how the emergency alert system works in France

France is deploying an emergency population alert system based on cell broadcasting and already adopted in many countries. Here is everything you need to know about FR-Alert.

Flood // Source: Chris Gallagher

It was long awaited in France. After various attempts, such as SAIP to fight/prevent terrorism, and many failures, the government has implemented several alert technologies, including the cellbroadcast, in France. Here is the FR-Alert emergency alert system. This device is officially deployed.

What is FR-Alert?

FR-Alert is the name of the system deployed by France to alert people in an area affected by a large-scale danger. So understand that you may receive a notification on your phone during a natural or industrial disaster, a terrorist attack or a health crisis. If the system thinks you may be affected, it will notify you.

🔴#FRAlert | With the new device #FRAlertif you are in the area affected by a major danger, you will receive a notification giving you instructions for:
🏠take shelter
🎒prepare yourself
ℹ️ inform you
😷protect yourselfhttps://t.co/QhSktEmk6q pic.twitter.com/eeSSDrtCt9

– Ministry of the Interior and Overseas (@Interieur_Gouv) October 18, 2022

The alert notification will include practical information as well as instructions on how to shelter, prepare yourself and protect yourself.

Should FR-Alert be installed?

If you have traveled abroad, you may have already received a message of this type, for example for a natural disaster. Most countries use what is called SMS broadcasting. We have already mentioned this procedure, which is called Cell Broadcast. This technology uses the GSM network (which covers 99.9% of French territory) to broadcast messages (composed of blocks of up to 93 characters, with the possibility of concatenating 15 blocks) on all mobile phones and smartphones in an area given geography.

In other words, FR-Alert is not an application to install on your Android or iOS smartphone.

Example of an update pushed by mobile operators for FR-Alert

FR-Alert is based on cell broadcasting (Cell Broadcast) by telecommunication antennas, but also geolocated SMS (LB-SMS or Location-Based SMS). This latest technology will be deployed later, it will also reach phones that are not 4G compatible.

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What alert messages are sent?

In a press release, the Ministry of the Interior quotes “tany type of major event justifying alerting the population concerned for safety”. This includes natural disasters (flood, storm and cyclone, fire, tsunami, volcanic eruption), biological and chemical accidents (pollution, gas leak, nuclear incident), health (epidemic, pandemic, agri-food incident), technological and industrial ( breakdown of telecommunications, serious accidents on road, rail or air networks, industrial incident), a serious public security event or an act of a terrorist nature.

📄 A few weeks before the arrival of #EN_Alert and cellbroadcast in France, find our article dedicated to relaying the alert on social networks 📱 and the role of #MSGU.
Good reading ! https://t.co/poBzJ5NXNu

— VISOV | #MSGU (@VISOV1) June 6, 2022

The system was designed by researchers, everything was studied, including sounds, message length, words or geographical information. Some results show that in the event of a threat, some people want to receive short messages for immediate sheltering, whereas in the event of danger they wish to have as much information as possible (the starting point of the event, the affected area, instructions). These alerts will be transmitted even if your phone is in silent mode. Only airplane mode blocks these types of notifications.

It is a European directive that forced France to have such a system before June 21, 2022. Let’s hope that this system is more efficient than SAIP. Used during the attacks in Nice, the project was abandoned because it suffered major malfunctioning problems.

France is lagging behind in the Cell Broadcast. Countries like Israel, Chile, Japan, Sri Lanka and the United States have been using it for several years. New York City too. On the Old Continent, it has been operational in Lithuania, Greece and the Netherlands for some time as well. It arrived more recently in Italy. There are other examples elsewhere in the world.


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