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Published 24th May 2006, 4:30pm

The Cayman Islands Post Office wants its customers to know that once the National Hurricane Committee (NHC) declares a watch, it is the right time to collect their mail and parcels.

Since hurricane Ivan most firms and residents have shifted from a reactive to a proactive approach - that is, maintaining a constant state of readiness.

Cayman residents know they can no longer wait to act until a disaster strikes, but must actively plan to minimise business disruptions and have their checklist to down to a science. That is why it is imperative not only to mitigate the risk of disruption but to plan ahead.

There are three phases that the NHC goes through when a hurricane is approaching the Cayman Islands - an Alert is issued when tropical storm/hurricane conditions could begin to affect the islands within 48 hours. Phase 2 is a Watch, which means that within 36 hours tropical storm and hurricane conditions could begin to affect the islands. A Warning is given when tropical storm/hurricane conditions are possible within 24 hours.

"When the NHC declares a hurricane Watch is the time we would like the public to start coming in to collect their mail and parcels from Parcel Post. Ideally, we would like to be included on everyone's checklist," said Postmaster General Sheena Glasgow.

"Our plans call for every piece of mail to be secure," she added. "We starting putting away the mail for storage once government offices are told to close to the public."

She explained the process: "We begin by rubber-banding the mail in each post box during the watch phase. But once government offices are told to close, we start putting the mail in heavy-duty plastic bags. The bags are taped and stored in large plastic tubs and the covers are sealed to provide further security. As much as possible, we store the tubs containing the mail off the floor."

The Postmaster General also wants customers to consider placing their keys in a safe place along with their important documents.

"You have no idea how many people had to replace their post office keys after Ivan. There is a $30 charge to change a lock," she said.

The important thing for the public to remember is that by the time government offices start to close, Post Office employees are putting away the mail for safekeeping and it is too late to collect your mail or parcels. And don't forget to put away your post office key somewhere safe.