Hazard officials believe exercise will improve responses

| 19/03/2018 | 15 Comments

(CNS): Government officials believe their response to any future tsunami warning will improve as a result of the Cayman Islands’ participation last week in a Caribbean-wide exercise. “The purpose of the exercise was to evaluate local tsunami response plans, increase tsunami preparedness, and improve coordination, especially of government’s internal communications protocols for rapid onset events,” said Danielle Coleman, Deputy Director for Preparedness and Planning at Hazard Management Cayman Islands, after the communication issues HMCI had earlier this year.

“In January when the islands had a tsunami threat, we recognised some inefficiencies in the way we responded, so we used that as a valuable learning experience and immediately began to take the necessary steps to address our protocols and procedures to ensure we could respond effectively,”  Coleman said. “During our recent exercise we were able to get the messages out to the media, the Government websites and social media pages faster than we did following the Honduras earthquake tsunami threat and the Sol Fire event.”

Coleman explained that the department was also able to test Phase 1 of the Emergency Notification System (ENS), which involved issuing an alert through Radio Cayman.

“We are continuing to develop a robust ENS for the Cayman Islands with our partner OfReg, because there may be times when emergencies occur after hours, on nights and weekends… when often there are few people physically present in the television studios and radio stations,” she added.

“We are aware that we need to get critical messages out quickly, and we are pleased that the first phase is now in place and we can roll it out to include all local radio stations in this emergency interrupt system within the next few weeks,” Coleman stated.

The exercise simulated a tsunami generated by a magnitude 8.1 earthquake off the coast of Colombia. As a result, a widespread Tsunami Warning and Watch situation occurred throughout the Caribbean which required implementation of local tsunami response plans.

Coleman explained that the exercise also provided a chance for the police, heath authority, tourism department and Government Information Services (GIS) to test their tsunami response procedures as well. Efficient communication protocols in the event of a tsunami are crucial, not just for notifying the public but to ensure that government agencies respond as well.

Home Affairs Minister Tara Rivers, who is responsible for HMCI said that regular exercises are important to emergency preparedness.

“It’s essential to ensure that Government employees at all levels, including our emergency responders, can work together with private sector stakeholders and community partners to deliver an effective team response to any natural disaster or critical incident situation,” she said.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What id you don’t listen to any radio here?

    • Anonymous says:

      Radio Cayman or die!

    • Jah Dread’s Irish cousin says:

      This statement by Hazard Management is the most ludicrous ever produced by a Governme entity. So we are all now forced to “Keep the Radio on” for who who to notify who of an imminent tsunami. Ok now we are all got our radios on all day at work, in the shower on the toilet , in the car, in the back yard on the beach, in the super market, at the doctors etc etc. Fine but here is the real question not apparently being discussed, is where the Riassssss do we go in Grand Cayman to avoid DEATh in the event of this imminent threat. Do these people get paid to talk pure BS. My word,

    • HMCI says:

      The radio interrupt test was never intended to be the sole method of public notification and indeed in the recent exercise over 80 media private media representatives (including CNS) in the Cayman Islands received the tsunami exercise alerts and hopefully they would all have done their best to get the information out in a timely way – if it was the real thing. In addition Government Information Services and HMCI used their own websites and social media accounts to post the alerts.

      The exercise did involve a test of phase one (radio interrupt) of the mass alert system but more platforms are coming, in addition to the systems we already use such as CNS and the other media houses in Cayman. In a couple of months we will also have the capacity to place crawling texts on cable tv channels.

      Some members of the public may be asking themselves – what if I don’t listen to radio, watch cable tv, have a computer, etc.? The answer is we are developing more systems right now with our partner OfReg and we hope to be eventually be able to send amber alert type messages to your mobile phones, but that is not all. Several other methods are also in development and we won’t stop depending on our media partners such as CNS. We will develop a broad, dependable and fast system that reaches as many people as possible.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks but no thanks I’ll manage my own earthquake hazard risk. Smartphone apps provide a much swifter method of notification than any local news media can. Who’s listening to the radio whilst sleeping anyway?

    At least with an app you get map location, magnitude, depth and any possibility of tsunami warning. There are several websites after that to get further details if required.

    Only thing left is to round up your family, grab a few bug out supplies and head for the hills. Duh, we all know or can guess where the highest point in Grand Cayman is don’t we?

