Quake aftermath: Hazard Management to review after-hours operations

Aftershocks expected to continue

Representatives from Cayman's emergency response agencies gather for a post-earthquake debriefing on Friday. - Photo: GIS

Hazard Management Cayman Islands has said it will be looking at its after-hours operations, following last week’s 7.7 magnitude earthquake.

Although the quake hit in the middle of the afternoon with emergency services and response agencies acting quickly following the tremor, officials have said that if the earthquake had struck in the middle of the night, the reaction may not have been as immediate.

A review of after-hours operations was one of the points that came out of Friday’s operational debriefing among agencies involved in the emergency-response effort after the earthquake.

Hazard Management’s Acting Deputy Director of Communications and Awareness, Simon Boxall, in a short video statement following the debriefing, said, “While the communications [were] fairly rapid in this instance, some of the lessons we learned today show that possibly for nights, weekends, public holidays, we need to look at some of the processes and improve.”

He commended the efforts of those who assisted in ensuring Cayman was informed and kept safe after the earthquake. “In many regards, it was a pretty good team effort … Cayman came through in a fairly resilient manner and we were fortunate,” he said.

However, he said, one of the takeaways from Friday’s meeting, which was attended by 35 people from various government agencies, was the need to look at current operations.

Premier Alden McLaughlin, in his comments following the earthquake, said if the tremor had happened at nighttime, things would have turned out differently.

The earthquake struck at 2:10pm and was felt in Jamaica, Cuba and Miami.

Describing the response, HMCI Director Danielle Coleman said, “We think the comms [communications] were actually very effective. It was a matter of two minutes after [the] … verified tsunami warning, the actual radio interrupt came through, and then a minute later, the social media started.”

She said discussions at the debriefing also focussed on what else, apart from operations, could ensure that the response is as effective as possible and that everyone is working together and collaborating.

Coleman also said mental health should be a consideration in the response to an event like an earthquake.

She added that, as of Friday, there had been 21 aftershocks, and more could be felt over the next couple of weeks. Several were also felt by residents over the weekend. This, she said, is why people should consider their families and friends. “Just to make sure that your neighbours, your family, are OK, and asking about that,” she said.

Coleman said there are a number of resources available on island to assist with any mental health issues, but Hazard Management is available to help as well.

She added that it is critical that everyone educate themselves on what to do in an earthquake.

Boxall said HMCI is willing to hold public-awareness sessions about earthquakes and tsunamis.

“There is information on our website [caymanprepared.ky], but we also willing to come out to your government agency or civic organisation, your school, your church. So, reach out to us, pick up the phone and call us, come to our office or go online and email us,” he said.