The Prefect's Speech

Modifié le 19/01/2016

Discours Préfet Speech by the Prefect of the Paris Police - 10 April 2015

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to welcome you to the Préfecture de Police and I would like to thank you for attending this meeting to officially launch the EU SEQUANA 2016 exercise today, which I have had the pleasure of chairing, as Prefect of the Paris Defence and Safety Zone.

This large-scale exercise, which will take place under the direction of the Secretary General of the Defence and Safety Zone, was designed to prepare for the flood risk and, in particular, a major rise in water levels.
Firstly, it is useful to remind ourselves what a major flood is, and what it implies in terms of consequences.

A rise in water levels is a slow phenomenon, which mainly occurs in winter, following continued, heavy rain over several weeks. This heavy, continuous rain ends up saturating the soil in water. The water courses swell, the water tables fill up and the levels continue to rise. If these factors are combined with frozen soil, the phenomenon gets worse and the water eventually invades everything.

What would be the consequences of such a phenomenon today? Although largely, they are not specifically determined, we can imagine them. The infiltration of water into the Ile-de-France subsoils would disturb and considerably damage all the underground infrastructure, including the underground networks. This would lead to a "domino" effect such as the collapse of the electricity network, the telephone network, the interruption of the city heating system, drinking water supplies and transport, such as the Metro, regional trains etc.

For around the last ten years, the risk of a major flood in Ile-de-France has become a matter of real concern for both public and private stakeholders. This type of scenario is now THE major risk that the region will have to deal with one day.
Following the big flood of 1910, which was caused specifically by simultaneous flooding of the Seine and the Marne rivers, and which thoroughly disrupted Paris and its surrounding area, lesser floods followed in 1924, 1982 and 2001, to mention the most significant ones. This repetition illustrates the fact that no invention or technological advance can really protect the capital city from this type of disaster.

Other factors have also contributed to our focus on this major risk and its consequences:

  • the exceptional floods in Prague in 2002, and in London in 2007;
  • the weather events and the very significant human and material cost that ensued (Xynthia in 2010, the Balkans in 2014, London again in 2014).

In face of these devastating events, Europe responded by introducing the European Directive on flood risk assessment and management on 26 November 2007.
In 2012, the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry published a report on businesses affected by the flood risk.

Finally, in early 2014, a study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, on the prevention of this type of risk in Ile-de-France, studied the impact that a major flood such as the one in 1910 could have on the well-being of citizens, the functioning of the metropolis and the economy.

Significant advances have been made in the Ile-de-France zone. A local strategy, enforcing the European Directive and its implementing Law, has led to the introduction of flood risk governance, co-led by the Prefect of the Region and the Prefect of Police. This large-scale work began in 2013 and should be completed towards the end of 2016.

In relation to this local strategy, the major utility network operators have been involved in work designed to lead to the signature of a declaration of intent, in order to share data and work together on the vulnerabilities and inter-dependency between the major Ile-de-France utility networks. This action is led by the DRIEE (Regional and Inter-departmental Department of Environment and Energy) and the SGZDS (Secretary General of the Defence and Safety Zone).
A genuine dynamic has therefore sprung up, in which everyone is involved, both public and private stakeholders, discussing and working together to prevent the flood risk in Ile-de-France. We are all affected by flooding, we will all be involved, we will all have our role to play.

The Paris region is home to one-third of France's economic activity. It is the second largest economic zone in Europe. All the central administrations are located here, as are many major company headquarters.
A major flood in Paris could directly or indirectly affect nearly 5 million inhabitants and impact on a large number of activities, with considerable repercussions on a human, economic and social scale. 850,000 people currently live directly in a flood-risk zone. Over one million people would be deprived of electricity if this event occurred.

The flood could interrupt the working of institutions, including infrastructure and activities of vital importance to the everyday life of the Paris region.
The OECD report estimates that the cost of the damage caused by a 100-year flood would be around 30 billion euros, in a very different environment to the situation at the start of the 20th century.
The Préfecture de Police must therefore act with determination to cope with such a devastating, highly anxiety-inducing event. The probable repercussions on the population, the organization of society and the economy would be huge. The capital region must increase its resilience.

Preparing to deal with an exceptional rise in water levels is an extraordinary challenge for the Préfecture de Police. EU SEQUANA 2016 is therefore part of the logical series of actions undertaken for the Ile-de-France zone, and is an opportunity to review the work undertaken so far.
Initially planned for November 2015, and then postponed until 2016 due to the United Nations Climate Change Conference, this exercise will take place from 7 to 18 March 2016. The practical exercises on 12 and 13 March will see the participation of the civil security and military forces.

It aims to test the capacity of all the stakeholders to manage a major rise in the levels of the Seine, to coordinate the actions of everyone involved at zonal level, and to assess the relevance of the plans drawn up by the services and operators concerned. It must also lead to an improvement in the civil security services response capacity, and test civil-military cooperation with the use of Force Neptune. 1,500 military personnel out of the 10,000 provided for in the armed forces operational contract will be involved for the first time in a real exercise on the ground, over the two days, 12 and 13 March 2016.

