FR-Alert: How France's emergency text alert system works

The Local France
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FR-Alert: How France's emergency text alert system works
Wildfires in Vauvert, southern France, in 2019. . Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP

France's nationwide system of emergency alerts - covering extreme weather, health alerts, chemical spills or terror attacks - are texted directly to phones of people in the affected areas.


The FR-ALERT system became operational in June 2022 and is now used whenever there is a serious risk.

Covered by the system are extreme weather such as storms, floods or wildfires, health warnings such as epidemic alerts or food recalls, biological or chemical incidents such as a factory leak, technological or industrial incidents such as major crashes on the road or serious disruption on railways or terror attacks.


The most common use of the system is when there are red weather warnings in place, meaning that there is a risk to life from events such as severe flooding or wildfires.

It can also be used for tests - for example several parts of southern France recently received a test tsunami warning, altering them on what would happen if there was a risk of a tsunami.

How does it work?

Users are automatically subscribed to all alerts, but can turn them off by going to the Notifications in their phone settings, finding FR-ALERT and turning off notifications.


The messages are sent via SMS (text message) and are routed through the operator's antenna - so you will only get a message if you are in the region affected by a particular incident. Non-smartphones - phones with 3G and 2G - will also be able to receive geolocated SMS.

The message will be accompanied by a loud alert tone, even if your phone is switched to silent.

The messages are sent to both French-registered and non-French phones which are in an alert zone - if you're driving you will receive an alert as soon as you enter the alert zone.

Messages will usually be sent in French, although local authorities in areas that are known tourist zones can opt to send their messages in both English and French.

It's hoped that future versions of the system will be able to send the message in whatever language the user's phone is set to.  


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