Vigipirate: Terror Alerts in France

In 1991 during the First Gulf War France created something called Vigipirate. Odd name we all agreed.

Since then France’s government has put the country on Vigipirate three times: in 2003 during the Second Gulf War, in 2005 during the terrorism attacks in Central London and in March 2012 during the Merah Affair when a young Muslim man had gone on a shooting rampage of French soldiers and Jewish children.

In 2003, Vigipirate was given 4 levels: yellow, orange, red and scarlet. Only in 2012 during the Merah Affair did it reach Level Scarlet and then just for a few hours.

What few here in France, and certainly fewer tourists, were aware of was that France has remained on Vigipirate since the 2005 alert.

However since Friday, January 11, when President François Hollande announced that France has replied favourably to an appeal by the president of the African nation Mali to help that country stop the invasion in its north of Islamists who are implementing Sharia Law on the Malian people, and that French troops have been dispatched to this former French colony, our Vigipirate alert has been strengthened.  It is not yet though on Scarlet; this is something which will happen only if there is a terrorist attack on mainland (Metropolitan) France.

What does a red alert mean? All vulnerable places are under police or army protection.

What’s meant by vulnerable places? Department stores; movie theatres; theatres; museums;  opera houses; shopping centers; avenues like the Champs-Élysées; schools; railroad stations; airports; Metro stations; ministries and other government buildings like the presidential Élysée Palace; tourist spots like Place du Tertre and the Eiffel Tower; nuclear plants and electrical power plants and France’s water reservoirs.


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