Take a deep breath. Now, quickly get under your desk and crouch into a fetal position.
Stay there until the tremors pass.
That is the basic drill for what to do if an earthquake strikes.
It may need to become standard operating procedure in the UAE if the latest Globe of Natural Hazards report by one of the world’s largest reinsurance companies, Munich Re, is to be believed.
The report, a detailed analysis of natural hazards in different parts of the world has the UAE categorised as Zone 2 – MM VII.
The report explains the MMVII rating as “very strong” on its earthquake intensity scale.
Munich Re has been putting out this report since 1978, but this is the first time they have separately looked at the Middle East and North Africa region for earthquakes, tropical cyclones and volcanoes.
The recent tremors felt here in the UAE last month when an earthquake struck Iran (categorised as Zone 4 – MM IX: devastating) only augments the Munich Re report.
Speaking to Emirates 24|7 from the company headquarters in Munich, Germany, Andreas Pollman, Client Management Executive, the Mena region, says “The UAE has changed drastically in a short time. The concentration of high-rises, for example.”
The general threat of safety and risk aside, the first broadside is likely to be fired by insurers. From insuring a desert landscape 30 years ago, Dubai and the UAE today have become a mega market for insurers.
“Whenever there is a change in risk exposure, there might be a consequent change in the assessment of the risk by reinsurers.
The change in risk that occurred now is the increase and concentration of values in the region and what we do is that we measure our exposure,” Pollman says.
However, with the report only just having come out, awareness levels have yet to kick in.
CEO of Oman Insurance, Abdul Muttalib Mustafa Al Jaidi, tells Emirates 24|7, “As per market information there have been no major reported claims due to earthquakes in the UAE.
It would therefore, be fair to say that awareness about natural disasters among corporate customers is not so significant.
However, we must also keep in mind that developers insist on certain earthquake standards when constructing high-rise buildings in the UAE, for example.”
So, what does this mean for you? Should you alter the insurance policy you have? Will you have to pay a premium? Is the apartment you live in insured against an earthquake specifically?
Al Jaidi of Oman Insurance says, “So far it is not the practice in the UAE to charge a separate premium for earthquake exposure.
As per our information the same practice is adopted in other regional markets.”
However, it would make sense to meet and discuss the matter with your insurer.
Another local insurer who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that premiums could now be charged for specific earthquake insurance, but insurers would have to work out the details.
What about re-insurers? Are they changing their game plan for the region?
Pollman says, “We have been factoring the principle exposure into our rating already in the past.
Certainly there is a constant change and development in the environment and a consequent change in risk and exposure.”
Al Jaidi adds, “This depends on the nature of reinsurance arrangements.
With respect to catastrophic protection treaties, the rates being charged are inclusive of premium for earthquakes.
With respect to proportional treaties some reinsurers may insist on separate cessions for earthquake exposure and others will not.”