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French Army Land Rover Defender Vigipirate door marking.
Soldiers of the French Army on patrol at Strasbourg station 19 August, 2013.

Vigipirate (French: Plan Vigipirate) is France's national security alert system.[1][2][3][4][5][6] Created in 1978 through interministerial sessions and falling within the responsibilities of the prime minister, it has since been updated three times: in 1995 (following a terror bombing campaign), 2000 and 2004.[citation needed]


Until 2014 the system defined four levels of threats represented by five colors: white, yellow, orange, red, scarlet. The levels called for specific security measures, including increased police or police/military mixed patrols in subways, train stations and other vulnerable locations.

In February 2014 the levels were simplified to 'vigilance' (or surveillance) and 'attack alert'.[7] In December 2016, they were reorganized in three levels: 'vigilance', 'heightened security/risk of attack' and 'attack emergency'.[8]

The name "Vigipirate" is an acronym of French: vigilance et protection des installations contre les risques d'attentats terroristes à l'explosif ("surveillance and protection of facilities against the risk of terrorist bombing attacks")

Levels of alert (to 2014)[edit]

French Foreign Legionnaires near Notre Dame de Paris 20 November 2010
Alert level Color Significance Measures taken
White No danger No danger
Yellow Vague threat / raise vigilance Raise security levels to face real yet still uncertain dangers, through measures that are local and minimally disruptive of normal activity, while preparing to switch to "orange" or "red" within a few days.
Orange Possible threat / prevent terrorist action Take measures against plausible risks of terrorist action, including the use of means that are moderately disruptive to normal public activities, while preparing to switch to "red" or "scarlet" on short notice where possible.
Red High chance of threat / prevent serious attack Take measures against a proven risk of one or more terrorist actions, including measures to protect public institutions and putting in place appropriate means for rescue and response, authorizing a significant level of disruption to social and economic activity.
Scarlet Definite threat / prevent major attack Notification of a risk of major attacks, simultaneous or otherwise, using non-conventional means and causing major devastation; preparing appropriate means of rescue and response, measures that are highly disruptive to public life are authorized.

Levels of alert (2014-2016)[edit]

Levels of alert (from 2016)[edit]

History of alert levels[edit]

French Marine on Vigipirate duty at Gare de Lyon
Date Level Description
2 January 1991 Phase 1 First release phase 1 in the beginning of the Gulf War.
17 January 1991 Phase 2 Passage of phase 2 in the early war strikes.
26 April 1991 Lifting of level
8 September 1995 Release After the 1995 Paris Métro and RER bombings.
15 January 1996 Relief
October 1996 Suspension
3 December 1996 Reactivation After an attack on the RER station Port Royal in Paris.
1998 Reinforcement Due to the 1998 FIFA World Cup (see World Cup terror plot).
24 April 1999 Reinforcement Due to the Kosovo War.
24 April 1999 Reactivation In the wake of the attacks in Corsica.
27 December 1999 Reactivation In the wake of the Y2K problem.
11 September 2001 Reinforcement After the September 11 attacks in the United States.
5 June 2002 Extension Extended by the new Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin.
9 September 2002 Extension Extension of Vigipirate strengthened after the 11 September attacks.
6 December 2002 Reinforcement Celebrations at the end of the year.
20 March 2003 Reinforcement At the beginning of the Iraq War.
20 March 2003 Orange level Reforming of Vigipirate and the introduction of color levels due to the Iraq war.
17 May 2003 Orange level After the 2003 Casablanca bombings.
2 October 2003 Yellow level Prime Ministerial decision.
1 December 2003 Orange level Due to the celebrations.
26 January 2004 Yellow level
12 March 2004 Red level Only in land transport; orange everywhere else. After the 2004 Madrid train bombings.
24 May 2004 Red level During the week-long anniversary of the invasion of Normandy.
8 June 2004 Orange level
8 July 2004 Orange level
7 July 2005 Red level After the 7 July 2005 London bombings.
10 October 2005 Red level New measures adopted.
8 November 2005 State of emergency State of emergency implemented due to the 2005 French riots.
4 January 2006 Red level End of the state of emergency.
July 2006 Red level New measures adopted.
16 December 2008 Red level After explosives are found at a Paris department store.
August 2010 Red level Measures of protection are reinforced.
September 2010 Red level Strengthening of security throughout the country.
November 2010 Red level After five terror suspects are arrested.
May 2011 Red level After the death of Osama bin Laden.
19 March 2012 Scarlet level After the Toulouse and Montauban shootings. First time scarlet level is implemented.
24 March 2012 Red level Level lowered back to red after the Toulouse and Montauban shootings suspect was apprehended.
20 February 2014 Vigilance Level set to "Vigilance" with the inauguration of the updated Vigipirate threat levels.
7 January 2015 Attack alert Alert level raised in Île-de-France, and in the Picardy region the following day, after the Charlie Hebdo shooting. The alert level was lowered back to Vigilance in Picardy on 14 January 2015, while being maintained at the Attack level in Île de France.
14 November 2015 State of emergency A state of emergency was declared throughout the whole of France, the day following the November 2015 Paris attacks; this state of emergency was continually extended until 1 November 2017.[9]
29 October 2020 Attack emergency After the 2020 Nice stabbing. 3 were killed in Notre-Dame de Nice.
5 March 2021 Heightened Security/Risk

of attack

13 October 2023 Attack emergency After the 2023 multiple attacks from same day, in a highschool in Arras (62) and 2 other attacks foiled.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "21. Vigipirate? What is it? – Your Guide to France". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  2. ^ "English Translation of "Vigipirate" - Collins French-English Dictionary". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  3. ^ "Vigipirate : 3 niveaux d'alerte face à la menace terroriste". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Here's How Paris Police Are Responding to the Terrorist Attack on Charlie Hebdo". Time. Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  5. ^ "English Translation of "plan Vigipirate" - Collins French-English Dictionary". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  6. ^ "COMPRENDRE LE PLAN VIGIPIRATE". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  7. ^ "Vigipirate : 3 niveaux d'alerte face à la menace terroriste". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  8. ^ "Vigipirate levels". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  9. ^ "Security Measures to be Observed". 25 November 2015. Retrieved 9 March 2019.
  10. ^ "France raises alert to highest level after teacher's fatal stabbing". France 24. 13 October 2023. Retrieved 14 October 2023.