You never know when an earthquake might strike, as the people of the Cayman Islands discovered last year.

The islands were shaken by a 7.7 magnitude quake in January 2020, causing buildings to rattle and large holes to open up in the ground.

The epicentre of the quake was between Grand Cayman and Jamaica, but the effects were widely felt in both islands and other territories in the region.

The shock triggered a tsunami warning but luckily it was a precaution only.

An earthquake is a sudden, rapid shaking of the earth caused by the breaking and shifting of rock beneath the earth’s surface, so it is important to know what to do if one occurs.

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In the knowledge that an earthquake could strike at any time of day or night, secure items such as pictures, televisions and objects that hang on the wall. Store heavy and breakable objects on low shelves.

Practise ‘duck, cover and hold on’ with family and co-workers. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head and neck with your arms.

Crawl only as far as needed to reach cover from falling material. Hold on
to any sturdy furniture until the shaking stops.

Create a family emergency communications plan. Determine where to meet if you get separated.

Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by your bed in case the earthquake hits in the middle of the night.

Keep and maintain an emergency supply kit in an easy-to-access location. Do not forget the needs of pets.


‘Duck, cover and hold on’. Drop to your hands and knees. Cover your head under a sturdy piece of furniture. Hold on to the furniture until the shaking stops. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.

Stay away from windows to avoid being injured by shattered glass.

If in bed, curl up and hold on. Protect your head and neck with a pillow.

If indoors, stay there until the shaking stops. Do not go outside.

If in a vehicle, stop in a clear area that is away from buildings, trees, overpasses, underpasses or utility wires. Stay inside with your seatbelt fastened until the shaking stops. Then, drive carefully and anticipate traffic light outages.

If you are in a high-rise building, expect fire alarms and sprinklers to go off. Do not use elevators.

If outside, move to an open area away from trees, poles and buildings.


After an earthquake, the disaster may continue. Expect and prepare for potential aftershocks or even a tsunami. Tsunamis are often generated by earthquakes. Do not wait for an official tsunami warning to move to the upper floors of a concrete building or to higher ground.

Each time you feel an aftershock, duck, cover and hold on.

Check yourself for injuries.

If in a damaged building, go outside and quickly move away from the building. Do not enter damaged buildings.

Wear sturdy shoes, long-sleeved shirt and work gloves to protect against injury from broken objects.

Listen to a portable, battery operated or hand-crank radio for updated emergency information and instructions.

Keep animals under your direct control.

If you were away from home, return only when authorities say it is safe to do so. Use extreme caution and examine walls, floors, doors, staircases and windows to check for damage.

Source: Hazard Management
Cayman Islands and Cayman Islands Red Cross

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