Free pools and no fireworks: How France is dealing with the July heatwave

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 13 Jul, 2022 Updated Wed 13 Jul 2022 10:43 CEST
Free pools and no fireworks: How France is dealing with the July heatwave
A nurse sprays water at the face of a man in a care home for elderly people in July 2015 to help him cool down in the heat (Photo by ROMAIN LAFABREGUE / AFP)

From 'cool room' services and free access to swimming pools to adapted and cancelled festivals, here's how French authorities are tackling the unusually high temperatures expected in July.


Experts have already begun to compare this heatwave to the very serious heatwaves of the recent in 2003 and 2019. 

The 2003 heatwave saw at least 15,000 people die of heat-related illnesses, but in 2019 - when temperatures climbed even higher - fatalities were much lower. The difference is due to the heatwave plans that local and national authorities put in place to protect the vulnerable.

These are now being activated again in order to keep the population of France safe. Here's what we can expect to see over the coming days;

Heatwave hotline

The Minister of Health has activated the toll-free number "Canicule info service" 0800 06 66 66.

The number, which will become active at 2pm on Wednesday, July 13th, will be reachable between the hours of 9am and 6pm. Calls from landlines in metropolitan France are free. 

Free access to swimming pools

In some particularly hard-hit regions, such as the Rhone Valley where temperatures could reach 38C from Tuesday, towns are prepared to activate heatwave plans.

The Mayor of Saint-Vallier in the Drôme area, Pierre Jouvet, told Le Parisien that the "region is becoming infernal."

Their heatwave plan includes making swimming pools free for young children and over 70s, and sometimes leaving pools open until 10pm.


You can check to see the list of pools in your area by going to your local Mairie website. 

Contacting vulnerable groups

In Paris, the city has created a REFLEX file which is a list of 10,500 names of isolated and vulnerable who agreed to register and be contacted.

As soon as the city enters the 'orange alert' level, all people on the list will be contacted within 48 hours. 

Many other local authorities have their own version of the list of vulnerable residents - eg the elderly or those with disabilities - who are checked up on when the temperatures climb.

Parks stay open 24/7

Paris has an additional problem of having a severe lack of green space - where temperatures are generally cooler - and already several parks stay open until midnight to allow for a refreshing place to escape the heat.

During heatwaves, the city adds more parks to that list, some of which stay open all night long. You can find the list HERE.

Cool rooms for vulnerable populations

Air conditioning is a rarity in private homes in France, but many local authorities open up 'cool rooms' that people can go to during a heatwave, such as an air-conditioned spaces in city hall buildings. Some authorities offer free transport for vulnerable people to a cool space.

Other authorities publish maps of cool spaces which generally include air-conditioned supermarkets, shopping malls and cinemas or buildings such as churches which have a cool interior. 

Throughout France, nursing homes are required to have a cool room for their residents.

In the Rhone Valley, Mayor Jouvet said his city has a "whole arsenal" prepared for the hot weather, even offering air conditioned rooms in all nurseries.

Facilitating work-from-home

Some companies are also changing the rules to facilitate work-from-home. Though the Labour Code does not provide a maximum temperature for prohibiting work, the Ministry of Labour has encouraged employers to communicate about the heat with their employees, especially by extending remote-working opportunities for pregnant women and people with disabilities. 


The summer is also usually festival season, and organisers have been making contingency plans to ensure that concert-goers stay safe.

Adapted music festivals

The Francofolies de La Rochelle music festival is expecting around 150,000 spectators over a five day period from July 13th to 17th.

The festival plans to distribute water bottles and hats to spectators, as well as rinsing off the hot, asphalt ground and increasing the number of mist machines to keep the environment a bit cooler. Gérard Pont, the director of the festival, told French daily Le Parisien that they also plan to reinforce Civil Protection teams.

For the 'Vieilles Charrues' festival, which will take place in Brittany, they are expecting around 280,000 people over a period of four days. The festival will take place in the fields of Carhaix near Finistère where there are few shaded areas. The festival plans to use their heatwave plans, adding fountains and mist machines, as well as water cannons to keep the concert-goers cool in the heat.


Cancelling July 14th fireworks displays

After over 650 hectares of land burned in a 'mega' forest fire in the Gard, firefighters are again on high alert as temperatures continue to climb, particularly in the south west.

Unfortunately, as a result, some of the traditional festivities for Bastille Day - such as fireworks - will be halted this year in regions at particular risk for forest fires.

The concern is that the pyrotechnics amid a drought and heatwave could spark a wildfire, therefore residents will not be enjoying fireworks this year in Allauch, Aubagne, Plan-de-Cuques in the Bouches-du-Rhône region, and Valbonne in the Alpes-Maritimes region. In Nîmes, the town decided to cancel the fireworks display, but are still considering postponing it to another day.


The fireworks in Paris, which are held on the Champs de Mars, will go ahead as planned, however.

READ ALSO Bastille Day: How France will celebrate July 14th this year


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