rance is fielding almost 100,000 soldiers and police to protect the monthlong European soccer championship that begins on Friday, but in preparation for Euro 2016 the government has launched another, and thoroughly more modern, tool: a smartphone app to warn the public in case of an attack.
The Population Alert and Information System (SAIP in its French acronym) app will alert users "in the event of a suspected terror attack or exceptional circumstances [...] that could lead to an attack," the Ministry of the Interior said in a statement.
Speaking to officials from the Euro 2016 host cities back in March, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called on the government to "improve its public information [systems] during times of crisis."
The general public, he argued, should be able to access government alerts and instructions "without necessarily having to call the emergency hotlines," which are frequently overloaded during a terror attack. "On the night of November 13," the minister said, referring to the coordinated attacks in Paris that killed 130 people last year, "the police prefecture [police headquarters] received 93,000 calls."
France's new terror app displays a red screen in the event of an terror attack warning. Screenshot via SAIP.
The new app — which is available in both French and English — relies on geolocation to warn users of nearby attacks. For those who would prefer not to grant the app access to their location, there is the option to "follow an area" for updates on specific cities.
The new app advises the public how to behave in the event of a terror attack, a nuclear incident, or a dam failure. Screenshot via SAIP.
A green banner displayed on the screen signifies there are no reported incidents. In the event of an attack or incident, the screen turns red. Notifications are silent and there is no vibration, so as not to alert any potential attackers to the presence of users.
After issuing an alert, the app also provides the user with advice on emergency procedures and up-to-date information on the situation. The app also allows users to share alerts on social media.
For alerts to be displayed, the app must be kept open on the phone, and on Wednesday the Interior Ministry reassured users that the app used only "a negligible amount of battery power."
App developer Deveryware, which created SAIP, told French radio station Europe 1 that users' location would not be stored or made available to any other parties. The developer also noted that users' names, phone numbers and addresses would remain private.
The app is also designed to send out warnings in the event of an incident at a nuclear site or a dam, or in situations involving "dangerous chemicals." In the event of a "dangerous chemical alert," the app advises users not to sit or lie down, even if they feel unwell. During a nuclear alert, the app advises parents not to pick up their children from school, as "they will be taken care of by educators and first responders at the school." France has 58 nuclear reactors and produces more than 75 percent of its energy from nuclear, a world record.
Parents are warned not to pick up their children from school during a nuclear alert. Screenshot via SAIP.
The app can be downloaded from the Apple Store and Google Play. It is expected to feature avalanche and flood warnings by the fall.
Follow Pierre Longeray on Twitter: @PLongeray
Follow VICE News France on Twitter: @vicenewsFR