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 out of four French people is exposed to at least one natural risk in mainland France, which represents two-thirds of the municipalities, according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition. Over 17 million citizens are affected by the consequences of floods. In addition to this, there are industrial and nuclear risks that could worsen with climate change. Economic and environmental issues are closely interconnected.

Developing a risk culture is an urgent matter. This is evident from the fear caused by the fire that devastated 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 civil security modernization law 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 envisioned by the State, local authorities, the business world, and associations, as well as the necessity to expand public participation initiatives so that individuals become actors in their own safety. Despite some successes, there is still considerable work to be done, with some even describing the risk culture as a ‘collective failure’,” highlights 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.

Il existe aussi un portail d’information, Géorisques, développé avec le ministère de la transition écologique. Néanmoins, Frédéric Courant insiste sur « l’intérêt de rendre compte de ces informations de manière plus lisible et plus pédagogique, afin que les contenus soient adaptés aux différents publics. Géorisques, ajoute-t-il, est cependant en train de se transformer pour être accessible à tous ».

The regulatory information is not enough. What is needed is to develop a local engagement approach. However, there are obstacles to implementing a true risk policy at the territorial level: denial, forgetfulness, a 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 is a long-term work,” admits Olivier Geoffroy, municipal councilor delegated to the mayor of Orléans for major risks and crisis management. “We must remain both humble and persistent on the subject: it is not through a flyer or communication that we imprint something in the minds of residents. We need to engage in discussions with them and talk about risks in a non-anxiety-inducing manner.”

Le Monde