  3. Telcom Man says:

    It would be easy to have SMS messages sent out to all cell-phones; Digicell and C&W do for promotions all the time. BUT it would require HMCI to have a direct data link into the cell-systems management software: no good trying to call a real person at either company.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Another department burning money without a solid benefit for the public.
    Keep warning Joe and Mary over the radio…Even if they send warning sms to all
    cell users (what is no problem, working with the local providers), what are you advising the public to do? A warning system is great but if you have no “plan” what folks should do it’s gonna be a total chaos. And don’t tell me you are ready for a “real” event….

  5. Anonymous says:

    Great news for the couple dozen Radio Cayman listeners. The question for HMCI, a department which, let’s be honest, really isn’t called upon that often, is: what did their team learn in the full year since the failed SMS text exercise of early 2017? Why does it take a “real” emergency a year later to propel action from full time employees tasked with simple responsibilities? If HMCI is going to be a joke, we should just disband it, and reallocate those funds to the mental health unit or crisis center.

    • Simon says:

      The SMS test in the Caribwave exercise in 2017 showed that there were unacceptable delays in delivery of SMS for emergency notification, and therefore text was not reliable or quick enough to be depended upon for public notification for rapid onset events.

      HMCI and OfReg have been working on developing several different methods for mass notification. Radio interrupts (which were recently tested in Caribwave 2018) are simply phase one – This is not a knee jerk reaction. The development of an ENS system for the Cayman Islands forms part of the Hazard Management Legislation which was gazetted into law in late 2016.

      Ideally the Government will eventually have a cell broadcast system that is capable of rapidly delivering ‘amber alert’ type notices to all mobile phones (even when they are on silent mode) but like the radio alert system, we do not intend to rely on one system only, but rather we will use multiple platforms to get emergency messages out to as many people as possible. We will also continue to reach out to the public through social media, websites, and the mainstream media and we will deploy police cars with public address systems if we have to.

      When phase two of the ENS system becomes operational and we can place crawling text across cable tv channels, we are not going to drop all the other ENS systems in place or in development and rely on that exclusively. We are trying to establish a broad based ENS platform that reaches as many people as possible.

      It is a work in progress. I think there is a misconception that HMCI is basically there to encourage people to prepare for hurricane season only. HMCI is responsible for the Government UHF radio system which police and other first responders use, the masts and antennas, all Emergency exercises including Port, Hurricanes Exercise, Airport exercise etc., Emergency shelters, the community emergency Response Teams, the National Emergency Operations Centre, Disaster Plans which are regularly updated for a whole range of areas such as Oil Spills, Hazardous Materials (in development now), Earthquakes, Tsunamis etc. HMCI conducts training for first responders in areas such as Incident Command Systems, Mass Casualy Management, Emergency Care and Treatment. There is a public education component, HMCI issues Government Identification. HMCI has responsibility for Contingency of Operations Plans which are updated and submitted annually by all Government Departments. There are many, many other areas of reponsibility but HMCI is certainly not just waiting for the next hurricane to roll around. Work is happening all the time!

  6. Anonymous says:

    Not enough. What about people who don’t listen to Radio Cayman? Emergency notifications should be no less than broadcasts on every local radio station AND text messages to every FLOW and Digicel phone.

  7. Anonymous says:

    What if you don’t listen to any radio Cayman stations?

  8. Anonymous says:

    How about preparing for things that actually happen here?

    • Anonymous says:

      BINGO! You win the prize for post of the day! Without a long gradual ramp up of offshore ‘shelf,” a tsunami passing Cayman waters would at most be a 1-3 inch ripple on the sea surface. The only way a tsunami develops into waves is by this action, and there is no geological basis for that to happen in Cayman! We are surrounded by deep water, which protects us from such developments by land masses with gradual continental shelves. Prepare for something we will actually experience indeed!

      • Anonymous says:

        I am not sure we can say this definitively. There are 10 square miles of shallows in Northsound, two to three miles off parts of South Sound and East End.

        There is much smaller underwater shelf area off the West Side of GCM but an 8 inch tsunami was recorded on the GT Harbour gauge for a 5 minute period with the very small earthquake event off Honduras in January. If that earthquake had generated a ten or thirty foot tsunami wave rather the possibility of a 1 to 3 foot wave we might have experienced a different impact.

        The probability of a damaging tsunami is low but to say that it is impossible is not proven, and Government would be doing a disservice to the people if a threat existed (however small) and the public were not made aware of it.


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