Right in the thick of hurricane season, the Cayman Islands Red Cross and Hazard Management Cayman Islands took some time to meet with students and teach them how to lessen their risk of being impacted by a natural disaster.
The Red Cross met with students from all over Grand Cayman last week as part of International Day for Risk Reduction, which took place on Friday.
Keith Ford, disaster manager for the Cayman Islands Red Cross, said the idea was to sit down with kids and to arm them with information that can last a lifetime.
“It’s just for them to understand that disasters are really a part of life,” said Mr. Ford. “They happen and we should be prepared. Our chance of surviving is greater if we anticipate and prepare for the event.”
The International Day for Risk Reduction started in 1989, and it was coined by the United Nations as a vehicle to promote awareness of natural disasters, as well as a way to prepare and mitigate the damage associated with them. Mr. Ford said that approximately 1.2 million people died from natural disasters between 2000 and 2016, and the hope is to lessen the damage from those events over time.
The Red Cross ran local students through a series of activities designed to heighten their preparation for disasters and to make them aware of their place in the larger community of the Cayman Islands.
“We look at the practical things like what you need to put in your family’s emergency kit and what you should do 72, 48 and 24 hours before a storm arrives,” said Mr. Ford. “We have the First Aid booth, where they go through basic First Aid procedures. And then they come into the Emergency Operations Center, where we walk them through a scenario of what would happen and how we utilize our various means of communications, like radio and sat phones, to communicate internally and externally.”
The Red Cross, in conjunction with Hazard Management Cayman Islands, has established Community Emergency Response Teams in several neighborhoods to help residents take care of each other. There are already teams in place in North Side, Bodden Town, North Sound Gardens, West Bay, Prospect and Windsor Park, and there are plans to build one in Cayman Brac and Central Scranton.
The students got to learn what it means to be prepared for a natural disaster last week, but it did not just come in the form of a lecture or a homework assignment. The Red Cross engaged them and made them a part of the proceedings, making an important lesson seem as fun as it was educational.
“They put on the Red Cross raincoat. They get to handle the radios,” said Mr. Ford. “It becomes real to them. And from the questions they ask, you realize it’s getting through. A number of them volunteered about the preparedness at their home. ‘We have a generator. We know what to do.’ Somewhere along the line, there was previous information given to them. This is really reinforcement.”
Many of the students were not even born when Hurricane Ivan struck Cayman in 2004, and Mr. Ford said that storm cost the local economy around $3.2 billion. The Red Cross wanted to underline the relationship between poverty and disaster loss for the students, making the point to them that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to experience catastrophic damage in a natural disaster.
“It’s been a long season. And it’s not over yet,” said Mr. Ford of the current hurricane season. “I guess this is where it gets through to the political level. Disaster reduction can be achieved by increasing the income levels of the population. If a person’s income increases, it becomes natural for them to take the steps necessary to protect themselves. If I have to make a choice between buying something to eat and a hurricane strap to put on my roof, it’s a choice. If I have the wherewithal to do both? I’ll do both.”