Four things to know about the new “FR-Alert” system, which will warn you on your smartphone in the event of a major incident

Four things to know about the new “FR-Alert” system, which will warn you on your smartphone in the event of a major incident
Written by madishthestylebar

Soon a mobile alert in the event of a major incident? During the violent storms that killed one person, on the night of Saturday June 4 to Sunday June 5, the French authorities mainly communicated on social networks. In the future, the French will be able to receive a notification on their mobile. France has begun to deploy the “FR-Alert” system, which should make it possible, in the event of a serious incident, to warn the greatest possible number of people present in the area concerned. Here is what this new device consists of, which will be generalized by the end of June, according to the Minister of the Interior, Gérald Darmanin.

1An alert sent for any type of major incident

Concretely, people present in an area facing a danger will be able to receive a notification on their smartphone, accompanied by an audible alert and a vibration even in silent mode. On the other hand, a phone in airplane mode or off will not receive it.

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), accidents bbiological and chemical (pollution, gas leak, nuclear incident), health (epidemic, pandemic, agri-food incident), ttechnological and industrial (breakdown of telecommunication means, serious accidents on road, rail or air networks, industrial incident), anserious public security event or an act of a terrorist nature.

The alert will contain information on the nature of the risk, its location, as well as the behavior to adopt to protect oneself. Android smartphones are already configured to receive these alerts. No registration is required to be affected by this new system, and it does not allow the State to collect location data.

2Testing before full deployment at the end of June

The alert system, announced in 2020 after the fire at the Lubrizol factory in Rouen, will be fully operational in France and overseas from the end of June. A European directive required France to have such a system before June 21, 2022. By then, notifications can already be sent as part of civil security or public security exercises.

Before the end of June, “the receipt of this notification does not call for any action on the part of the population, nor any safety behavior to be respected”, continues the ministry in the press release. FR-Alert, for example, was tested in the Bouches-du-Rhône from May 16 to 19, during the Domino 2022 Civil Security exercise, which surprised some residents.

3A technology that does not rely on SMS

The FR-Alert device is based on cell broadcast technology (“cell broadcast”), which has already been used for years in many European countries, the United States and Japan. It is not based on SMS, but on waves broadcast by telecommunications antennas.

The advantage: the notifications are lighter than the SMS, which avoids saturating the network in the event of sending to a large number of people. On the other hand, it is based on 4G, which excludes conventional phones. A geolocated SMS system will therefore be deployed later, adds the Ministry of the Interior.

4A device born from the failure of the SAIP application

Cellular broadcasting requires rather heavy infrastructure updates, on the part of operators and state services. This is why France had first tried to create an application to perform the same functions. The initiative, launched in 2016 under the name of SAIP, was a failure. The application had been poorly downloaded and often failed to work in time, such as during the Nice attack or the terrorist attack on a supermarket in Aude in March 2018.

Since its deactivation in 2018, the authorities mainly communicated their warning messages via social networks. FR-Alert will also be added to the existing alert systems, which also include sirens and the broadcasting of messages on television and radio.

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