On January 28th, 2020 a massive 7.7 magnitude earthquake that left the nation’s residents jarred and reeling, rocked the Cayman Islands.
Property was damaged (though thankfully no major structures fell), sink holes opened up, infrastructure was affected, and people were – in general – pretty terrified.
I myself experienced office walls shaking, geysers spouting wastewater from drains. I immediately began testing the strength of the rainwater gutters in the event I had to shimmy up them to escape a potential tsunami on the office roof.
When I returned home late in the evening, I inspected the structures for damages and spent time re-hanging artwork and closing doors and drawers that had been shaken open in the tumult. There were nearly 30 aftershocks after the “big one”. During this time, I started to consider what we could do to protect our property (and ourselves) in the event of another earthquake. This is what I came up with…
- The first thing we should do when an earthquake hits is duck and cover.
- Get underneath formidable furniture or find a sturdy doorway to weather out the initial shockwaves.
- Make your way out of doors if convenient and safe but be acutely aware of the dangers of falling debris and the panic of your fellow humans.
- Administer first aid to those in need once you yourself are out of danger.
- Once the event has passed be mindful that the danger hasn’t.
- If in an area like Cayman you want to begin checking the USGS and all disaster organization sites, announcements and social media outlets for reports of what to do next.
- Be ready to get to higher ground as tsunamis come quick. Getting in your vehicle is a bad idea as the roads here instantly become non-navigable as people try to rush home.
- Seek out the nearest highest ground – proceed on foot if you can.
- Have emergency food, water, medicine and medical supplies on hand to “weather the storm” in a catastrophe’s aftermath…
- An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Be prepared, be alert and remain calm.
Once the danger has passed what can we do to preserve property after we have preserved life? Well we can look to insurance. Fortunately, here in Cayman, nearly all Full Coverage policies cover property owners in the event of quakes, flooding or the inundation of the sea caused by a potential tsunami. Individuals carrying a mortgage on their homes or businesses are usually required to carry full coverage by their banking institutions, but it is critical that folks know what their policy covers exactly – before natural disasters wreak havoc. Be mindful of your deductibles and be ready for things such as structural assessments after a catastrophic event has occurred.
Another thing we can do to protect property from peril is build more structurally sound buildings in the first place. Strengthening foundations and walls and using the latest – highest rated – materials can give your property a better chance to survive and keep you safe. Off the grid utilities such as solar panels and water storage systems can make life much more bearable after a disaster. If you already have your home, you can research ways to “disaster proof” your existing structures and be ready for potential problem spots and perform important preventative maintenance.
The January 28th quake was terrifying and many of us made poor decisions in how we dealt with it. But let us not lose the lesson. Let’s make this a coachable moment for everyone and be more prepared to preserve our properties – and most importantly our lives – when Mother Nature strikes again.
John has been working as an agent with ERA Cayman Islands for 8+ years specialising in high-end real estate, hospitality and property management. Formerly of Vail, Colorado; John has set down his roots in Grand Cayman. John holds a degree in business law from the University of Saint Thomas.