The French government has issued a 15-step plan designed to face up to heatwaves this summer, after last year’s weather in which 10 months of the year were hotter than the seasonal norms.
The plan, unveiled by Ecological Transition Minister Christophe Béchu on June 8, centres on improving communication with the public about potentially-dangerous conditions.
It will include:
- SMS text messages "in the event of an exceptional situation"
- Prevention messages on public transport
- The mobilisation of young people doing universal national service to help if needed
- Restrictions on the transport of animals
The minister said the aim is to “support all people in France” but “especially the most vulnerable", and that the need to prepare was even greater as a result of global warming, the "effects of which are already being felt”.
He highlighted that France has experienced an average of "9.4 days of heatwaves per year over the last decade, compared with an average of 1.7 before 1989", and that in 2022, there were "more than 1,500 local heat records" broken.
Every month of the year was warmer than normal, except January and April, he said.
Sur l'année 2022, plus de 1 500 records locaux de chaleur ont été battus.— Ministères Écologie Énergie Territoires (@Ecologie_Gouv) June 8, 2023
Pour s'adapter à ces épisodes qui vont être plus fréquents, l'État lance un plan sur la gestion des vagues de chaleur.
En savoir plus : https://t.co/I4NzrNIahy pic.twitter.com/Yi4eoPD34x
The plan is designed to help anticipate the risks, and protect drinking water supplies, forests, and farms, as well as “the elderly, children, workers and farmers", the minister added.
The four main aims of the plan
The plan has four main goals:
- Limit the impact on the public’s daily life
- Ensure the continuity of essential public services
- Ensure the continuity of economic life
- Protect natural areas and resources
The plan will eventually number 27 actions, of which 15 are set to come into force in summer 2023.
The measures for 2023 include:
6 measures for the public
The plan aims to help people “adopt behaviour” in the home that will help in the event of super-hot conditions. People are also warned to keep their pets cool.
The government will also introduce a "survey of cool spots and public fountains in communes", carried out with the help of local authorities and ecological transition agency Ademe, and as part of the government start-up ‘Plus fraîche ma ville’ (Keep my city cooler).
Measures will also include:
- Prevention messages be broadcast on public transport
- Forest fire risks to be communicated
- Airports, railway stations, and the road network will also display tips.
Text messages will be sent to residents in the areas concerned, “setting out the best ways to behave”.
People will also be provided with advice on how to prevent drowning, in anticipation of more people using bodies of water to cool off.
Energy providers RTE and Enedis are also set to "reinforce" their monitoring and intervention plans from this summer, particularly via the deployment of emergency teams during periods of heatwaves and drought, with the aim of "avoiding power cuts", the minister said.
4 measures for the young and/or vulnerable
- Vulnerable and/or isolated people will be encouraged to register with their local authorities to ensure that they can be cared for if necessary. Young people doing their Service National Universel (SNU) will help with this.
- SNU participants will also "raise public awareness of the causes of global warming".
- La Poste will also deliver flyers and information sheets to make sure even those in remote areas are included
- Inspections of schools and creches to ensure that they are safe during hot periods, to improve conditions, and to minimise exams from having to be postponed due to hot weather
Mr Béchu explained: “[We will work] with Mairies, départements, and regions, to support them with these facilities. We have set up a green fund to finance measures to plant trees, demineralise school grounds, and combat heat islands.”
3 measures for workers and businesses
These will include:
- The creation of a guide for companies, to offer advice on how to “improve the temperature in offices”
- A step-up in inspections by the Labour Inspectorate to "support companies in dealing with the risk of heat"
- Live animal transport "will be banned from 13:00 to 18:00 during heatwaves”, as defined by Météo France, and companies will be given adequate time to prepare accordingly
Mr Béchu also said that the government will work with local authorities to “arrange working hours so as to avoid risking the lives of workers on building sites".
However, he admitted that “there are still a few sticking points” to work through, such as places that have by-laws that prevent workers from making noise very early in the morning, which could “stop building sites from starting work early,” he said.
2 measures for athletes and event spectators
The government is set to take “a census of these events in each department" from early June, Mr Béchu said. Mayors "will be asked to send the prefect a list of the events planned in their area and the contacts of the organisers".
Then, in the event of a predicted heatwave:
- Organisers of sporting or cultural events, whose activities have been recorded in advance, will be required to adapt their organisation and implement measures to ensure participants’ and spectators’ safety
- In the event of a high risk, prefects will be allowed to decide to cancel or postpone events.
The government’s heatwave plan comes after Mr Béchu already announced a set of measures designed to limit water usage, in anticipation of an expected shortage of drinking water due to ongoing drought conditions.