Natural Disaster Management and Historical Prospective Study in the UAE

Abstract

The core functions of the ministry of the interior are to coordinate and integrate activities that are necessary to enhance the capability of the ministry of interior to mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the occurrence of natural disasters, in the context of disaster management. An assessment of the ministry of interior’s disaster management capabilities and lessons learned from other countries including the United States, UK, and Germany will provide the information required to create a disaster management plan for the ministry of interior to use when responding to disasters when they happen in the United Arab Emirates.

Introduction

The purpose of this proposal is to explore different disaster management strategies used in different countries to recommend a strategy for the ministry of interior to use to mitigate, prevent, respond, and recover from emergencies, crises, or disasters if they happen in the UAE (Amna 2013). This study will focus on investigating the interior ministry’s disaster management plan and readiness to respond to those events to avoid or reduce the potential damage to life, property, and infrastructure (Ahmed 2003; Burningham, Fielding & Thrush 2008). The study will investigate from a historical perspective the UAE’s vulnerability to natural disasters because of its geographic location (Brooks 2003; Cabinet Office 2013).

The findings of the study will be used to recommend an emergency, disaster, and crises management program by the ministry of interior. The Cabinet Office (2013), David, Duncan and Dhanhani (2013), Pitt (2008), and the National Response Framework (2013) define a crisis as an occurrence that leads to a dangerous situation, a disaster as a serious event that leads to the damage or loss of life and property on a wide scope, and an emergency as a small scale event that requires immediate attention.

The working definition of a disaster management program by Unlu, Kapucu and Sahin (2010, p. 6) and Zhong and Low (2009, p. 8) is that it is a threat with the potential to damage property and lives. Those authors view crises and disaster management to be the same but only differ in magnitude. According to Unlu, Kapucu and Sahin (2010, p. 5), disaster and crises management consists of the tasks and activities of responding to unexpected events.

The UAE has a history of natural disasters that have happened in different parts of the federation. The disasters include cyclones, flash floods, fires, and earthquakes of varying magnitudes, which cause the destruction of property, life, and infrastructure. Turkey, India, Japan, the USA, and the UK provide lessons for the ministry of interior on how to mitigate, respond, and recover from the effects of disasters (Iranian Studies Group 2004, p.2). The UAE is a potential candidate that is vulnerable to natural disasters which lead to the breakdown of law and order when they happen (Wiles, Selvester & Fidalgo 2005).

The aim of the research

The aim of the research is to discover the best disaster management strategy for the ministry of interior to use when disasters happen in the United Arab Emirates.

Research Objectives

  • To conduct a comprehensive study of the UAE’s vulnerabilities and geographic distribution of natural emergencies, crises, and disasters.
  • To conduct an assessment of the ministry of interior’s preparedness and multidisciplinary response to natural disasters.
  • To establish a framework for mitigating, responding, preparing, and preventing emergencies, crises, and disasters in the UAE by the ministry of interior.
  • To Conduct a comprehensive study of emergencies and disasters in the world

Significance of the Study

The tectonic structure and geographic location of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) make the UAE vulnerable to natural emergencies, crises, and disasters. The potential adverse effects of natural disasters on the operations of the people and the continuity of day-to-day business activities make the study of critical importance. The potential implications of the occurrence of emergencies, crises, and disasters to the ordinary lives of the people of the UAE and the destruction of the UAE’s critical infrastructure could result in a critical situation that could require an immediate response by the ministry of interior.

The paper provides the best suggestions the ministry of the interior could use to formulate a well-coordinated emergency response program. The program will provide a framework for coordinating the police to enable the federation to mitigate and restore the critical infrastructure back to normal.

Literature Review

Vulnerability of the UAE to natural disasters

The United Arab Emirates is a federation vulnerable to natural emergencies, crises, and disasters because of its geographic location. The federation is situated in the seismically active region of the eastern Arabian tectonic plate (David, Duncan & Dhanhani 2013). A scientific study shows that the region has a major fault that runs through the major cities of the UAE, which emerges from the sea at Dibba (Ahmed 2003).

When the plates move, they cause disturbances that occur in the form of earthquakes. The disturbances make the federation vulnerable to the destructive effects of earthquakes. David, Duncan and Dhanhani (2013) and Ahmed (2003) argue that the federation has significant exposure to the destructive effects of natural disasters. David, Duncan and Dhanhani (2013), Coburn and Spence (1992) argue that the frequent number of earthquakes, tropical storms, floods, and landslides which have happened in the UAE for the last 20 years compels the ministry of interior to take radical steps to create a disaster management program.

Coburn and Spence (1992), Brooks (2003), and the Iranian Studies Group (2004) argue that different parts of the population of the UAE are exposed to the significant risk of earthquakes and cyclones. Recent examples of the risks include numerous tremors that occurred in Fujairah in 2009. And the earthquake with a magnitude of 5 on a Richter scale occurred in Masafi in 2009 (Aldama-Bustos, Bommer, Fenton & Stafford 2009).

