909 towers in Dubai: How to survive an earthquake

Two major earthquakes have rocked the Arab world and the UAE in the month of April: the first one on April 9, and the second one on April 16. 

Both the earthquakes were follwed by minor aftershocks.

A 6.3 magnitude earthquake shook Iran and the rest of the Arab world at around 4pm UAE time on April 9, 2013, followed by smaller aftershocks.

The death toll from the quake was last reported at 37, with hundreds others injured, mostly in Iran.

the epicenter of the April 16 quake, of 7.8 magnitude, was also in Iran, near the border with Pakistan, and it rocked the region at 2.44pm UAE time (10.44am GMT).

The UAE's official seismology authority, National Centre of Metrology and Seismology, confirmed to  Emirates 24|7 that the epicentre of the most recent quake was 650km off the coast of Ras Al Khaimah in UAE.

However, the tremors from the quake could be felt in locations as far and wide as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Manama, parts of Saudi Arabia as well as in Oman, with minor swaying of high-rises reported in these locations.

Earthquakes are not common in Dubai and the rest of the UAE, but nature has its way of showing who’s the boss every once in a while.

Perhaps because we are not used to experiencing frequent tremors, residents of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, especially those living and working in high-rises, may not necessarily be adept at knowing what to do when tremors strike.

It is no secret that Dubai is home to the tallest residential skyscraper cluster in the world. Not only does Dubai boast of the tallest building in the world, the imposing Burj Khalifa, but also the tallest residential tower (Princess Tower), the tallest hotel in the world (JW Marriott Marquis Dubai), among many more.

According to Emporis, a global provider of building information, Dubai has 909 high-rise buildings , including 448 skyscrapers (comprising 40 floors or more).

According to SkyscraperPage.com, Dubai has 387 towers that are more than 99 metres in height, of which 84 are more than 202 metres tall and 26 are 301 metres or more in height.

Indeed, there are three towers in Dubai that are at least half a kilometre (500 metres) in height.

That’s a tall order, indeed, if there was one.

While we’ve all come to live and love our high-rises in Dubai, we can’t all claim to know about what do in case an earthquake strikes. Proof of this was the recent Iran quake, tremors of which were felt by us here in Dubai. There was confusion all along, with a number of office and residential buildings evacuated on the one hand, and with others going along with their daily chores as if nothing had happened.

But if you need to be prepared the next time tremors strike, wherever in the world you are, you’ll do well to understand the following pointers (SOURCES: Earthquake Country and Go Los Angeles.


• DROP to the ground; take COVER by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and HOLD ON until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building. Check out this PDF .

• Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.

• Quickly move to a safe location in the room such as under a strong desk, a strong table, or along an interior wall. The goal is to protect yourself from falling objects and be located near the structural strong points of the room. Avoid taking cover near windows, large mirrors, hanging objects, heavy furniture, heavy appliances or fireplaces.

• If you are cooking, turn off the stove and take cover.

• Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture, window or anything else that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place (i.e. under a desk or in an inside corner).

• Use a doorway for shelter only if it is in close proximity to you and if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway. Brace yourself on the side with the hinges to avoid the door swinging at you.

• Stay inside until shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.

• Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.

• DO NOT use the elevators, even if they are working. There may be aftershocks.

• If you’re in your hotel room, stay there. There are usually aftershocks, and sometimes they may be worse than the original earthquake. Under a sturdy desk or in an inside corner of your room is the safest place to be, even if you’re on the 40th floor. If there’s a heavy bookcase next to a match-stick desk, don’t get under the desk.

• If you are in a restaurant, get under the table. 


• Move to an open area where falling objects are unlikely to strike you.

• Move away from buildings, powerlines, streetlights, utility wires and trees.

• Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits, and alongside exterior walls. Ground movement during an earthquake is seldom the direct cause of death or injury. Most earthquake-related casualties result from collapsing walls, flying glass, and falling objects. 


• Pull over to the side of the road and stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. (Don’t stop in the middle of the freeway if traffic is still moving around you. Slow down and put on your turn signal to get to the side of the road.)

• Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake. 


• Do not light a match.

• Do not move about or kick up dust.

• Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing.

• Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust. 


• Check for injuries, attend to injuries if needed, help ensure the safety of people around you.

• Check for damage. If your building is badly damaged you should leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional.

• If you smell or hear a gas leak, get everyone outside and open windows and doors. If you can do it safely, turn off the gas at the meter. Report the leak to the gas company and fire department. Do not use any electrical appliances because a tiny spark could ignite the gas.

•If the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or smell hot insulation turn off electricity at the main fuse box or breaker. If you will have to step in water to turn off the electricity you should call a professional to turn it off for you.

Be safe.

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