Friday 23 October, 2020

COVID-19 to 'certainly coincide with hurricane season'

Derek Haines

Derek Haines

According to a local disaster specialist, hurricane season in the Cayman Islands will "certainly" coincide with the coronavirus pandemic.

Derek Haines, who heads up Haines Disaster Consultancy in the Cayman Islands, is a former Chief Superintendent with over 40 years of policing experience and received the Queen’s Police Medal (QPM) for his leadership and actions during Hurricane Ivan. 

As Chief Superintendent, Mr Haines was charged with drafting the Cayman Islands National Crisis Management Plan as well as coordinating multiple government agencies in preparing, training and responding to crises at the national level. He has coordinated crisis management exercises in Cayman and Anguilla and is the former Head of the Health, Safety, Security and Crisis Management department for Dart Enterprises.

According to Mr Haines: "COVID 19 will most certainly coincide with hurricane season, although it is my hope that many islands, including Cayman, will have the pandemic under some sense of control."

The most recent forecasts for the 2020 hurricane season, which takes place from June 1 to November 30, show that the Atlantic is likely to experience an "above-average number of hurricanes." A forecast from the scientific team at Colorado State University is predicting 16 named storms (4 above average), 8 hurricanes (almost 2 above average), and 4 major hurricanes (over 1 above average). A major hurricane is category 3 or above.

Given the likelihood that the country will be managing two potential crises at the same time, advance preparations must be made. Typical issues such as evacuation, medical care, transportation and the use of shelters will have to be considered within the context of the pandemic. 

"The immediate threat will be to survive any hurricanes or weather events (heavy rain, flooding) while keeping with good hygiene and social distancing to mitigate COVID 19 risks," confirmed Mr Haines.

"Households through to national governments should be planning to deal with multiple disaster events in parallel. This means considering things such as a lack of emergency personnel (police /fire /EMT /health workers), planning and rationing key resources, and ensuring recovery protocols are robust and ready to be executed. In addition, evacuations will likely be complicated, as a lack of aircraft/ crew and safe destinations - due to the ongoing pandemic - will heighten the risks of dealing with a weather disaster.”

A further consideration is that Florida, one of Cayman's primary trade partners will also be experiencing its hurricane season during the same period, which means there might be further border protection than what has already been predicted, with regards to food and essential supplies that originate from the Southern state.

Just this week, Cayman experienced difficulties retrieving medical supplies from Florida due to Trump's invocation of the Defense Production Act. Trade experts have also predicted at least some degree of protection around food supplies due to coronavirus.

A further forecast on the 2020 season is expected from the National Hurricane Center in May.

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