Emergency numbers will not be reachable in the event of “load shedding”

The government has been repeating it for months: power cuts are likely to occur this winter. But their impact could turn out to be more dramatic than expected. Christel Heydemann, CEO of Orange, warned on Wednesday that the French mobile network could suffer cuts which will have a possible impact on “access to emergency number services”.

“It is illusory to imagine that in the event of load shedding, we will be able to maintain continuous service for all French people. Mobile services, if they are turned off in a geographic area for two hours, there will be no access to emergency number services for a time,” she said during a hearing before the Senate Economics Committee.

“Users will not be able to contact the emergency services”

In a circular from Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne, unveiled by our colleagues from Europe 1it also warns that “one of the consequences of the interruption of electrical distribution is that it will lead to interruptions in electronic communications (mobile and fixed telephony)”.

“In these perimeters, users will not be able to reach the emergency services (emergency call numbers 15, 17, 18, 115, 196)”, writes the head of government who hopes however that the call number of European emergency, 112, works because it is accessible regardless of the operator.

A “very last resort”

With the energy crisis, the possibility of “load shedding” this winter is frequently mentioned. These are targeted and temporary supply cuts intended to relieve the system in the event of excessive tension, with a different operation for gas and electricity, and to avoid the “black-out”, i.e. that is to say the generalized and uncontrolled blackout, in the event of tensions between supply and demand.

This fear of cuts was revived after the latest forecasts from RTE, the high-voltage network manager, which warned in mid-November of a “high” risk of tensions on the electricity system in January, due to the slower restart than expected of EDF nuclear reactors. It is only as a “very last resort” that “load shedding” could be carried out by Enedis at the request of RTE.

Telephony, not a priority

“Control towers” ​​for the security of the distribution network, the 28 regional management agencies of Enedis would then be responsible for activating these two-hour rotating blackouts remotely throughout the territory. Excluding some 14,000 priority sites determined by a decree dating back to July 5, 1990: defense, electricity production, but also hospitals, prisons.

“Unfortunately, telecom networks are not considered priority sites,” lamented Christel Heydemann, while mobile phones have become the main means for the French to contact the emergency services and the emergency number 112.

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