The government’s instant alert app, created after last November’s terrorist attacks across Paris and launched last month just before the Euro 2016 football tournament, is supposed to send instant warnings, information and advice directly to people’s phones if a bombing, shooting or other terrorist incident happens near them.
But when a truck driver drove at full speed into crowds on the Nice seafront during the Bastille Day fireworks display, killing 80 people and injuring hundreds more, it took almost three hours for the instant alert to be issued by the app.
The attack began just before 11pm, but the first so-called instant warning was not issued until almost three hours later, coming to users’ smartphones at 1:34am.
The app, known as Saip (Système d’alerte et d’information des populations), is supposed to turn the smartphone screen red and gives advice such as where to take cover. It is is also seen by the government as an official counterpoint to possible inaccurate speculation on social media.
Several rumours spread amid confusion on the night of attack, with some fearing there was a shooting or hostage-taking incident.
The French interior ministry said the information had been sent out “too late” by the app and summoned the contractors for talks on what went wrong. A ministry statement said there would be a swift action plan to ensure it never happened again.