Reactions in the wake of Tuesday’s earthquake have demonstrated the need for a massive national public education campaign on how to respond during such events.
It’s a point both Premier Alden McLaughlin and Opposition Leader Arden McLean agreed on as they addressed the events that followed Tuesday’s magnitude 7.7 earthquake.
McLaughlin addressed the Legislative Assembly on Thursday, outlining the emergency response to the earthquake.
While he commended those involved, McLaughlin reminded the public that Hazard Management Cayman Islands has warned that aftershocks could be felt for up to two weeks.
“So, if you have not yet made an earthquake plan or don’t know what to do during and after a tremor, look at Hazard Management’s web page caymanprepared.ky,” he said.
McLean extended his gratitude as well, but stressed the urgent need for more engagement, awareness and public education when it comes to earthquakes.
“It was obvious on Tuesday that parents in particular … were not satisfied that their children, where they were, were comfortable or safe. Therefore, they ran out not knowing they were putting themselves in danger,” McLean said. “We must have a robust plan in place to make sure people understand the dangers of where they are or going someplace else, particularly on the roads.”
McLaughlin agreed, saying there were a number of things that have been “haunting” him since Tuesday’s earthquake, uppermost being what would have happened had it struck at 2am instead of 2pm.
“We had 26 minutes between the commencement of the shake and the time any tsunami was likely to have hit us, 26 minutes. If that had occurred at 2am in the morning, there would have been nobody at the Government Administration Building. There would have been no way of sending out radio alerts, radio interrupts, let alone doing anything else,” he lamented.
What was even more “scary” was the traffic that ensued after the tremor, he said.
“I understand human nature and I understand the natural response to want to have your children with you and look after your children,” he said, noting that “as I looked down at the gridlock of cars outside… had we had a tsunami of any significant proportions, frankly, there would have been hundreds, if not thousands, of people drowned in their cars.”
He said he agreed there is a need for “a massive public education campaign” about how one should respond in the case of an earthquake which is likely to trigger a tsunami.
It is now, he said, “a matter of critical national importance, a point I have already impressed upon his Excellency [Governor Martyn Roper] and he agrees”.
George Town Central MLA Kenneth Bryan agreed as well.
He also questioned why George Town Central residents were turned away when they sought refuge at the Government Administration Building after the tsunami alert was triggered.
McLaughlin said he was not aware at the time that had happened and was only informed about it Wednesday.
He said it was just security officers doing their jobs and there is no current protocol in place for such events. He said had he or his team known what was happening, no one would have been turned away.
This, he said, stressed the need for a plan.
McLaughlin said the National Security Council and the National Hazard Management Executive will be convened to discuss a way forward.
What to do during an earthquake
Duck – Get under a sturdy piece of furniture, making yourself into a little ball.
Cover – Keep head and eyes protected from falling or flying objects.
Hold – Hold onto the piece of furniture. Stay under shelter until you are sure the shaking has stopped.
If you cannot shelter under furniture, move against an interior wall if you are indoors, duck, put your arms over your head and across the back of your neck for protection.
If you are driving when an earthquake starts, slow down carefully and come to a stop in an area free of hazards.