I’ve been alerted, now what do I do?

We all lead busy lives and emergencies can happen anytime, anywhere, at the most inopportune times, so how should you react when you get an unexpected alert?

In movies and television, you’ll see fictionalized accounts of running screaming through the streets when an alert is received, looting and causing mayhem. Those portrayals are fiction and may make for amusing entertainment, but when a lot of people receive an alert, especially at inopportune times, they ignore them. I’m busy right now, I’ll look at that later. Or it can wait and if it’s really important, they’ll alert me again. So first and foremost, your initial reaction to an alert should never be to ignore it, because time may no longer be on your side.

Alerts in Canada will usually provide some indication of the urgency of the message. If the alert is preceded by the Canadian Alerting Tone, akin to a siren type noise, then the alert is the highest urgency and could be life-threatening.


When you receive this type of alert you should immediately take any of the actions the alert suggests. If the alert isn’t preceded by the attention tone, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t have a significant impact on you in the future. Some events quickly build, and that early warning that gives you time to prepare can quickly turn into a life-threatening situation. For less urgent alerts, the key action is usually to begin paying more attention. Seek out further sources of information on the event and any actions you can take to be prepared.

A common question is, what do I do when I get an alert while driving? With many Provinces having distracted driving laws, how should I respond to an alert on my phone or the radio? When you receive an alert in a vehicle, even though the alerting tone may be sounding, you should not take your hands off the wheel. At that moment you are more at risk from a motor vehicle accident, than whatever event the alert is about. Ask a passenger in the vehicle to look at your phone or pull over to the side of the road when it is safe to do so and then take any actions the alert recommends.

Take care. Be prepared.

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