The most recent earthquake with a magnitude of 4.3 on a Richter scale occurred in 2009 in the same area. In addition to the earthquakes, floods have become frequent, causing significant damage to the existing infrastructure and the environment. It is the responsibility of the ministry of interior to respond to emergencies, crises, and disasters, which destroy people, animals, and the critical infrastructure when they happen (Sahin, Kapucu & Unlu 2008; National Response Framework 2013; Aldama-Bustos, Bommer, Fenton & Stafford 2009).

An Assessment of the Ministry of Interior Preparedness

A study by Dhanhani (2010) of the ministry of interior’s disaster response and preparedness based on previous disaster response strategies shows serious drawbacks. In the context of the Cabinet Office’s (2013) argument, Dhanhani (2010) and the article on Aldama-Bustos, Bommer, Fenton and Stafford (2009), the frequency of earthquakes with high magnitudes have increased, showing the extent to which the federation is vulnerable to disasters. David, Duncan and Dhanhani (2013) and Dhanhani (2010) argue that the geographic location of the UAE on the tectonic plates of the two continents increases the exposure of the UAE to the adverse effects of the earthquakes.

In addition to that, when flash floods occur in the UAE, they cause a strong discharge of floodwater into the sea leading to landslides and other environmental hazards. Lessons learned from the March 2006 of the prolonged floods which caused massive landslides, damage to the natural environment, destruction of buildings, loss of property, and disruption of economic activities are critical elements for the ministry of interior to consider and put in place a disaster management plan.

Leadership

Leadership is a critical component of any disaster management plan. It is the responsibility of the ministry of interior to provide leadership to coordinate every disaster preparedness and response activity. When flash floods happened, the ministry of interior failed to provide leadership to perform the disaster response and recovery coordination efforts. Some of the issues raised by the ministry officials include lack of accurate maps and insufficient information on the distribution and nature of the disasters in the UAE, lack of courses to train people on how to respond to natural disasters, and lack of detailed information on the population distribution of the UAE.

Crises, disaster, and emergency response model

A study of available literature on disaster management plans will provide the ministry of interior with information on how to create a disaster management plan for mitigating, preparing, and responding to crises, emergencies, and disasters when they happen in the UAE.

Mitigation

When a crisis, disaster, or emergency happens, the federation should be prepared in advance to mitigate the effects of the event. It has been established that to mitigate is to anticipate a disaster. Studies by Dhanhani (2010) and David, Duncan and Dhanhani (2013) have established the ministry of interior’s disaster response unpreparedness. The study shows that the ministry of interior lacks a disaster management plan for responding to those disasters. The ministry of the interior should create an effective disaster response and coordination framework to handle emergencies which include lack of health facilities, earthquakes, and fires when they happen, (Sahin, Kapucu & Unlu 2008).

Researchers have established the core elements necessary for a disaster response framework to include policies that operate at the regional and national levels of cooperation. Preliminary investigations show that it is important for the ministry of interior to install seismic response systems, formulate, recommend, and enforce policies for people to design earthquake-resistant buildings. Research shows that the ministry should establish a program to create forest cover to combat the effects of cyclones and to coordinate the construction of erosion control dams (Sahin, Kapucu & Unlu 2008).

Preparedness

Events following a crisis, an emergency, or a disaster require rapid mobilization of resources and policies to counteract the situation (Unlu, Kapucu & Sahin 2010, p. 5). The United Arab Emirates has no legal framework for dealing with such events, underpinning the need for a disaster management framework for dealing with the situation (Unlu, Kapucu & Sahin 2010, p.3; Kelman, Glantz & Paxton, R n.d). A crisis, disaster, and emergency preparedness plan consist of the activities for coordinating the rescue operations to ensure a satisfactory level of preparedness for the ministry of interior.

According to Brooks (2003) and Henson, Kositcin & Huston 20(11), it is important for the ministry to create and strengthen the managerial and technical capacity of the UAE and communities to respond to such events. Preparedness can be effective by creating logistical readiness, implementing disaster response mechanisms, creating short term and long term strategies, installing advance warning systems, educating the public, and creating strategic reserves such as medicine, food, and water which can be accessed quickly in case of a disaster (Brooks 2003; Henson, Kositcin & Huston 2011).

Response

There is a need for rapid mobilization of resources to address the needs during an emergency, a crisis, or a natural disaster (Burningham, Fielding & Thrush 2008). A detailed investigation shows that the ministry of interior has little commitment to disaster preparedness (Brooks 2003).

Recovery

Recovery constitutes the activities the ministry of the interior should have in place to respond and control the effects of a crisis, disaster, or emergency and to restore business continuity and critical infrastructure. The ministry interior should use the police to restore law and order, protect and participate in the construction of the infrastructure necessary for business continuity, and put in place the mechanisms required to support the recovery efforts.

