It is possible that a tsumani could pose a threat to the Cayman Islands, but the government and emergency services often hold exercises to prepare for such a disaster.

Tsunamis are a series of large ocean waves generated by major earthquakes beneath the ocean floor or major landslides into the ocean.

When the waves enter shallow water, they may rise to several feet or, in rare cases, tens of feet, striking the coast with devastating force.

People on the beach and the other areas around Cayman need to be aware that a tsunami could arrive within minutes after a severe earthquake.

The tsunami danger period can continue for many hours after a major tremor. A tsunami can occur during any season of the year and at any time, day or night.

Signs of a tsunami

  • A strong earthquake lasting 20 seconds or more near the coast.
  • A noticeable rapid rise or fall in coastal waters.

How to prepare

Find out if your home, school, workplace or other frequently visited locations are in tsunami hazard areas.

Know the height of your street above sea level and the distance of your street from the coast or other high-risk waters. Evacuation orders may be based on these numbers.

Plan evacuation routes from your home, school, workplace and other places you could be where tsunamis present a risk. If possible, pick a place 100 feet (30 metres) above sea level or go as far as two miles (three kilometres) inland, away from the coastline.

In areas of the Cayman Islands where this is not possible, go as far inland as you can and as high up as is practical. Every foot inland, or upwards, may make a difference. You should be able to reach your safe location on foot within 15 minutes.

Find out what the school evacuation plan is. Check whether the plan requires you to pick your children up from school or from another location. Phone lines during a tsunami watch or warning may be overloaded, and routes to and from schools may be jammed.

If you are a tourist, familiarise yourself with local tsunami evacuation protocols. You may be able to safely evacuate to the third floor and higher in reinforced concrete hotel structures.

Response

If you are in a coastal area and feel an earthquake that lasts 20 seconds or longer:

  • You should first protect yourself from the earthquake. Drop, cover and hold on.
  • When the shaking stops, gather members of your household and move quickly to higher ground away from the coast. A tsunami may be coming within minutes.
  • Avoid downed power lines and stay away from buildings from which heavy objects might fall during an aftershock.

Tsunami watch

Tune into Radio Cayman and follow Cayman Islands Government emergency messages online, as well as the Cayman Compass website caymancompass.com or Facebook
page, for updated emergency information. You can also use a NOAA weather radio or tune into a US Coast Guard emergency frequency station to keep informed.

Locate household members and review evacuation plans. Be ready to move quickly if a tsunami warning is issued.

Tsunami warning

If you hear an official tsunami warning, or detect signs of a tsunami, evacuate at once.

Take your emergency preparedness kit. Having supplies will make you more comfortable during the evacuation.

Take your pets with you. If it is not safe for you, it’s not safe for them.

Get as far inland as possible. Watching a tsunami could put you in grave danger. If you can see the wave, you are too close to escape it.

Recovery

Continue following information on Radio Cayman and Government information messages online, including Hazard Management Cayman Islands (caymanprepared.ky) updates, as well the Cayman Compass website (caymancompass.com) and Facebook page.

Return home only after local officials tell you it is safe. A tsunami is a series of waves that may continue for hours. Do not assume that after one wave, the danger is over. The next wave may be larger than the first one.

Check yourself for injuries and get first aid as needed before helping injured or trapped persons.

If someone needs to be rescued, call professionals with the right equipment to help. Many people have been killed or injured trying to rescue others.

Help people who require special assistance, including infants, elderly people, those without transportation, people with disabilities and large families who may need additional help in an emergency.

Avoid disaster areas. Your presence might interfere with emergency response operations and put you at further risk from the residual effects of floods.

Use the telephone only for emergency calls.

Stay out of any building that has water around it. Tsunami water can cause floors to crack or walls to collapse.

Use caution when re-entering buildings or homes. Tsunami-driven floodwater may have damaged buildings where you least expect it. Carefully watch every step you take.

To avoid injury, wear protective clothing and be cautious when cleaning up.

Watch animals closely and keep them under your direct control.

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