the program was conducted by a team of all local instructors, including Richard Barrow, Simon Boxall, Tracey Gibbs, Zaheer McLeod, Richardo Henry and Charmaine Coore.  

Participants were also taught emergency medicine, organization of medical posts, psychosocial care, management of dead bodies, division of roles and responsibilities, and tasks of the first responders. 

“If there was a plane crash, you would likely have Fire Services, Police, Civil Aviation, HSA, forensic examiners, communicators and many other groups on the scene. It is clearly a complex situation and all these agencies need to work together, despite having their own hierarchy and their own way of doing things,” Mr. Afflick said.  

“If they can’t cooperate and work together, the result is probably going to be inefficiency and chaos. So this course is important; it makes Cayman even better able to deal with a really serious situation, if it occurs.” 

Port Authority representatives, police officers, fire fighters, healthcare workers, the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, community emergency response teams and volunteer agencies, including the Red Cross, Adventist Development and Relief Agency, took part in the exercise. 

Brac prepares 

On Cayman Brac, the Cayman Islands Red Cross is training a disaster response team to better prepare the island for natural catastrophes. 

Over the past two months, volunteers have worked with program managers and support volunteers on first aid training and complete vulnerability and capacity assessments. 

Disaster manager at the Red Cross, Danielle Coleman, said such assessment were a valuable tool because they enable participants to look at their communities in a different light and to learn by doing.  

“We use this method of learning because it is important to remember that, while it may be a classroom exercise for the participants, it is certainly not merely an exercise to the residents of the area, and it’s important to produce something tangible that can help that community in a meaningful way,” Ms. Coleman said.  

Tools used in the training helped participants create a historical calendar and profile to identify past key occurrences, a seasonal calender to identity seasonal events and identify connections between them, mapping tools to identify hazards and vulnerabilities, and capacities and resources within the community. 

“Paloma taught us lessons that we really didn’t consider, even after Hurricane Ivan,” Ms. Coleman said. “We need to have a well-trained, empowered local disaster team so as to ensure that we have a more resilient community that can act as first responders until such time as other agencies can get access.” She said this applied to Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, as much as to the outer districts in Grand Cayman. 

“Supplies are great, but investing in our people-committed people gives our community a much greater resource because you can never run out of knowledge, the skills you posses, or the ability to improvise when necessary,” Ms. Coleman said. “Human capacity continues to be essential to everything we do.” 

The most recent training follows a three-day extensive course in December where participants studied the history and principles of the Red Cross, Disaster 101, Shelter Management, Stress Management and Psycho-Social Support modules.  

Volunteers also cleaned, fixed and reorganized Cayman Brac’s disaster container to ensure it would be fully-stocked in the case of a localized or natural disaster.  

The group is now working on an community action-plan that includes identifying safe zones, evacuation plans, sheltering locations, organizing work teams and ways to assist the most vulnerable in the area. 

Cayman Brac Disaster Management team member Marv King Crew said the island needed such training, not only because it was vulnerable to disasters, but also as a way of investing in its people.  

“Yes, we all live here and our community is small, but that doesn’t mean that we necessarily see things the same way – this process helps us to not only see our communities with fresh eyes, but it also helps us to come together and take ownership of our communities and our island,” Ms. King Crew said. 

“We won’t wait around for others to come do it for us when we can and will do it for ourselves.” 

mass casualty

Emergency response crews take part in a mock mass casualty incident on Friday as part of training with Hazard Management Cayman Islands.