Prisoners were safe during quake, officials say

| 05/02/2020 | 38 Comments
Cayman News Service
HMP Fairbanks

(CNS): The Ministry of Home Affairs has said all of its uniform services responded robustly to the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that shook Cayman last week. Although it hasn’t directly refuted claims made by inmates and their families that the women in HMP Fairbanks were locked in and abandoned, officials said that a decision was made not to evacuate the jail and prisoners were directed by the officers to take cover under their beds.

“At Fairbanks, nine staff including the director and deputy director were on site at the time of the earthquake,” the ministry stated in a press release from GIS. “The safety of all 14 prisoners and staff on site was ascertained quickly and in a calm and measured manner. Once the initial tremor had passed, prisoners were advised to get under the protective cover of the metal frame beds.”

The ministry added that the structural integrity of the HMP Fairbanks buildings led to the decision not to evacuate staff or prisoners.

However, according to unverified reports on Cayman Marl Road, there were claims that the staff did flee the building, leaving the women locked in their dormitories during the tsunami warning. They were reportedly confined, alone without any officers, until 5pm, when they were allowed into the yard.

Whatever the truth about the location of the officers at Fairbanks, since the earthquake a team of psychologists and counsellors has engaged with both prisoners and staff there, while prisoners at HMP Northward are also expected to receive counselling in the coming days.

Officials said that during the incident the prison service was in radio contact and checks were made to confirm that prisoners were safe across all the buildings.

CNS learned that some of the prisoners were panicking in the cells at the courthouse. But shortly afterwards, all the prisoners were taken back to Northward from town. CNS watched as Elmer Wright, who was under tight security and required a heavy police escort during transfer, was placed in a van and left the court bound for HMP Northward.

Prison Director Steven Barrett was said to have “swiftly organised a comprehensive building structural check of all facilities” in the aftermath, with a full assessment report, which showed that there was no significant damage, completed the same day.

Officials stated that, as is the case with the aftermath of any unprecedented event, the prison services has commissioned an internal review of contingency plans as part of a ‘lessons learned’ exercise, “which will include arrangements to support staff and prisoner emotional welfare”. 

Senior leaders from the prison, along with other uniform services from home affairs and other first responders participated in a debriefing exercise last Friday to review the initial response to the incident, establish what went well and identify lessons learned.

Further debriefings will be conducted by Hazard Management Cayman Islands in the coming weeks to ensure that all opportunities to improve the national hazard response capability are identified and acted upon. 

But the ministry said the uniform services went above and beyond the call of duty the Department of Public Safety Communication (DPSC) also played a key role in what was described as an unprecedented event. It received a 200% increase in calls in the hour after the quake. Calls were made to report sink holes around the island and other road damage, which were relayed to the emergency services.

Fire crews responded to 20 emergency notifications from 911, including small fires, the smell of gas and alarms. Working with police, they also provided reassurance, guidance and advice to residents, businesses and visitors across all three islands.

Operational crews maintained full coverage for 911 domestic incidents. In addition, they provided essential fire and rescue operational cover at Owen Roberts and Charles Kirkconnell airports and the Edward Bodden Airfield on Little Cayman, which began operating as normal following a brief interruption. No structural damage was evident to CIFS’s fire stations.


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Category: Crime, Government Administration, Politics, Prison

Comments (38)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Prisoners crying because they are locked up. Friends of prisoners crying because they are locked up. Everyone else is thankful they are locked up.

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  2. Bonnie Anglin says:

    I care. Prisoners, having resorted to crime, all still human and most of which are Caymanians and they are our children. Caymanians, , I know that hurts but it’s the truth. Get over it. They are OURS and paying for their wrongs by being in Prison. I am amazed that there is even a headline news story about this. Did we interview students? Hospital patients? Why the coverage of Prisoners who the majority of US forget they are the children of CAYMAN – Prisoner or Not? What a hypocritical society we have become.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Thats a relief: I’ve been very worried about them.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    It was only about a 5.5 in Cayman. See USGS website.

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    • Aubrey Stillwell says:

      USGS seemed to have trouble finding the Cayman Islands for the first day after the quake

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    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you. You got people going around thinking we had a 7.7 earthquake. The epi-center was 7.7 but what we felt was not that.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    There must be a protocol in place for emergency situations. Appears there is none.
    XXXX
    Caymanians seems don’t understand the importance of following rules and procedures. Either it doesn’t exist, or workers never been introduced to it.
    Had the prison collapsed and prisoners killed, it would have made international news..

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Headline should start “As it turned out…”

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  7. Anonymous says:

    You in prison. You think if an earthquake hit them prison officers going worry about prisoners? You in prison you not free. You in prison.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Where are they tho?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Human beings are in prison. Not all of them sadists, killers and rapists to somewhat justify your hatred.

      A prison is not your mom&pop establishment, but a governmental organization with rules to follow, regulations and protocols, oversights and audits.

