The French government on June 8 introduced SAIP, a mobile application designed to alert users of a terrorist attack or other highly dangerous event.
SAIP, an acronym describing a system to alert the public with information, was released two days ahead of the Euro 2016, a European football (soccer) championship that begins June 10 and around which tremendous security preparations are taking place.
On June 6, security services in the Ukraine arrested a French national whom they said was planning multiple terror attacks during the event. According to BBC News, the man had guns, detonators and approximately 275 pounds of explosives.
Available in French and English, SAIP turns a user’s phone screen bright red and flashes the word “alert.” It doesn’t vibrate or emit a sound, in case the user is already hiding from a nearby attacker. Very briefly, it describes what the situation is. And at the bottom of the screen is a button stating “how to act” that offers guidance.
The application can also be set up to provide alerts for select zip codes or neighborhoods—for example, parents whose child is attending a concert could set up the app to alert them to a situation where the concert will be. It can be set up for eight different locations.
According to the Website of the French Interior Ministry, alerts are issued after being validated by that department.
The app follows planning meetings held after the Nov. 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. According to Libération (in French), a Short Message Service (SMS) alert system was considered and ruled out, due to its cost and likelihood to overwhelm a wireless network.
And while SAIP is based on geo-location, Libération reports that no personal data on the phone is made available to third parties and users’ privacy is assured.
Other apps have been created to provide alerts around terror threats. G4S TravelAware, for example, helps employers stay connected to employees traveling abroad for work; TerrorView provides information about threats that it says can help people make life-saving decisions; and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security created a First Responder Support Tools (FiRST) app for first responders.
SAIP is notable for being released around a particular event.
The U.S. State Department issued a Europe Travel Alert May 31, alerting U.S. citizens to “the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation.
France, it noted, has extended its state of emergency through July 26 “to cover the period of the soccer championship, as well as the Tour de France cycling race, which will be held from July 2 to 24.”
The British government also issued a travel alert that it updated June 7. “During Euro 2016,” it says, “stadiums, fan zones, venues broadcasting the tournament and transport hubs and links represent potential targets for terrorist attacks. You should be vigilant at all times, especially in areas hosting Euro 2016 events.”