EDITORIAL – Hurricane season: Be prepared by being informed

Today marks the official opening of hurricane season: The annual game of watch-and-wait begins.

It is time to prepare for months of intermittent rainfall and storms forming suddenly on the horizon. Experts are predicting an active season for the Atlantic Basin, forecasting 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes, with a 52 percent chance one of those major storms will make landfall in the Caribbean.

For most Cayman residents, this is not their first rodeo. Those who have experienced their share of tropical storm warnings and near misses must guard against complacency. For those new to the islands, especially those new to hurricane territory, it’s important to get up to speed on important precautions.

As our friends in the financial services industry are fond of reminding us, past performance does not necessarily predict future results. Even as many of our Caribbean neighbors suffered catastrophes on par with Hurricane Ivan (and worse!), Cayman emerged unscathed from last year’s particularly active hurricane season. That does not mean the odds will be in our favor every year, or this year.

Proper hurricane preparation not only protects property and possessions – it can save lives. Recently, the Compass published our annual Hurricane Survival Guide. As always, it is filled with important information that everyone on island should read or review. Keep a copy on your nightstand or coffee table.

(Copies of the guide can be picked up from the front reception desk at the Compass Centre on Shedden Road, while stocks last.)

The comprehensive guide includes the Cayman government’s plan of action – outlining what steps we can expect government officials to take when a tropical storm threatens to impact our islands, and how critical information will be disseminated.

It also includes details about the volunteer Community Emergency Response Teams, who have undergone training to better assist in the event of a damaging storm.

Storm neophytes and veterans alike will find value in the supplement’s hurricane checklist, which guides readers through every step of preparation – from deciding where to stay, gathering important documents and stocking critical supplies.

A glossary of terms will help readers understand the difference between a tropical cyclone, depression and storm; as well as the levels of threats (alert, watch, warning and all clear), and what precautions should be taken during each.

A useful visualization illustrates what conditions should be expected from varying wind and wave intensities. A list of public shelters will help readers know where they can retreat to if they have nowhere else to go.

There is a list of useful websites and phone numbers, including contacts for honorary consuls who can assist foreign nationals, if needed.

The guide even has articles of special interest to readers responsible for children and pets.

There is no way to know exactly what the next few months will bring; no way to prevent a hurricane from following its intended path. The only thing to do is prepare, and be ready to respond to whatever the weather decides to throw our way.

During hurricane season, the best defense is … a good defense. So stock up on supplies, get your house (and/or apartment, business, car, etc.) in order and communicate your plans with family, friends, coworkers and neighbors.

Ready or not, here comes Mother Nature.

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