      Prison administration is responsible for prisoners lives.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Minimum security custodial prisoners shouldn’t have to accept summary capital punishment in a disaster situation, simply because there was no plan. These are human beings (or are supposed to be). Having a workable plan where nobody has to die needlessly might be better for the public, since some inmates are expected to reintegrate into society in weeks/months.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Cig trying to save face again. Is it working? Nah

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  9. Anon says:

    I’d rather the criminals were locked and abandoned than let out and given the chance to escape.

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    • Anonymous says:

      No one is suggesting they be let out. Only that they should not have been abandoned for any extended period.

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    • Anonymous says:

      If I knew anyone in there, I’d want them to have the option to be in the double-fenced recreational yard area during the “once in 70 year” quake. Inmates in prisons aren’t supposed to live there forever, they are supposed to learn their lesson, maybe a trade, pump some iron, and return to reintegrate as model citizens. We aren’t doing very well, if we automatically exclaim that they all deserve to die, regardless of the proportionality of their offense to society!

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      • Anonymous says:

        11.19am While I agree with most of your comment I think if earthquakes gave adequate warning then we would want them in a safe place outside.Getting under the bunks seems a good idea of what to do while the shaking is going on, lets hope it is communicated to all prisoners ahead of time.Unfortunately the first sign of an earthquake is the tremor of the earthquake itself. By the time we realize that there is an earthquake occurring it is probably too late to run.My suggestion would be that we all use the recent events to launch plans for future earthquakes .Plans such such as what to do : during the shaking, after the shaking, if there are injuries, if there is a tsunami warning ( If it was heavy shaking just assume it will be trigger a tsunami and get higher).Employers work out a plan with your staff and hold drills. Parents work with your schools to help them put a plan in place if there is not one. ( What we don’t want or need is the chaos caused by parents trying to pick up children during a tsunami warning.Again the average length of and earthquake is less than 30 seconds so don’t expect someone else to tell you what to do, know your plan ahead of time.

    • Reeeeeeeeeeee says:

      I believe your entire sentence is an oxymoron you moron. How are you suppose to ensure the prisoners won’t escape if no one is there to monitor them? Answer me that. The prisoners could have escaped when the officers abandoned their post and you would be spinning this off entirely different.

  10. Anonymous says:

    so tell me about the human injuries and the building damage….
    ok then…move on .

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    • Anonymous says:

      There is also the psychological trauma of being left for dead during a catastrophe. Don’t lick boots here.

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  11. Anonymous says:

    hysterics….drama makes the world go around….

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  12. 2 Much 4 Play U says:

    Mr Barrett’s Immediate response to the Earthquake at both Fairbanks and Northward was Highly commendable and timely. And at no time any prisoners or guards were subject or put at risk at both facilities The correct protocols that were in place were followed. It is so sad that those naysayers operating a hostel type premise all way up by berry drive in Beach Bay seems to know exactly what was transpiring at Fairbanks from one of their simpleminded elves.This is nothing short of a malicious attempt to bring ill disrepute to good and stellar efforts of dear illustrious leader Mr Franz our deputy governor. I suggest we attempt to determine the source of this fake and misleading news and those spreading it.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    Nothing to see here.

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  14. Anonymous says:

    Who really cares?

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Many falsely believe, including CIG, that strict building codes is the reason buildings suffered little damage during 7.7 earthquake.

    It is true that all structures designed to withstand vertical forces. Reinforced concrete structures produce three most important earthquake resistance properties, namely, stiffness, strength, and ductility.

    But Rolling waves of an earthquake exert extreme horizontal forces on standing structures. Such a sudden movement to the side (almost as if someone violently shoved you) creates enormous stresses for a building’s structural elements, including beams, columns, walls and floors, as well as the connectors that hold these elements together. If those stresses are large enough, the building can collapse or suffer crippling damage.

    The damage was limited because:
    1. the epicentre of the earthquake was far from land
    2. It was a ‘strike-slip’ event, which typically causes less damage than subduction or ‘thrust’ impacts
    3. the plate tectonics in this area are characterised by lateral movement. Even though that releases a high blast of energy, it is different direction and type of release than a subduction or thrust earthquake when a plate goes beneath another one.

    Damage is typically less severe from lateral or strike-slip quakes. Cayman appears to have been protected from more severe impacts by the dynamics of the plate tectonics in the region.

    **Interesting point about frequency.
    “When seismic waves reach the Earth’s surface, they cause the ground, and anything sitting on it, to vibrate at certain frequencies. During an earthquake, a building will tend to vibrate around one particular frequency known as its natural, or fundamental, frequency. When the building and ground share the building’s natural frequency, they’re said to be in resonance. That’s bad. Resonance amplifies the effects of an earthquake, causing buildings to suffer more damage. In September 1985, a temblor in Mexico City created waves with a frequency perfectly aligned to the natural frequency of a 20-story building. As a result, more buildings of this height were damaged than taller or shorter structures. In some cases, a damaged 20-story building stood right next to an undamaged building of a different height.”

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    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah, I’m not sure Haiti would agree with your strike-slip “different energy” thesis, but agree hiding under beds would do nothing if the 7.7Mag had been closer. It’s fortunate the prison directors aren’t finding themselves neck deep in an inquest right now.

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