Protect against Geofailures: a Modern View

The effects of failures of slopes and levees (geo-structures) have manifested themselves rather dramatically in recent years both in Europe and globally. When catastrophic failures do occur, their consequences are seldom non-fatal; on the contrary they usually involve hundreds of tragic fatalities especially in (but not limited to) cases of unexpected triggering events as large intensity earthquakes or heavy rainfall. Protection of all potentially unstable slopes or levees against large intensity (but low probability) events would understandably provoke a squander of (unavailable) resources. Recognition of our inherent inability to control nature leads the civil protection community to pursue resilience as the most viable strategy to minimize the “cost” of the inevitable disaster. Design for resilience is ramified in pre-event measures (summarized in the concept of opting for structural robustness) and past-event actions (focusing on technical and societal preparedness to recover functionality).

In this framework, the conference aims to help develop methodologies for the protection of population against such threats incorporating new techniques (such as remote sensing via airborne technologies such as UAV’s, engineering simulations to predict the evolution of displacements, and a strong technological support such as a real-time monitoring platform coupling field data with the developed algorithms to issue ‘need-retrofitting’ warnings or evacuation alerts.

It is generally admitted that it “takes two to tango”, but resilience against failures of levees and slopes requires coordinated acting by several usually non-compliant entities, rendering it overwhelmingly challenging to be performed by any two even well-synchronized actors. Motivated by this, the main objective of the conference is to bring together academics, engineers, monitoring and risk management experts, in a unified framework to efficiently prevent the failure and its consequences.

The proposed framework has the potential to provide a comprehensive multi-scale monitoring and analysis platform for real-time health assessment of such geo-structures and a priori characterization of precarious zones.  This revolutionizes conventional health assessment of levees which is currently based on visual inspection. This process would allow for some time (of the order of hours) to evacuate population in case of slow river flooding but is inherently unable to predict the time, location and severity of the expected event, or the cascading effects which possibly follow (a usual situation in such cases).


Since the problems tackled represent a significant concern in Europe (and abroad) several efforts have been made to develop preparedness strategies. ICONHIC2019 intends to collect existing good practices, make use of available European resources and build upon previous experience, to propose viable frameworks to enhance resilience.  Short term, we aim to help propose a specific framework to coordinate prevention, response and recovery. Mid-term ICONHIC2019 is hoped to act as a catalyst enhancing the cooperation among interacting stakeholders.