7 tips to surviving hurricane season in the Cayman Islands

Even the most idyllic of tropical paradises are interrupted by hurricanes from time-to-time, and on some occasions, these massive storms can be deadly.

Seven mile beach from air Grand Cayman

Many times, based on wind speed and distance, hurricanes bring only dreary days of gusty winds, grey skies, and heaving oceans. For this reason, it is easy to become complacent and to remain unprepared for when a disaster truly does strike.

Hurricane season in the Cayman Islands begins this Saturday, June 1, 2019 and continues until Saturday, November 30, 2019.

While the Cayman Islands are rarely hit by hurricanes compared to other Caribbean islands, there is always the possibility they will approach during this time. The largest hurricane Cayman experienced in recent history was hurricane Ivan, which hit in September 2004 causing widespread damage.

Here are seven things you need to do to ensure sure you are ready in the event of a hurricane.

1. Make sure your insurance is up to date

Don’t underestimate the threat that hurricanes can pose to your home and possessions in the Caribbean. Even if you think that your home can withstand powerful winds, many hurricanes bring storm surge, or flooding, as a result of atmospheric pressure changes. Especially in major hurricanes, the surge can rise high enough to be life threatening.

Make sure your property insurance is up to date and be aware of what it provides. In Cayman, many home insurance plans cover damage caused by hurricanes.

2. Have a supply of cash on hand

After a severe hurricane, flooded roads, crowding, and bank and ATM closures can easily prevent you from withdrawing cash when it is needed. Before the storm hits, make sure you possess a substantial supply of cash.

3. Fortify your home

While nothing can make your home as safe as a hurricane shelter, there are some steps you can take to minimise the damage it will sustain.

Sealing windows is extremely important; if you cannot afford hurricane-proof windows, then opt for hurricane shutters or board the windows using plywood at least five eighths of an inch thick (or thicker if used for a door).

Caulk around both windows and doors, and bolt doors shut. Store any valuable possessions in high places where they are less likely to receive water damage from storm surge.

You will also want to ensure that your roof, as well as any exterior structures such as patios, are securely attached. Hurricane straps or clips can fasten a roof to a house.

4. Stock up on food

A well-stocked food supply is essential. By substituting regular items for others that have a longer shelf life, you can balance the longevity of the food supply with nutrition and flavour. The most essential items to buy are canned foods, especially ones offering meats and other protein-rich ingredients. (Don’t forget a manual can opener if it is needed.) Dried fruits and vegetables, powdered or non-dairy milk, and crackers in place of bread are all excellent substitutes. Other important items are nuts, cereals, granola, and protein bars. Freeze-dried meals are a good option, as they can be easily prepared by boiling water on a portable stove.

5. Stock up on water

Although it could arguably be mentioned alongside food, a steady supply of water is important enough to deserve special emphasis. If power is lost during a storm, conditions without air conditioning can be hot, causing water to be consumed more quickly.

The Cayman Islands tap water is generally safe to drink outside of emergencies, and in Grand Cayman there are two desalination plants purifying the water. However, during a major hurricane it is likely power supply will be lost to these plants.

After hurricane Ivan it took some two weeks for water to return to most of the Cayman Islands. With that in mind, it’s important that you make sure you have enough bottled water to sustain each person in your household for at least seven days, if not longer. Most supermarkets such as Fosters IGA and Cost U Less stock water bottles by the gallon for this reason.

6. Gear Up

Of course, food and water are not the only important supplies for a severe hurricane and the ensuing power and water loss.

You’ll also need flashlights, preferably one for each person, and spare batteries. A car charger might save your cell phone, though it’s also a good idea to have portable handheld radios.

As you never know what issues you may need to fix in the aftermath of a storm, it’s a good idea to have a set of tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, wrench, nails, screws, duct tape, pliers, gloves, and anything else that might come in handy.

A working vehicle may still prove essential after a storm, so you’ll want several days’ supply of spare gasoline, and a jumper cable.

Finally, always keep a first aid kit. In the event of an emergency, the main number to call is 911, although the police also perform rescue duties.

7. Make sure you have documentation for pets

Hurricane shelters do not allow pets, so make sure you have a plan for how to accommodate yours.

Before a storm approaches, be sure to decide where your pet will be kept. Research local hotels to find out if any will accept your pet and ask if no-pet policies can be waived in the event of a storm. If your workplace is offering shelter, ask if you can bring your pet along.

In any situation, make sure your pet is equipped with an ID tag and microchip, that you have identification photos and medical records stored in plastic bags in a safe location, and that you are well-stocked with foods and any medications your pet requires.

If you have no choice but to leave your pet at home, provide them with ample room to move around in and a supply of several days’ food and water.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it should give you a good starting point for preparing for hurricane season. For more information on hurricane shelters and other processes in the Cayman Islands visit Cayman Prepared.