The United Arab Emirates: Security Crisis Management


The need for a crisis management program for the United Arab Emirates is critical because of the potential threat presented by Iran’s widely dispersed nuclear facilities. Threat from a nuclear emergency because of the nuclear facilities justifies the need to initiate a security crisis risk management program based on lessons learnt from previous nuclear hazards. People, property, and critical infrastructure for the United Arab Emirates remain vulnerable if a crisis happens. On the other hand, the Iranian nuclear facilities are vulnerable to many potential threats. The theft and misuses of radioactive nuclear materials in the hands of terrorists, earthquakes, as Iran is prone to earthquakes with the potential to cause damage to the nuclear facilities, and unanticipated are potential sources of threats to the facilities. The need for disaster planning, preparedness, and response is critical based on the detrimental effects nuclear radiation could have on people’s health. This study borrows from lessons learnt from the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan for disaster preparedness in the event of an emergency. Reliable communication, planning, preparedness, and coordination with stakeholder agencies to provide relief if a nuclear emergency happens, creates public trust as the basis for mobilizing resources toward countering such an emergency.


This study focuses on a security crisis management program for the United Arab Emirates from the hazards of the Iranian nuclear programs. According to Seeger, Sellnow and Ulmer (1998, p.9), Unlu, Kapucu and Sahin (2010, p. 6), and Zhong and Low (2009, p. 8), crisis management program is a process for responding to disaster that has the potential to cause harm. Unlu, Kapucu and Sahin (2010, p. 6), and Holt, Campbell & Nikitin (2012, p.6) regard disaster management as the activities for disaster recovery, mitigation, and preparedness to minimize the adverse effects of a hazard if an emergency happens. A crisis can be a natural disaster such as an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, floods, landslides, and technological disasters caused by the breakdown of technology because of an error. An example includes the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused by an earthquake that caused overheating and meltdown of the three nuclear reactors on March 11, 2011 (Iranian Studies Group 2004, p.2; Paraskevas 2006, p.2). One of the sources of a crisis is the Iranian nuclear facilities.

Many countries within the Middle East are vulnerable to the potential threat of the Iranian nuclear disaster if failure of Iranian’s nuclear technology occurs raising serious questions about the level of preparedness of the United Arab Emirates from such an emergency (IAEA Report On Enhancing Transparency and Communication Effectiveness In the Event Of A Nuclear Or Radiological Emergency 2012, p. 5; Iranian Studies Group 2004, p.4). The study raises questions on crisis management if a nuclear disaster happens. The lack of policies to manage and handle radioactive contamination if a disaster happens, and the strengthening of nuclear security are challenges the United Arab Emirates needs to examine. If a crisis happens, the potential consequences have adverse implications on the environment leading to economic loss and other destructive effect on the environment, especially when no early disaster preparations are put in place to mitigate the risks.

The aim of the research

The aim of the research is to discover the best security crisis management for the United Arab Emirates from the hazard of Iran’s nuclear programs by the interior ministry.

Research Objectives

  1. Provide a comprehensive study of nuclear accidents
  2. Study multidisciplinary responses to a nuclear emergency
  3. Establish a framework for nuclear crisis disaster response, mitigation, preparedness, and prevention for the United Arab Emirates in case of a nuclear emergency.
  4. Comprehensively study the geographic distribution of Iranian nuclear installations.

Significance of the Study

The geographical location of the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East to Iran’s geographically dispersed nuclear reactor installations makes it potentially vulnerable to any nuclear hazard from any of the nuclear facilities. The potential for a nuclear emergency is demonstrated from a record of nuclear disasters that have happened. The world has recoded 57 accidents since the Chenorby disaster, with the recent disaster being the Japanese Fukushima nuclear emergency. The consequences from the nuclear emergencies were adverse to human life (Holt, Campbell & Nikitin 2012, p.6). The Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Crisis Management (2012, p.6) identifies the breakdown or malfunctioning of nuclear installations to be the core reason for the meltdown. The meltdown is because of the buildup of heat because of the decaying nuclear materials. In addition, human error has been identified as a significant cause of such a disaster. The consequences have been shown to be catastrophic ranging from greenhouse gas environmental emissions, health risks, thermal radiation, earthquakes, biological mutations, and somatic effects. In view of the adverse impacts and consequences based on historical evidence, the study seeks to understand the potential threats due to the Iranian nuclear facilities to create a security crisis management program by the United Arab Emirates from the hazard of Iran’s nuclear programs (Holt, Campbell & Nikitin 2012, p.11).

