When suddenly all hell broke loose.
Small terriers do not take well to being rudely awakened, and for that matter neither do stout gentleman of a certain age. Our own little silent night was broken by a strange, barking siren (as if a traditional ambulance wail were put through a particularly egregious vocoder) and by lights flashing from hitherto-unnoticed fixtures embedded in the ceiling. Once we groggily pulled the Yorkie down off the ceiling, we looked out and saw further flashing in our building's courtyard, and I padded out to peer through the peephole down our long hallway to see yet more, accompanied by one or inquisitive heads looking out from neighboring doors.
From there, years of training for emergencies overseas kicked in, and we relatively quickly assembled some kind of warm clothing, found a few essential papers, leashed the by-now nearly hysterical dogs, and headed through the increasing din for the lobby.
There we found an ill-assorted troupe of neighbors, blanket-wrapped and blinking, being pushed out onto the sidewalk by a pair of authoritative firefighters whose colleagues were tromping about examining various alarm and electrical panels in the nearby mail room. We milled about for fifteen minutes or so (the dogs taking the opportunity for a late-night walk, being of a practical mind, at least for terriers), and at length the electronic ululating ended and, with a sense of anticlimax, we made our way back home and so to bed.
Nothing really all that odd about a late-night false (thankfully) alarm. What's occupying my mind today, though, is how poorly I'd grade myself on handling it. Despite all those years of being ready for any eventuality, despite having had a "go bag" hanging on the hook on the bedroom door for most of them, I can't say we did better than a C+ at best. We did leave in sensible clothes, and we did have in hand passports, wallets, and such, but only once out on the street did I remember that it might be a good idea to have had handy my mobile, back-up drive, iPad, and other electronic essentials. Also left behind were the little cash stash one keeps on hand, jewelry (mine, mother's, grandmothers'), and toothbrush. Had the alarm been less false, I would have been flat out of luck.
Although we all would have been out, safe and sound, which counts for an awful lot. Still, having already had two fires and dodged a couple of marauding crowds (only one of which tried to get over the wall, true, but still), I feel a responsibility to be more prepared. Time to go find a sensible backpack. You never know when you're going to have to go, and when surrounded by sounding alarms and alarmed dogs is no time to try and figure things out.