Government urges storm preparedness for Discovery Day

Monday is Discovery Day, marking Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the Sister Islands more than 500 years ago. It’s a day off for schools and many businesses, and government officials hope families will also mark the National Day of Preparedness and use the free day to review their emergency plans and supplies in the event of a hurricane or other disaster. 

Hurricane season officially begins June 1, but tropical storm Ana, the first named storm of the season, already made its mark on the U.S. when it made landfall last week in the Carolinas.  

Deputy Governor Franz Manderson, in a prepared statement, said the theme for this year’s Preparedness Day is volunteerism.  

“Find some way to contribute to the preparedness of others; it could be the trimming of trees, loan of equipment to clear debris, erecting shutters or just offering a ride to the elderly and assisting them to get their preparedness supplies,” he said. 

He encouraged people to use Monday as a day for family and neighborhood meetings to plan for potential hurricanes. He also said residents could join an established Community Emergency Response Team or, if there isn’t one, take it upon themselves to get one started. 

He had a special message for government employees: “The country depends on our emergency services and first responders to be ready in a time of crisis; following the ‘all clear,’ all civil servants are expected to contribute to the recovery, including the performance of additional duties above and beyond their regular work schedule during the response phase.” 

In a press release, Hazard Management Cayman Islands officials stated: “In past hurricanes (such as Hurricane Ivan and Hurricane Paloma) many residents lost passports, photographs, computers and even their vehicles. In some cases, people were hungry and thirsty in the days immediately following the impact. With proper planning, most of these hardships and losses could have been avoided.” 

“During a hurricane, and possibly for days or even weeks afterward, electricity and other utilities might not be available. Debris and/or water might block the roads, preventing vehicles from getting in or out of your neighborhood. Help might not reach you for days after the hurricane, so you’ll need to be completely self-sufficient during that period,” emergency officials said. 

Omar Afflick, with Hazard Management, said supplies such as food and water are very important, but people should also remember games and books “to make that ride more comfortable” and to entertain kids who can get anxious if the power goes out or if they have to evacuate. 

There is a network of public shelters available, but government prefers people make arrangements with family or friends so shelters don’t get too full. The deputy governor had other reminders for residents: Hurricane shelters do not accept pets, so pet owners will have to make other arrangements; trim tree limbs that could damage homes; make sure insurance policies are current; and residents who plan to evacuate the island should ensure all travel documents and visas are up to date. 

Hazard Management staff will host some events at hardware stores this month to help people get the necessary supplies. Mr. Afflick said the hardware stores are “important partners” in emergency preparedness because they supply most of the essentials necessary for Cayman to ride out and recover from a major storm. 

Saturday morning, May 16, they will be at Kirk’s Home Centre. On Saturday, May 23, Hazard Management will be at Cox Lumber Company in the morning and Uncle Bill’s Home Improvement Centre in the afternoon. The following Saturday, May 30, officials will be at A.L. Thompson’s in the morning and Progressive Distributors in the afternoon.  

Hurricane Ivan in 2004 caused massive damage in Cayman. – Photo: Justin Uzzell