As part of the European POCRISC project, which aims to promote a common culture for managing seismic risks in the Pyrenees, a simulated event was organised around the town of Tarbes on 19 November 2021.
7 December 2021

Feedback on the POCRISC crisis exercise

As part of the European POCRISC project, in which BRGM was a partner and which aims to promote a common culture for managing seismic risks in the Pyrenees, a simulated event was organised around the town of Tarbes on 19 November 2021. A look back at this life-size exercise coordinated by BRGM.

© POCRISC

The objective of the full-scale seismic exercise coordinated by BRGM on 19 November 2021 around Tarbes (Hautes-Pyrénées) was to simulate an earthquake of magnitude 5.9 and test the area’s crisis management resources.

Every year hundreds of tremors are recorded in the Pyrenees, but fortunately most of them are imperceptible to people and cause no damage. In the past, very destructive earthquakes have occurred in the massif, which led to regulatory seismic zoning to classify the seismic risk as moderate to medium (the highest level observed in mainland France). In this context, the POCRISC project, financed by the European POCTEFA fund and of which BRGM is a partner, is interested in promoting a common culture for managing seismic risk in the Pyrenees, by:

  • developing shared approaches to risk evaluation for all prevention teams;
  • helping disseminate information to all the local authorities concerned and the general public;
  • providing decision-making tools tailored to the needs of emergency management teams.

More than 200 people mobilised from France, Spain and Andorra

The aim of the seismic exercise was to test, under realistic conditions, the contribution to crisis management of the tools and methodologies developed by the partners of the POCRISC project over the last 3 years. These tools aim to:

  • rapidly estimate the effects of earthquakes,
  • understand and monitor aftershocks,
  • enable emergency building-damage assessment.

The exercise included both "tabletop" actions, played at the National Engineering School (ENIT) in Tarbes with the Hautes-Pyrénées Prefecture, and actions in the field:

  • mixed teams, made up of French, Spanish and Andorran firefighters, and experts from the French Association of Earthquake Engineering (AFPS) and its Catalan counterpart (ACE), simulated the conduct of emergency building-damage assessment;
  • French rescue and rubble-clearing units (USAR) from the Hautes-Pyrénées and Pyrénées-Atlantiques, supported by Andorran reinforcements, carried out search and rescue operations on a former industrial site;
  • the municipality of Séméac tested the triggering of its Plan Communal de Sauvegarde (PCS) for the first time.

In all, this crisis management preparedness exercise mobilised over 200 people from France, Spain and Andorra.

The exercise was preceded, on 18 November 2021, by an evening conference for elected officials in the Hautes-Pyrénées, which included a presentation by the Director General of Services of the town of Le Teil, in the Ardèche, which had been affected on 11 November 2019 by a violent earthquake.

Exercice de sauvetage-déblaiement sur la commune de Séméac dans une friche industrielle

Our Plan Communal de Sauvegarde had previously been a risk management tool to deal with random events. The risk of earthquakes was not paid any particular attention until the plan was implemented to respond to this event under actual conditions. It has now become a tool that everyone can use.

Christine Barraud, 3rd deputy mayor of Séméac, in charge of the seismic exercise