In the light of day when your phone goes off with an alert it is usually no big deal. Either you get a warning alarm then look at your phone and see an Amber Alert or you hear the alarm go off on your phone or TV and it is for something expected such as a high wind warning, tornado warning, flash flood warning, etc.
And then there are the alerts that send people into a big kerfuffle such as the 4am Amber Alert that woke up most of Las Vegas (first of all, most people were sound asleep so the possibility of seeing kids being taken away were about zero and then the alert only said "Amber Alert" with no information at all). Or the time a couple months ago when I was at a friend's house in Connecticut (alone, the friend was at work) when a big outdoor siren started going off. After a "WTF was that moment" I tried checking the TV (no info), websites (no info), and then finally called my friend who said "it's probably from the nuclear power plant but I haven't heard that go off in years". Uh...OK?
So here are some things about alerts and warnings...
- Know what all of the local alerts and warnings that you are most likely to hear sound like (tsunami warning sirens, nuclear plant sirens, Emergency Broadcasting warnings, weather radio alarms, etc). Check these out ahead of time so that they don't come as a surprise.
- Set alerts and warnings on your phone (many emergency apps can be set to go off for local emergencies, news services have push notifications for breaking news, etc). Some apps to consider can be found here.
- Hold fire drills, complete with setting off the fire alarms in the house, in the middle of the night when the family is sound asleep (good practice for when the real thing happens).
- Have the spouse do the same thing when YOU are sound asleep so you will know what it is like to wake to the sound of the alarm.
- Familiarize yourself with a general overview of emergency alerts found here.
- If you live in an area prone to serious weather emergencies (tornadoes, hurricanes, etc) be sure and have a good weather radio that sounds alerts ahead of potential emergencies.
- Get creative and set up triple-redundant alert systems for those who have difficulty with just a simple alarm (ie: people who are deaf, elderly people who can't hear well, heavy sleepers who could literally sleep through a bomb blast, etc).
- Have a plan and drill the plan. The plan (fire drill, lock down drill, etc) should be a step-by-step plan (wake up, put on shoes, grab phone and wallet, get the kids, escape from house) that is done the same way each time so that you could literally do it in your sleep if need be.