(CMR) Two years after the 7.7 Magnitude earthquake rocked the Cayman Islands on 28 January 2020, Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) is launching a social media campaign and earthquake roadshow to raise awareness of how residents can limit the risks associated with earthquakes and tsunamis.
Recalling how residents experienced heavy shaking for over a minute, Premier and Minister for Sustainability & Climate Resiliency, the Hon. Wayne Panton said the incident prompted several improvements to readiness, response, and recovery efforts.
“While we were fortunate that the earthquake did not cause significant damage in our community, the experience resulted in a number of lessons learned that are now incorporated in our country's readiness, response, and recovery efforts to ensure we are continuously improving our ability as a country to respond to emergencies and disasters,” Panton said.
“But being prepared is a collective responsibility, and everyone in our community should have a plan in the event of an emergency and follow official guidance to stay safe. I encourage everyone to take part in the earthquake awareness events being offered by HMCI,” he continued.1
HMCI Director Danielle Coleman explained that HMCI carries out a comprehensive debrief to ensure an effective, efficient response after every emergency.
“In the incident, we immediately triggered the radio interrupt system and disseminated safety messaging across social media and our website, but the earthquake re-emphasized the need to get alert messaging to the public as directly as possible, and in most cases, that is to people's phones,” Coleman said. “HMCI's National Emergency Notification App – which includes SMS and email alert capabilities – will be launched imminently.”
Another lesson learned from the incident was that parents are naturally inclined to go straight to schools to pick up their children after a large earthquake.
“With 53 recorded sinkholes opening up, damage to some roadways and the island under a tsunami warning, it became clear that parents needed additional reassurance that children are safer remaining in place at school until after the ‘All Clear' is issued,” explained Coleman.
Coleman explained, “As a result of our many years providing hazard presentations in local schools, the majority of children and teachers responded appropriately, but we recognized a need to reach the parents as well to emphasize the dangers of getting on the road during an emergency. We have also spent considerable time reviewing school earthquake and response plans, and we encourage parents to familiarise themselves with these plans. During a tsunami, the safest place for your children is at school. Please wait for the ‘Tsunami All Clear' prior to venturing out on the roads.”
The social media campaign and earthquake roadshow will focus on raising awareness of the steps residents can take to limit the risks associated with earthquakes and tsunamis. HMCI is offering awareness presentations free of charge to schools, businesses, churches, and civic groups as part of the program.
HMCI also produced an earthquake awareness film sponsored by the R3 Cayman Foundation, which was screened prior to the start of films at the Camana Bay cinema; this video will be posted on the Cayman Prepared website.
“To arrange a free-of-charge earthquake and tsunami awareness presentation for your school, business, church, or civic group, please reach out to HMCI directly by emailing [email protected],” said Coleman.
In the days following the initial 7.7 Magnitude event, there were a further 31 aftershocks, including a 6.1 magnitude event later in the day on 28 January 2020.
Panton attributed the minimal physical damage to the high quality of construction in the Cayman Islands but emphasized the need for continued readiness.
“That our buildings came through the events without significant damage is a testament to the quality of construction in the Cayman Islands, but we were fortunate that the epicenter of the 2020 earthquake was 80 miles away. The uncertainty of when the next emergency will strike or how it will affect our community means it is incumbent upon us all to be prepared and follow the guidance of official sources,” Panton said.