What the Ministry should do

Critical assessments show that the ministry of interior lacks a disaster management program to address emergencies when they happen. Preliminary investigations recommend a command and control framework for the ministry of interior to respond to disasters when they happen. The structure includes the undersecretary of the ministry of interior of the civil defense and military who are responsible for coordinating government ministries and departments to provide assistance in the event of a natural disaster. The command and control structure is conceptualized in the table below.

Civil defense leadership

Abu Dhabi Dubai Sharjah Ajman Umm Al Ras Al Fujairah

Local Defense committees members

Coordinate support Ministries
Support ministries
Ministry of public works Ministry of health Ministry of social affairs Ministry of water and the environment Ministry of education Ministry of Interior (Police) Ministry of the interior (Defense)

The ministry of the interior should provide a framework for coordinating the ministries shown in the table above, which should provide support and coordination activities for the disaster recovery efforts (Plapp 2006; Brooks 2003; Burningham, Fielding & Thrush, 2008). An awareness and training program on natural disasters should be an integral part of the disaster management program. The role of the defense forces and the police should be defined and all coordination efforts in the event of a disaster should be under the ministry of the interior (Plapp 2006).

It is important to educate people on the risk and impact of natural disasters, and the best methods to use to address emergencies. According to disaster the National Response Framework (2013), Aldama-Bustos, Bommer, Fenton and Stafford (2009), and Pitt (2008), the ministry of the interior should design a disaster response program describing the coordination efforts, goals, mechanisms, and support activities during a disaster. It is critical for the ministry of interior to conduct simulation exercises, provide emergency warning systems, and introduce a form of legislation for the provisions of emergencies.

How other countries have responded to disasters

The global diversifications of emergencies, crises, and disasters have prompted countries to formulate effective disaster prevention, mitigation, and response plans to address the emergencies when they happen (Telford, Arnold & Harth 2004). The concept of disaster preparedness underpins the Australian government’s disaster response plan (Henson, Kositcin & Huston 2011).

Berz, Kron, Loster, Rauch, Schimetschek, Schmieder and Wirtz (2001), Sahin, Kapucu and Unlu (2008) argue that Germany uses application-oriented techniques to predict disasters in high-risk regions based on a cost-saving approach. Each investment made towards reducing risk translates into significant savings in terms of the cost that could be incurred in case the risk becomes a natural disaster. The government emphasizes disaster prevention and reduction efforts and offers support through the Federal Foreign Office and subsidiary agencies and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) in partnership with national and international agencies.

The UK has one of the well-developed disaster management programs to address the occurrence of natural disasters that frequently affect the unitary State (Plapp 2006). Sources from the Cabinet Office (2013) and the National Response Framework (2013) show that the UK has developed an effective disaster management program because it is vulnerable to fires, storms, and floods. The government provides national and international disaster management and relief efforts using the military based on the principles of humanitarian assistance under the Secretary of State for International Development and led by the department of international development (DFID).

The United States offers disaster prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery assistance to disaster victims based on the elements of the National Response Framework (NRF) which can be implemented at any time during an emergency. The National Response Framework (2013) provides a detailed account of the elements such as the unity of effort through unified command and readiness to act and several other elements critical to making the disaster mitigation, prevention, response, and recovery program effective (Herman 1982).

Research Methodology

The current study uses both qualitative and quantitative techniques to understand the strategies the ministry of the interior should put in place to explore the strategies to use when an emergency, crisis, or natural disaster happens in the UAE (Armitage & Nye 2012, p.5). A qualitative method provides information based on desktop analysis of literature on the management of natural disasters, response, preparedness, and recovery from different databases, journals, and primary sources. A quantitative approach will include a thorough analysis of secondary sources of data on emergency, disaster, and crises management.

The study will use tools such as questionnaires, case studies, and response programs to collect quantitative data on the subject under investigation. In addition, the study will draw on case studies such as Turkey and India, which the countries use to manage natural disasters (Armitage & Nye 2012, p.5). The questionnaires will focus on a detailed analysis of the literature on the techniques used to identify risks associated with natural hazards and methods for mitigating such emergencies. In this case, a study of the hazard prevention and mitigation strategies and associated risk treatment will be conducted.

Discussion and Conclusion

The proposed study will focus on exploring the ministry of interior’s disaster preparedness to emergencies, crises, and disasters when they happen in the UAE. Preliminary investigations show that the ministry of the interior does not have a disaster response or management program to effectively respond to natural disasters when they happen. It is critical for the ministry of interior to formulate a disaster response plan based on the knowledge gained from case studies such as India and Turkey, Japan, the UK, and the United States. A command and control structure is critical for creating an effective emergency response program.

The disaster response program should reflect the components of emergency preparedness and prevention, which use clearly defined disaster response procedures. There is a need for the ministry of interior to collaborate and work with other ministries to educate people on the importance of observing building codes, and land use regulations to protect the federation’s critical infrastructure.

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