Cayman’s earthquake preparedness took a step forward Monday, when representatives of public and private agencies met with foreign experts on disaster management.
The workshop, helmed by Hazard Management Cayman Islands, brought a team of experts from the United States-based Emergency Management Accreditation Program, with the goal to take a draft of Cayman’s National Earthquake Plan and search for gaps and weaknesses in it.
“We have a plan drafted already but it’s still in draft form, so we’ve brought in some experts from EMAP to help us finalize a plan,” said Teresita DaSilva, a preparedness and planning officer for HMCI.
“Then, if something were to happen, we’ll have a national plan that everyone would know what their roles and responsibilities are so they can respond in a more effective and efficient manner.”
That plan was drafted a few years ago but never fully brought to fruition. Tara Rivers, the Minister for Home Affairs, said Monday morning that representatives of 20 public and private agencies were on hand for the workshop, and she hoped they’d be able to work together productively.
“We could experience an earthquake at any time. We can not be sure when it’s going to happen; only that it will. It is inevitable,” Minister Rivers said. “It is therefore imperative that we’re prepared, and that’s why this workshop and development plan you’re about to embark on is so very important.”
David Champoux, a senior engineer for APEC Consulting Engineers LTD., explained some of the mechanics behind the local environment. Cayman sits in an active seismic zone between the North American Plate and the Caribbean Plate, which are moving apart at 0.59 inches per year.
Cayman is also situated approximately 20 miles north of the Oriente Transform Fault, which Mr. Champoux said is an active line that is largely similar to California’s San Andreas Fault.
“In terms of the tectonic plate motion, it’s basically sliding as opposed to a subduction zone, which are the ones you’re more worried about as far as tsunamis in Japan and Indonesia,” Mr. Champoux said. “These are still major earthquakes, but they’re less likely to cause a tsunami.”
The last major earthquake to hit near Cayman came in 2004, Mr. Champoux said, and that was 6.8 magnitude. That quake happened 20 miles south-southwest of Cayman and six miles underwater, and scientists estimated one of that power happens here once every 440 years. Mr. Champoux noted that despite the close proximity to the epicenter, people in Cayman only felt the effects of an earthquake of approximately a 5.0 magnitude.
Todd Livingston, the director for Monday’s workshop, is a captain for St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue in Florida and an EMAP Assessment team leader who has responded to 15 major disasters.
Mr. Livingston told the assembled representatives on Monday that the workshop process is designed to make sure that no agency is assigned something that is beyond its capabilities.
“There isn’t a plan that’s going to work if you guys don’t exercise, practice and plan it,” he said. “The more face time you guys have with one another, the more comfort level you have with one another and the abilities everybody has. We’ll be able to create a pretty good plan.”
After the workshop, EMAP will send recommendations of alterations to the earthquake plan to Hazard Management, which will then sit down with representatives to identify areas of concern.
Simon Boxall, HMCI’s awareness and education officer, said that the working goal is to have a final National Earthquake Plan in place at some point in the next six months.
“It’s good for us to be prepared for any event because you never know what can happen,” Ms. DaSilva said. “The world is changing, as we see. The climate is changing. This is causing abnormal weather to happen in places we never thought it would be possible. As our job, we should be prepared for anything, even if it’s a .1 percent chance of it happening. It could be that day that it does happen.