Literature Review

Orientation to Previous Research

The current study borrows heavily from previous research on the security crisis management of hazards, drawing a parallel from the Fukushioma nuclear reactor disaster on response, preparedness, recovery, and mitigation (Holt, Campbell & Nikitin 2012, p. 23; The Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Crisis Management 2012, p.4). The need for security crisis management for Arab Emirates is demonstrated from the events that followed the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident, in addition to other nuclear crisis that have happened previously in other countries. In addition, research has shown the potential disaster that terrorists can unleash on the public in the event the terrorists access potentially dangerous weapons. Studies by the Iranian Studies Group (2004, p. 3) adds to the study by identifying earthquakes as a potential threat to the nuclear facilities in Iran. The destructive effects of an earthquake on any nuclear facility could be disastrous. The consequence from such a natural disaster on any of the Iranian nuclear facilities reinforces the need for a security crisis risk management. An example of the destructive effect of a nuclear accident is the Fukushima nuclear hazard in Japan (Asher, Cronin, Kliman, Parthermore 2011, p.5). A contingency plan to address such events was demonstrated by the Japanese government. In the context of the Fukushima nuclear hazard, research indicated the Japanese Government had announced a disaster response and preparedness plan, when it reported the failure of the emergency reactor cooling system of its nuclear reactor, and put in place measures to evacuate residents within a 2 km radius of the reactor (The Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Crisis Management 2012, p. 2). The consequent hydrogen explosion which damaged the roof of the nuclear reactor injured four workers was reported, but with minor injuries because of the contingency plan. It was on 14th march when a hydrogen explosion injured 11 people damaging other equipment in the secondary containment (The Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Crisis Management 2012, p. 2). That was followed by other explosions, which caused further damage compelling the military to resort to the use of water spraying and dropping of water by the military as an emergency response method. The crisis management plan and the reaction to the consequences of the Fukushima reactor in Japan in relation to risk crisis management is a multidisciplinary. The Japanese approach was in response to an emergency, but with little time preparations for the emergency. Aimin (2010, p.3) argues that lack of a crisis management plan has the potential to adversely affect the United Arab Emirates in the vent of a disaster compelling for a disaster preparedness in the case of a nuclear hazard (Aritua et al. 2009, p.30).

Lack of experience and dispersed resources for addressing emergencies, poorly coordinated and collaborative work, and weak capacity to dynamically respond to a crisis underpins the need for a disaster response program for the United Arab Emirates. Aimin (2010, p.3) and Aritua et al. (2009, p.5), Hallgren & Wilson (2008, p.4), and Orr & Scott’s (2008, p.4) have argued from the perspective of construction project management both in theory and practice, with Thomas and Fernandez’s (2008, p.5) study contributing to the study from the perspective of the success of crisis management of complex projects. Soderholm (2008, p.4) argues that pre-crisis prevention and post risk reduction and management of vulnerabilities due to threats and emergencies is better than the treatment of emergencies likely to arise because of a nuclear accident. Soderholm (2008, p.4) agrees with VanDonk and Molloy (2008, p.5) that an emergency framework that integrates crisis prevention, preparedness, and crisis treatment based on a crisis management plan for disasters response and preparedness is critical in the event of a nuclear emergency. A structured framework for addressing such emergencies is the way to go for the United Arab Emirates. According to Zhong and Low (2009, p.5) and White and Fortune (2009, p.7), crisis communication and reliability analysis are key elements in crisis management. Foster and Kesselman (1998; 2001, p.6), and Du et al. (2002, p.8) provide detailed literature on practical aspects of crisis management in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Crisis Response Mechanism and Disaster Response

In context of the security crisis management, the event of a crisis following a nuclear hazard of the Iranian facilities requires rapid mobilization of resources and putting policies in place to counteract the hazard (Unlu, Kapucu & Sahin 2010, p5). In context, unequivocal efforts have to be made to counteract and mitigate any event of a hazard. The United Arab Emirates has no legal framework for dealing with such events, reinforcing the need to put a framework in place by drawing on lessons from similar hazards that have occurred previously (Unlu, Kapucu & Sahin 2010, p.3; UNDP 2005, p.4).

In the context of the current study, the need to educate all stakeholders and the government of the United Arab Emirates to create an awareness in crisis management is compelling (Zhong & Low 2009, p.4). Research by Zhong and Low (2009) and Unlu, Kapucu and Sahin (2010, p. 9) on crisis management shows that Government intervention and other necessary stakeholders agencies both in public and private sectors need to respond to a crisis or be prepared in advance in the event of a crisis. The Health and Safety Executive (1992, p.5) has confirmed in a detailed research of the need for a crisis management program and recommendations that well prepared government agencies provide reliable countermeasures against the risk of a nuclear disaster, minimizing the potential for widespread destruction. Zhong and Low (2009, p5) have shown in their studies that toward addressing an impending crisis in the event of a hazard, the government should have in place comprehensive contingency plans with the disaster planning with the key components of preparedness, response, and recovery are critical in the emergency plan. In addition, it has been recommended that placing an emergency committee to respond to any crisis is a critical approach that the country could put in place to address a disaster from the Iranian facilities.

Zhong and Low (2009, p.3-5) have proposed awareness training programs through a good communication framework for creating and explaining policies as a contingency measure to address a nuclear crisis in disaster preparedness. Typically, the need to use reliable and real time communication systems to reach the public has been recommended as being a critical component of the crisis management program. In addition, Edelman, Krepinevich & Montgomery (2011, p.11) assert the need to communicate policy throughout the government of the United Arab Emirates.

