In the lead-up to the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Ivan, Grand Cayman is preparing for natural disasters despite predictions for a slower than average hurricane season.
Panelists hosted a discussion last week on past hurricanes as part of the National Trust’s lecture series, while emergency services hosted a tsunami response exercise.
With hurricane season now upon us, “Weathering the Storm” was presented by co-author of “Paradise Interrupted” Courtney Platt, Hazard Management Cayman Islands director McCleary Frederick and Denise Bodden, National Trust historic education and development manager.
Panel members revised the events of Hurricane Ivan and the 1932 unnamed hurricane that devastated the island, showing images of the damage and trauma left behind, and reminding residents to ensure their hurricane supplies are appropriately stored and evacuation plans in place.
Mr. Platt spent weeks after Hurricane Ivan photographing the damage left behind with the limited fuel that was available.
“It was absolutely amazing how quickly we recovered after this thing that looked like an atomic bomb had gone off,” Mr. Platt said.
“We’re not trying to scare anyone away, it’s just important to be prepared.”
Mr. Fredrick said fortunately the business of predicting paths of storms had improved in recent times.
“Just because it’s predicting a storm is going to pass it doesn’t mean you can relax; it can change,” Mr. Fredrick said. “It doesn’t have to be a Category 4 or 5 to really mess us up.”
He said in the event of a hurricane, those who could evacuate should.
“We encourage visitors to leave before the storm hits. The airport has a plan in place to deal with the number of people that want to leave before or after, and we stop people from coming in,” Mr. Fredrick said.
“If you don’t think you are prepared to ride through the storm, it might be better to leave before then. If you have young children, it can be very traumatizing for them.”
“Prepare, prepare, prepare. Prepare for disaster, it might cost you a bit, but not preparing could cost you a lot,” he said.
An exercise called “Sunseeker,” an imaginary tsunami coming onshore at the Hyatt hotel, also took place last week.
The exercise was organized by the British Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to test the emergency preparedness of representatives in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and London.
Governor Helen Kilpatrick said the exercise aimed to foster a partnership between the local emergency response team and teams in the United Kingdom,
“The drill has enhanced preparedness and underscored lessons learned – from small, logistical issues to larger matters such as the exact protocol involved in who decides where limited resources and the Royal Navy will be deployed in actual events, as well as who will benefit from such deployment.”
An annual two-day Hurricane Preparedness Exercise will take place this week.