Finally, EU SEQUANA 2016 will be an opportunity to measure the scope of the information issued to Ile-de-France residents, and raise awareness of the major role of citizens alongside the public authorities and other parties involved in crisis management.

A flood on this scale would exceed the zonal and national capacities in terms of human and material resources. Consequently, the exercise will also involve the European Civil Security Mechanism. The Préfecture de Police will have the privilege of benefiting from the civil security resources of 4 countries (Belgium, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic).
As the European Commission has approved the EU SEQUANA 2016 application, a subsidy has also been granted to cover part of the operations.

In March 2016, the scenario for this exercise will start with a rise in the water levels of the Seine and the Marne by 50 centimeters per day for 3 consecutive weeks, thus reaching the alert threshold. The Flood Forecasting Service will then observe a sudden acceleration in the rise of the water levels of 1 meter per day, and the rivers will burst their banks. The municipalities along the banks of the Seine and the Marne will be the first to suffer the effects of the flood.

Electricity distribution will be significantly affected, and a quarter of the installations supplying electricity will be flooded or stopped for security reasons. Over 1.5 million users will suffer from power cuts.
Paris public transport will be affected and 140 out of 250 kilometers of Metro and regional train lines will be closed as a precaution. The bridges over the Seine will be closed to traffic, and their structure will be weakened. The only points of passage from the left bank to the right bank will be the two bridges on the ring road. Waste management will become difficult in the flooded areas, as the access routes will be under water.

In addition, private companies storing hazardous materials will declare that they are unable to secure their warehouses, leading to contamination risks of the air and water tables.
Furthermore, due to subsoil erosion, it appears that buildings could collapse after the waters have subsided. Health establishments will be directly threatened and will need to be evacuated. The evacuation and protection of infrastructure will require national reinforcements.

This flood will exceed the capacities of the French civil security services.
This is the general background to the scenario which will feed the actions by all the participants over the two weeks.
The presence in this room of a large number of institutions and representatives of the 60 partners, in the fields of health, communications, mass retail, transport, banking, security, justice and the public sector (ministries, prefectures, municipalities etc.), plus the private sector, are evidence of the very keen interest in this large-scale operation and the general, genuine awareness of the major flood risk.

EU SEQUANA 2016 will be an opportunity for each partner to test internally, on a large scale for the first time, the relevance and effectiveness of their various plans and measures, plus the consistency of these measures and the interaction between sectors. The Secretary General of the Paris Defence and Safety Zone will therefore have an overall view of the general coordination of these plans in the event of a major flood. Everyone, at their own level, will be able to learn lessons that are useful for resilience.

We are now less than one year away from the exercise, but we have enough time to prepare. The writing of the scenario will continue, taking into account the interlinked relationships of the stakeholders and the role they will have to play in this type of crisis. A collaborative platform will be made available, so that you can exchange ideas more easily, as we construct the EU SEQUANA 2016 event. You will be given methodological tools so that a coherent strategy can be planned for everyone, in symbiosis with the work already carried out. Finally, the EU SEQUANA 2016 communication plan will be outlined to you today, so that you can pass on the information about this event within your organizations.
Throughout the coming year, the Secretary General of the Defence and Safety Zone will manage and coordinate this major project, which began in early 2014 and will continue beyond March 2016 in order to review the results.
Indeed, SEQUANA is not the end, it is simply a stage in the process of preparing all the public and private stakeholders, and the Ile-de-France population, designed to significantly reinforce the resilience of the capital region. We must learn lessons from this operation, adapt some of the measures, take into account the problems that are raised during the exercise, and generally, continue the effort together over a longer time scale.
The dynamic created by EU SEQUANA 2016 must therefore be maintained and sustained to ensure the future of the Ile-de-France zone.

I will now pass the floor to the following speakers:

  • The Chief of Staff of the Paris Defence and Safety Zone will explain to you in more detail how the exercise will proceed, and his presentation will be followed by a film on the workings of the  European Civil Security Mechanism.
  • The Flood Prevention Service, represented by Ms. Joanna Brunelle, head of the Flood Forecasting Unit, will explain to you the curve of the natural event that will be simulated for the exercise.
  • The workings of the collaborative platform will be explained by Mr. Denis Cottin, from the Prefecture de Police communications department, with the collaboration of Orange, which has provided this tool especially for SEQUANA.
  • Mr. Eric Trunel, from the Prefecture de Police communications department, will explain the philosophy of the communication plan devised around EU SEQUANA 2016.
  • Finally, Ms. Carole Dautun and Mr. Jean Claude Zilliox, from the Higher National Institute of Security and Justice, will present the methodological rules for writing the scenario, and the PIXCIS software that will be used as part of the exercise.

Thank you.

Mr. Bernard Boucault
Prefect of the Paris Police