Effective communication

According to Edelman, Krepinevich & Montgomery 2011, p.13) and Event of a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency (2012, p.4), the core components of responding to a radiological or nuclear crisis is putting in place a reliable and transparent communication framework. The use of reliable and trusted communication leads to positive outcome if the communication is sustained to transmit technical and safety information to the public and within entrusted parties. The solution is to create trust with the public, an image of transparency, and competency through an independent authority. That decreases public anxiety because of the ones affected by the nuclear hazard has developed confidence in the emergency response team (Event of a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency 2012, p.4).

Emergency Preparedness

In the context of the United Arab Emirates, the need for an emergency plan is critical even within the occurrence of an emergency. Typically, once the communication plan has been developed, it is critical for it to be integrated into the overall emergency plan spanning the local, regional, and the national level (Event of a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency 2012, p.6). In addition, the occupier of the position of the public information officer should take the responsibility of identifying the threat categories of a nuclear disaster as classified by the International Atomic Energy Agency (Coburn & Spence 1992, p.3). In that context, the likelihood of the emergencies are in power nuclear stations, the misuse of industrial or medical radioactive sources and from uncontrolled sources, transport emergencies, and acts of terrorism. In addition, the formation and preparation for disaster response is crucial for the training, exercise program, and drills for the public information personnel in the event of an emergency (Unlu, Kapucu & Sahin 2010, p.5). It is crucial to train a person who provides consistent communication in the response to emergencies using clear and authentic languages. The need to identify a disaster preparedness audience is critical as proposed by (Unlu, Kapucu & Sahin 2010, p.5)

Context of the Study

The potential threat of a nuclear accident from the widely dispersed nuclear facilities spread throughout Iran presents a major threat to neighboring countries in the Middle East and especially the United Arab Emirates. The threat is all too evident because nuclear disasters have happened elsewhere in the world with catastrophic consequences. Armitage and Nye (2012, p.5), Burby (1991, p.5) and UNDP (2005,p.5) provide lessons from which to learn besides the lessons learn from the Fukushima nuclear disaster and many other similar disasters in developed countries with well advanced nuclear technologies, it is evidently clear the threat from a nuclear disaster is worth preparing for. A major cause of damage to physical infrastructure leading to a crisis is the event of an earthquake, as happened when a Tsunami hit Japan (UNDP 2005, p.5). Iran’s geographic location makes it prone to earthquakes and the emergencies associated with such risks. The potential for an earthquake is to be analyzed from a series of high magnitude earthquakes that have frequently hit the country with catastrophic consequences such as loss of life and destruction of property. In context, the risk from Iranian nuclear reactors in the event of a technological disaster compels the need for crisis management for the United Arab Emirates (Edelman, Krepinevich & Montgomery 2011, p44; Zhong & Low 2009, p.4).Intelligence reports showing Iran to have widely dispersed nuclear reactors research centers, enrichment facilities, and military sites making the dispersion a source of hazards in the case of the potential for a breakdown in technology (Maloney 2013, p3; Event Of A Nuclear Or Radiological Emergency 2012, p.2).

An analysis of the locations of Iran’s nuclear facilities presents high potential risks especially those located to the east of the Zagros mountain range. The facilities with the higher risks place the United Arab Emirates within reach of radiation emissions makes the UAE vulnerable to the adverse effects of a nuclear disaster, such as from the Vasa Bushehr reactor. In addition, the potential consequences of such a nuclear disaster included negative economic and an environmental pollution because of radiation leads from nuclear wastes (Edelman, Krepinevich & Montgomery 2011, p. 44).

Research Methodology

The current study draws on both qualitative and quantitative techniques to inform the study (Armitage & Nye 2012, p.5). In context, a qualitative approach provides information based on desktop analysis of literature on risk and crisis management, disaster response, preparedness, recovery from various databases, journals, and other primary sources. On the other hand, a quantitative method includes a thorough analysis of secondary sources of data on crisis management, the potential for a nuclear disaster based on previous nuclear disaster responses on crisis risk management and best practices for risk management. In addition, the study draws on the Fukushima nuclear disaster and approaches used in crisis management of the hazard (Armitage & Nye 2012, p.5). In addition, the research focuses on a detailed analysis of the literature on techniques to identify risks associated with nuclear hazards, and methods for mitigating the emergencies. In this case, a study of the hazard prevention and mitigation strategies and associated risk treatment will be conducted to inform the study.

Discussion and Conclusion

A security crisis management program for the United Arab Emirates attributable to the threats of the Iranian nuclear programs underlies the need for the United Arab Emirates to organize resources and assign responsibilities to plan and respond to a nuclear hazard in the event of such emergencies. The Fukushima nuclear disaster provides lessons that other countries have to learn from, to respond to nuclear hazards. That is because Iran has widely dispersed nuclear facilities and being an earthquake prone country, in addition to the fear of radioactive nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists adds to potential threats from the destructive effects of earthquakes, justifies the need for a security crisis management program for the United Arab Emirates to create countermeasure to address such an emergency. The focus of this has a basis on previous accidents in particular the Fukushima nuclear emergency, in the context of Iran’s widely dispersed nuclear facilities, the serious consequences the threats from natural disasters such as earthquakes pause on the facilities, and the adverse effects on the environment on a wide scale provides the basis for this study.


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