Many studies discuss the economic and technical aspects of flood warnings. Less attention has been given to the social and psychological patterns that affect alert services. In particular, the literature focuses on warnings activated in river basins or marine environments without providing clear evidence of relevance to Mediterranean coastal areas, even though these are subjected to growing flood risk related to climate change. This paper is a first attempt to bridge this gap. Our research develops an in- depth analysis of the village of Cesenatico on the Adriatic Sea coast. Here the municipality adopted two complementary warning systems: a siren and an alert via Short Message Service (SMS). The analysis focuses on a survey conducted in 2011 and 2012 with 228 participants. The relationships between social and behavioural variables and warning services are investigated, and so are flood preparedness and information dissemination. Qualitative evidence from informal interviews is used to support the understanding of key responses. The conclusions show how different social and behavioural patterns can influence the effectiveness and use of warning systems, regardless of the technology adopted and the structural mitigation measures implemented. Education, training and accountability are seen to be critical elements for improvement. Finally, the statistical output is used to suggest new questions and new directions for research.