Student poster to feature at earthquake conference

| 09/06/2009

(CNS): Budding artists from the New Horizons High School have won the Hazard Management Cayman Islands (HMCI) earthquake awareness poster competition. Year 8 students Josh Caballero, Roshaine Anderson and Rayshawn Conner will share a $400 prize sponsored by Cayman Imports. HMCI’s Deputy Director of Preparedness Omar Afflick said their work was great. “It is clear they put in a lot of effort.”  HMCI now plans to display the posters at a major earthquake conference which takes place in Martinique in the latter part of June.

“Earthquakes weren’t really considered much of a threat in the Cayman Islands until December 14, 2004, when the people of the Cayman Islands were shaken by a  6.8 magnitude quake that occurred 20 miles to the South of Grand Cayman,” Afflick added.

The recent earthquake off the Island of Roatan on 28 May focused national attention once again on the threat with a tsunami warning being issued for Belize, Honduras and Guatemala.

For some time now, HMCI has been taking the earthquake awareness programme into schools and businesses across the Cayman Islands and the Agency has also been conducting earthquake drills.

“It is important to stay calm when you feel earthquake tremors. Stay away from windows and other glass objects and resist the temptation to run for the door,” Afflick explained. “Current best practice indicates you should ‘duck, cover and hold on. Basically you are trying to protect your head and body from falling objects. To do this you should try to get under a sturdy piece of furniture, such as a desk and hold on so the furniture doesn’t vibrate away from you and expose your head during the tremors. If you can’t duck under a piece of furniture, then try to get into an area such as a corner of the building or a door jam and brace yourself. These areas tend to be stronger.  If you are out in the open then try to cover your head with your arms.”

Afflick pointed out that once the tremors subside calmly leave the building and head for an open area away from buildings, utility poles and tree. “Aftershocks can occur after the main event, and although a building may still be standing it could have been significantly weakened, so it best to assemble somewhere where it is unlikely anything can fall on top of you,” he said adding that earthquakes can be associated with fires as well so if anyone detects the odour of gas they should remove themselves from the area and remember do not turn on lights or strike matches.

“Also, if you smell gas it is important to report this to parents or the authorities. If power lines are down stay clear and assume they are still live. It is recommended you wait until a structural expert has had an opportunity to check the building and declare it safe before going back inside,” Affleck said. 

Preparing for hazards in advance has been shown to significantly reduce loss of life and residents are urged to secure items like book shelves and television cabinets to the walls to minimize the risk of toppling when an earthquake occurs. “These heavy items can cause significantinjury, especially to a young child and putting up brackets and securing the items makes good sense. It is quick and it is not a costly exercise,” Affleck advised.

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