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Control measure

Safe system of work: Landslides and coastal cliff collapse

Control measure knowledge

Cordons and access

Cordons around the hazard area should be immediately established, to keep members of the public and emergency responders at a safe distance from the landslide or coastal cliff collapse. For more information refer to Incident command – Cordon controls.

The police may need to carry out road closures and prevent members of the public entering the hazard area; these types of incident often draw onlookers.

If possible and safe to do so, it may be beneficial to move vehicles or other property away from the hazard area, especially if this may prevent them from falling into the area affected by the landslide or coastal cliff collapse.

Approaching a landslide or coastal cliff collapse

During approach and deployment at an incident involving a landslide or coast cliff collapse, the effects of vibration and movements should be considered and monitored. Movements of vehicles, personnel and other emergency responders, and the use of machinery or equipment, should be minimised.

Exclusion zones should be set up and avoidance routes identified. Personnel and other emergency responders should be briefed about exclusion zones and avoidance routes and provided with updates if they need to be changed.

Safe access and egress routes should be established and monitored; if there are any safety concerns with these routes, alternative routes should be identified or tactical plans revised.

Direction of approach to a landslide

Landslides will usually travel in the direction of a slope, but this can include lateral movement and initial movement may be slow or difficult to perceive. Approach should be from an uphill position and areas deemed as unsafe should be identified and marked. This type of incident may benefit from the appointment of safety officers, who can visually monitor the landslide area for further flows of material or other ground movement.

Direction of approach to a coastal cliff collapse

When approaching incidents from a clifftop or base of a cliff, consideration should be given to its stability before personnel are deployed to the hazard area. This type of incident may benefit from the appointment of safety officers, potentially located at the top and base of the cliff, who can visually monitor the area for signs of further collapse.

Situational awareness

Personnel should consider the stability of the landslide or cliff collapse area when operating on or near it. When attending an initial collapse, personnel should be aware of the possibility of a secondary collapse occurring; this may be as a result of the disturbance from the initial collapse or other factors. The extent of a secondary collapse will be unknown and may include large areas of land that emergency responders and members of the public may believe to be safe.

Situational awareness can be gained from:

  • Above the landslide or at the clifftop; signs of instability include:
  • Cracks in the ground
  • Appearance of sinkholes
  • The base of the landslide or cliff, if assessed to be safe and feasible; signs of instability include:
  • Activity of recent landslide or movement of material
  • Cracking
  • Seeping water from a cliff face

The risk of secondary hazards or further movement or collapse should be considered. Buildings, structures and infrastructure in the area should be assessed for the risk of collapse.

Situational awareness may also benefit from the deployment of aerial resources, including helicopters or drones (classified as a type of unmanned aircraft by the Civil Aviation Authority), or suitable vessels for a coastal event. They may be able to assist with an assessment of the stability of the landslide area or cliff.

Evacuation

If there are people in buildings, structures or other areas that may be affected by a landslide or coastal cliff collapse, their evacuation should be a priority. The police should be requested to assist and lead with this activity if time permits. For more information refer to Operations – Evacuation and shelter.

Evacuation and access routes should consider the effects of secondary hazards and affected areas should be avoided by members of the public, personnel and other emergency responders if possible. Fire control room and on-scene personnel should exchange information about evacuation needs and the evacuation routes that should be used if required.

Rescue from a landslide or coastal cliff collapse

There could be casualties involved in the landslide or coastal cliff collapse, who for example:

If a landslide or coastal cliff collapse results in needing to rescue a casualty, consideration should be given to:

  • Secondary hazards and further flows or collapse of materials
  • Impacts from operational activity on ground stability

The rescue should include appropriate distribution of weight to unstable ground and the use of ground anchors for the safety of personnel and the casualty.

If there are people trapped in a partially or fully collapsed building following a landslide or coastal cliff collapse, an appropriate risk assessment should be carried out before any attempt to perform a rescue. Specialist advice from a geophysical engineer should inform the tactical plan. For more information refer to Search, rescue and casualty care - Primary search: Unstable or collapsed structure.

For more information about rescuing a casualty who has fallen with or into materials, such as mud, debris or rocks, refer to Search, rescue and casualty care – Rescue a casualty at height. If a risk assessment determines that the ground is too unstable to lower and raise an emergency responder, other options should be considered. This could include:

  • Lowering an emergency responder to the casualty, then lowering both people to the ground below
  • Requesting specialist resources

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Consider providing local equipment or access to specialist resources to enable personnel to work safely in the area around landslides and coastal cliff collapse

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Establish and monitor safe approaches to and cordons for a landslide or coastal cliff collapse

  • Consider minimising the movement and use of equipment and vehicles near the area affected by a landslide or coastal cliff collapse

  • Consider appointing safety officers to visually monitor the area for material or ground movement following a landslide or coastal cliff collapse

  • Consider requesting aerial resources or vessels to assist with assessing the stability of the landslide or coastal cliff collapse

  • Consider evacuating buildings, structures or other areas that may be affected by a landslide or coastal cliff collapse

  • Exchange information with the fire control room about evacuation needs and the evacuation routes that should be used if required following a landslide or coastal cliff collapse

Fire control personnel should:
  • Liaise with on-scene personnel about evacuation needs and the evacuation routes that should be used if required following a landslide or coastal cliff collapse