UAE: Why residents have no reason to worry about earthquakes in the region

NCM holds regular campaigns and conducts workshops in schools, universities and offices to raise awareness


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Wed 8 Feb 2023, 6:00 AM

Last updated: Wed 8 Feb 2023, 1:51 PM

UAE residents have no reason to worry about earthquakes in the region, according to seismology experts.

Khalifa Al Ebri, Director Department of Seismology, National Center of Meteorology (NCM), told Khaleej Times that since the UAE falls under low to moderate seismicity, there is no cause for worry among people living in this country,

"The UAE has low to moderate seismicity; hence we are safe. We are not on the active seismic belt," he said. "We have frequent tremors ranging from two to three in a year. People do not feel most of these tremors and they are just detected by the sensors. All these tremors do not affect the buildings or the infrastructure (in the country)."

Al Ebri explains that the country is located on the Arabian Tectonic Plate, which pushes against the Eurasian Plate. The boundary of those plates – the Zagros mountain belt – is one of the most seismically active regions in the world; therefore, the country sometimes experiences tremors without any effect.

He said that the UAE seismic network/station like several others, helps in understanding the behaviour of the earth by monitoring the seismicity locally. It exchanges seismic data with neighbouring countries, and receives the GSN- Global seismic network/ data to monitor the seismicity regionally and globally. Alebri said that demonstrably successful predictions of earthquakes have not occurred anywhere so far in the world.

NCM publishes local, regional, and strong global earthquake reports to provide the UAE and foreign societies with the latest data, as most people have families and friends in other countries and wish to know about their whereabouts in case of earthquakes. People with NCM smart application can see the latest data on earthquakes or tremors everywhere, as it has specialists and seismologists who analyse the data 24/7.

"The UAE seismic network exchanges data with neighbouring countries and receives open data from the global seismic network and the seismic stations that detect the earthquake immediately. However, unlike the weather, earthquake prediction is not possible."

Therefore, seismic stations focus their efforts on the long-term mitigation of earthquake hazards and help to improve the safety of society and structures rather than trying to accomplish short-term predictions.

Earthquakes are, by their very nature, a sudden phenomenon, and predicting with a precise time range is difficult.

Al Ebri said: "Radars and satellites can monitor the weather; as for earthquakes, everything is happening underground. There is a lot of ongoing research, like studying the level of underground water, any changes there, changes in temperature and gases that are released, any other emissions from earth etc., to understand the (shifting) parameters there. However, no reliable system could still be built (to predict earthquakes). Some people also say that changes in animal behaviour indicate an imminent earthquake, but that is again not a very reliable source."

Awareness campaigns in the UAE

Al Ebri said people should be aware of the hazards and risks when an earthquake strikes. They should understand their area well and be prepared accordingly.

"Precautions can be categorised as 'before, during and after'. NCM has awareness campaigns and workshops in schools, universities, government offices, and other exhibitions and events. Also, people come to visit NCM to see how we monitor earthquakes. Children are inquisitive and eager to learn. Knowledge dissemination is sometimes more effective with children as compared to adults. They are also taught about the right behaviour before, during and after the earthquake. This is to make them aware and more confident in tackling such situations. Ultimately, the idea is that they do not panic when it happens. Therefore, people should be self-aware as well."

Experts say this awareness is important, as people are increasingly becoming global citizens living and travelling in different parts of the world.

"Even if we live in a low-risk country, we travel, and our children will continue to travel. So, people should be aware of such risks and know how to mitigate these consequences."

Drop, cover and hold

Explaining what one should do to prevent injury and save lives in an earthquake, Al Ebri adds: "People should know the entry, exit and assembly points. In addition, it is advised not to use the phone during an earthquake unless there is an emergency. 'Drop, Cover, Hold' strategy stops people from being knocked over, makes one a smaller target for falling and flying objects, and protects the head, neck, and vital organs."

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