False bomb threats are currently increasing in France with many airports and tourist sites affected and dozens of evacuations ordered. How are these reports handled? Is a choice made based on risk? What do the authors of false alarms risk? France 24 takes stock.
It doesn’t stop anymore. The Palace of Versailles was evacuated on Thursday, October 19, for the fourth time in less than a week. Several French airports, including those of Nantes and Beauvais, were evacuated two days in a row. The Louvre Museum was also affected last Saturday. Bomb threats are increasing everywhere in France.
The Minister of National Education, Gabriel Attal, announced on Monday that 168 bomb threats had been “sent to our educational establishments since the start of the school year” on September 4. The Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, took stock of the day on Wednesday evening: “17 airports threatened, 15 airports evacuated, 130 flights canceled and numerous delays”.
17 airports threatened.
15 airports evacuated.
130 flights canceled. Lots of delays.
These false alerts are not bad jokes. They are crimes. They will be sanctioned.
A complaint was filed for each threat. With a referral to the prosecutor @DGAC https://t.co/fSlsdhKMrH
— Clement Beaune (@CBaune) October 18, 2023
This surge in bomb threats comes in a particular context: France remains vigilant about a possible importation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict onto its territory. It has also upgraded its Vigipirate plan to the “emergency attack” level since the terrorist attack of October 13 which cost the life of Dominique Bernard, French teacher at the Gambetta high school in Arras.
Even if no real threat has been confirmed so far, reports are systematically taken seriously. “We cannot take any risks, so no alert is taken lightly, we evacuate every time,” says Flavien Bénazet, general secretary of the SNUIPN police union.
Reports come either from telephone calls, emails, or messages sent on the My Security platform which allows citizens to quickly contact the police to make any type of warning.
An identical procedure, regardless of the context
False bomb threats are nothing new. “It’s something very episodic, often linked to current events. All places open to the public can be affected, but it still remains rare. There is clearly a peak at the moment,” recognizes Flavien Bénazet.
Statistics regarding the number of bomb threats recorded each year in France are not public. Contacted by France 24, the Ministry of the Interior did not respond to our requests.
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In the event of an alert, the procedure is always the same, regardless of the context. The person who received the report quickly transmits it to their superiors who then contact the department prefecture to order an evacuation of the site and the dispatch of a mine clearance team.
“In the event of a bomb threat, search teams must be formed to search for the explosive device. Each search team must include at least one person with good knowledge of the premises,” indicates the official code of procedure, consulted by France 24.
⚠️ 🇫🇷 For security reasons, the Palace of Versailles is evacuating visitors and will reopen as soon as checks have been carried out. We thank you for your understanding. pic.twitter.com/RX2qV0M6Km
— Palace of Versailles (@CVersailles) October 19, 2023
While waiting for the demining team, the search team must, again according to the code of procedure, “act with caution”, “not modify the ambient conditions: turn on or off lighting, a computer tool, a television”, “identify defects that appear recent: false ceiling elements moved, missing ventilation plate screws, unleaded fire extinguisher”, “search the technical rooms, elevators”, “do not move anything, do not open any packages, bags, parcels, baggage”, “report precisely all anomalies encountered”.
Concerning the Palace of Versailles, the evacuations were decided in consultation with the Yvelines prefecture and were carried out by the castle teams, in collaboration with the national police, mine clearance and Sentinel services. Although the castle was closed all day on Saturday, it reopened its doors to the public on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday after mine clearance operations.
“The little puppets” responsible for false alarms will be “found” and “punished”
“Our staff obeys a procedure applied in particular in the event of suspicious packages. These are occasional. A nature of alert like the one we are currently experiencing (numerous bomb threats, Editor’s note) is, however, exceptional”, indicates the Palace of Versailles, contacted by France 24.
“The larger the site, the more personnel the intervention will mobilize. You need police officers to establish the security perimeter, police officers to carry out searches, deminers… False bomb threats mobilize a lot of personnel who could be useful elsewhere to respond to real dangers”, regrets Flavien Bénazet.
False bomb threats: “These little jokers who have fun with these false threats will be found and punished,” says the Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti pic.twitter.com/W5vTqZBXvu
— BFMTV (@BFMTV) October 18, 2023
The Minister of Justice, Éric Dupond-Moretti, warned on Wednesday that “the little puppets” responsible for false alarms, particularly bomb alerts, would be “found” and “punished”. The minister castigated “jokes which give rise to psychosis” and warned that “parents will be required to reimburse the damages they have caused” if they are minors.
According to article 322-14 of the Penal Code, “the fact of communicating or disclosing false information with the aim of making people believe that destruction, damage or deterioration dangerous to people is going to be or has been committed is punishable two years’ imprisonment and a fine of 30,000 euros. Communicating or disclosing false information leading to the belief of a disaster likely to cause unnecessary emergency intervention is punishable by the same penalties.
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“We find the majority of the authors of these false alerts,” warns Flavien Bénazet. “So even when they try to hide their identity or modify their IP address, we have the means to trace them.”
On Thursday, October 12, the Rouen children’s court sentenced a 17-year-old teenager to fifteen months in prison for having sent threats by e-mail in September which caused twenty-four evacuations in sixteen different schools in the metropolis. of Rouen, reports Le Parisien.