On 19 May 2022, BRGM conducted a “life-size” crisis management exercise simulating a major cliff failure in Bidart, Pyrénées-Atlantiques.
13 June 2022

To help the local and regional authorities better respond to natural hazards, BRGM periodically supports crisis management exercises. These simulations enhance the preparedness of the various stakeholders and help raise awareness of risks among local communities.

Cliff instability in Pyrénées-Atlantiques

In May 2022, BRGM conducted a “life-size” exercise with the local council to simulate a cliff fall in Bidart.

The cliffs along this coastline are fragile and prone to failure. This risk identified in the Local Safety Plan had never been simulated before.

The selected site on the cliff ledge has experienced significant movement over the past year, and there are roads, services, housing and other infrastructure in the area.

Simulating the collapse of a 20 m wide section of cliff

The exercise brought together emergency response and crisis management services, such as the fire brigade, the municipal and national police, staff from the local council and Pays Basque urban council, expert consultants from Géolithe, BRGM and Prédict Services, rescue workers from the municipal coastguard rescue association, and also representatives from the water and gas utilities, respectively Suez and GRDF, and the media outlets France 3, TV5 and Sud Ouest.

The organisations involved all imagined that a 20 m wide section of cliff had just fallen from a height of 60 m and played a role in the simulation. The communal crisis unit coordinated operations under the most realistic conditions possible.

All emergency steps were taken in real time, including managing traffic, cordoning off the area, cutting off water and gas supplies, and simulating an evacuation, to test whether the different actors could work together in an emergency.

Exercise conducted as part of the European RiskCoast project

This exercise was conducted as part of the European cross-border research project RiskCoast involving French, Spanish and Portuguese partners, which aims to develop monitoring tools for the prevention and management of coastal geological hazards caused by climate change. BRGM is a partner in this Interreg SUDOE project.

One of the RiskCoast working groups focused on simulating a geological hazard event to practise emergency response and test the satellite monitoring tools developed by scientists to support the decision-making process in a crisis.

Representatives from the project coordinator CTTC based in Barcelona, the University of Granada, CEREMA and the Spanish National Civil Protection also participated in the exercise as part of the project.

An initial exercise had been carried out simultaneously in Majorca and Ibiza in April 2022.