August 8, 2020

The Editor speaks: Lessons to be learned

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Colin Wilson

I was pleasantly surprised that the government and the opposition are in agreement that we need a “massive” earthquake education campaign to be put in place for everybody living here.

In the Legislative Assembly last week, following the earthquake last Tuesday, Premier Alden McLaughlin said there were some things that occurred after the event to now haunt him.

It would take only twenty-six minutes between when the earthquake started and the advisory of a potential tsunami hitting our shores. What would have happened if the earthquake had occurred early in the morning? There would have been no one in the Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) office to receive or send out any warnings.

The premier said, “Even more scary than that to me… as I stood in my office on the 5th floor and looked down at the gridlock outside of cars, had we a tsunami of any significant proportions, frankly, there would have been hundreds, if not thousands, of people drowned in their cars, let alone anywhere else.”

A very, very scary thought. It’s haunting me, too.

“We have to think out of the box, as Cayman is so flat, how do we manage this sort of situation?” he asked.

It would seem very few people were taking any notice of the warnings being issued to stay off the roads and the reason was simple. Within minutes of the earthquake masses of people took to their cars to either go home to see if their was any damage, to check if their children were alright and to pick them up, or all three. A natural thinking exercise in an emergency. I suspect the children were frightened and wanted their parents.

Confusion still exists over the way school officials and teachers acted immediately after the earthquake and long before the tsunami warning was lifted. Parents were telling media outlets that teachers were texting them to come and pick up their children, although I find that very hard to believe.

Officials debunked this and issued a statement saying, “DES was in constant communication with HMCI and principals, and once the threat of a tsunami was significantly decreased, HMCI advised that it was safe to release students.”

This was also confirmed by HMCI who said In a statement officials said they followed protocol to ensure the safety of the students and staff. “Thousands of children were assembled outside in muster points following the earthquake and no instructions were issued to pick up children immediately.”

They added, “Schools were directed to keep children in place until after the tsunamis all-clear.”

I wonder how many exercises are conducted at our schools each year to make sure everyone is aware of this protocol that is in place? This should include not just the children but the teachers and parents.

How many of us have been instructed not to use the roads immediately after a hurricane? And where are the ‘safe’ buildings we have to run to, to escape the tsunami?

Would Mount Trashmore be one of the safe places to congregate?

Yes, there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this. God has been good to us this time around. All of us know now we need educating.

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