Développer une culture du risque, une urgence

La place Biancheri, à Breil-sur-Roya (Alpes-Maritimes), le 4 octobre 2020, deux jours après le passage de la tempête Alex et la crue de la Roya. 

IOne in four French people are exposed to at least one natural risk in mainland France, which accounts for two-thirds of the municipalities, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Over 17 million citizens suffer the consequences of floods. In addition to this, there are industrial and nuclear risks that could intensify with climate change. Economic and environmental issues are closely linked.

Developing a risk culture is an urgent matter. This is evident from the fear caused by the fire that destroyed two abandoned buildings in Rouen on Saturday, September 30, awakening memories of the industrial disaster at Lubrizol in the same city in 2019.

“I cannot reword”

“I cannot reword”

« Un échec collectif »

De nombreux dispositifs visent à informer les citoyens et les entreprises. Néanmoins, « 42 % des métropolitains disent manquer d’informations sur les bons comportements et les consignes à suivre », selon un sondage IFOP pour l’Association française pour la prévention des catastrophes naturelles et technologiques, paru en avril.

A first regulatory text established citizens’ right to information on major risks as early as 1987. Then, the environmental code, included in the law on modernization of civil security in 2004, reaffirms that citizens have a role to play in their own safety. However, “this dense legislation, often developed in response to events, only partially meets the needs for greater prevention conceived by the State, local authorities, the business world, and associations, as well as the need to expand public participation processes so that they become actors in their own safety. Despite some successes, the work remains considerable, with some even describing the risk culture as a ‘collective failure’,” emphasizes journalist Frédéric Courant in the report he led in 2021 on “transparency, information, and the participation of all in the management of major technological or natural risks.”

The prefect and the mayor must each establish a departmental file and a communal information document on major risks. However, numerous studies have shown that these publications are not well-known and are rarely consulted by the population.

Je ne peux pas reformuler.

There is also an information portal, Géorisques, developed with the Ministry of Ecological Transition. However, Frédéric Courant emphasizes the importance of presenting this information in a more understandable and educational way, so that the content is suitable for different audiences. He adds that Géorisques is currently undergoing transformation to become accessible to everyone.

The regulatory information is not enough. It is necessary to develop a local animation approach. However, there are obstacles to implementing a real risk policy at the territorial level: denial, forgetfulness, desire not to scare the population, fear of damaging the economic and tourist attractiveness of a territory…

Since 2022, the government has established October 13th as the “Resilient Against Risks” day to encourage municipalities to take action. “It’s a long-term work,” admits Olivier Geoffroy, municipal councilor delegated to the mayor of Orléans for major risks and crisis management. “We need to remain both humble and persistent on the subject: it’s not through a flyer or communication that we imprint something in people’s minds. We need to have discussions with them and talk about risks in a non-anxiety-inducing manner.”

Le Monde