As the country prepares for what is expected to be an active hurricane season at a time when borders remain closed both locally and internationally, there are concerns that evacuation flights will not be an option if a large storm heads Cayman’s way.
Danielle Coleman, director of Hazard Management Cayman Islands, said it is an issue weighing heavily on the minds of many within government.
“I think it’s really important to the people to understand that, actually, the chances are, you may be on-island for the hurricane if we had [one approaching]. You may not be able to get out like you’ve seen in the past,” she said in a recent interview with the Cayman Compass.
Cayman has organised numerous evacuation flights during the COVID-19 crisis to get nationals from other countries off the island, and continues to do so.
However, Coleman said, organising flights in the run-up to a hurricane will be “a very different dynamic”.
“It’s a different playing field this year in regards to evacuation flights. In the past, we’ve seen big countries sending flights in to to get their residents out. It’s very unlikely that’s going to happen this year,” she said.
“Even if you send the Cayman Airways flights out to the States, they would have the quarantine afterwards. So, there’s a lot of different dynamics going into the evacuation field this year,” she added.
Coleman encouraged the community to make use of resources online at www.caymanprepared.ky or to call Hazard Management to have the conversation about hurricane season plans for those who may have a particularly vulnerable household of people.
“We want to make sure that everyone’s prepared,” she said. “We’re very, very happy to have that conversation and work with you to make sure that you are as prepared as possible,” she said.
Field hospital remains operational
As part of Cayman’s COVID response, a 60-bed field hospital has been established if the local hospitals become overwhelmed.
Located at the Family Life Centre, the field hospital has not been utilised as Cayman has had very few cases that required hospitalisation.
However, Coleman said the hospital will remain.
“We haven’t seen a major surge in cases, which is fantastic, or symptomatic cases that would need that. But again, we’re not going to take it down until we feel the time is right,” she said.
Though set up in the wake of the COVID crisis, the field hospital is also an asset, both locally and regionally, in the event of a hurricane, earthquake or other disaster, Coleman said.
“It’s a wonderful thing to have a field hospital that we can use in Cayman for any future emergencies, but also potentially assisting the overseas territories and the region itself. [It] is a really, really amazing asset,” she said.