Jordan Journal of Civil Engineering

A Comparative Earthquakes Risk Assessment Approach Applied to the United Arab Emirates


Samer A. Barakat; Abdallah Shanableh; Abdallah I. Husein Malkawi;


This paper presents the preliminary results of a long research project on the assessment and mitigation of seismic risk in major cities in the UAE. UAE’s earthquake activity has long been recognized as one of the lowest in the world. All cities have experienced moderate earthquakes in the past, and will again do in the future. Recent earthquakes in Iran (e.g., Bam in 2003, --- in 2005) have killed thousands of people. Because of the different design and construction practices, different population density concentrations and economic activities in the UAE, different damages and losses are likely to be experienced. The impact of an earthquake is not limited to direct losses, such as the loss of life, loss of structures and business interruptions. Earthquakes also cause indirect losses by producing supply shortages and demand reductions in various economic sectors. In a country such as the UAE, which is undergoing an unprecedented constructionbased development with high-rise buildings being the main feature, a large earthquake in a major city can actually cause a considerable economic loss. In this study, a framework for assessing and comparing the risk associated with the adverse consequences of earthquakes in the UAE is presented. The framework is based on a simple risk-characterization model that is used to assess the health risks associated with toxic chemicals. The model: Risk = D × RF × Pop × ER, adopted to fit our purpose of estimating the risk associated with the consequences of earthquakes, the various parameters in the above mentioned model are translated as follows: Dose (D)= seismic “force” at a specific location or weighted for an area; Response Factor (RF) = degree of damage or losses per unit “force”; Population (Pop) = a factor representing exposed population. Equivalent populations may also include exposed environment or exposed infrastructure. Emergency Response (ER) = effectiveness of available emergency response programs to reduce risk immediately as the adverse effects take place. It should be noted that emergency response in this case is different than deliberate risk management. First, the earthquake hazard and risk in the UAE, including the estimation of the amplitudes of the ground motion parameters, is stochastically assessed. Then the comparative risk framework to assess the relative impacts on people and buildings in the seven emirates and the major cities of the UAE is applied. The result is a ranking system for risk that is being integrated within a geographic information system (GIS). The database is intended for detailed development to maximize benefits to the various stake holders in the community.


Seismic hazards, Adverse consequences of earthquakes, Risk to people, Risk to buildings, United Arab Emirates, Comparative risk assessment.