Announcer: "Will Mr Fire please come to the flammable items gallery?"
Uh oh. A customer puked and you need to avoid a Vomit Chain Reaction
. Or perhaps you've just spotted a disgruntled ex-employee
walking in the doors carrying a semi-automatic
. Maybe there's a fire in the building but you don't want to evacuate just yet
Fortunately you have a pre-arranged code for just such an emergency and you can put out a message that will alert your co-workers to the situation while leaving your customers none the wiser! This is of course Truth in Television
, although in practice some of the most ubiquitous codes (such as "Mr Sands" for a fire in a theatre) are well-known enough to make them useless for their original purpose, mainly due to people
posting exhaustive lists online.
See also: Code Silver
. A subtrope of Trouble Entendre
. Compare Police Code for Everything
, where a convoluted scenario is described by a short numerical code.
- The mall in Code Geass has a prearranged message to announce an attack by terrorists.
- In Johnny Mnemonic Dr. Alcome is code for a general call to doctors when the clinic needs lots of help, but doesn't want to spook the patients. Amazingly, one of the characters doesn't get it and has to have it spelled out for her - All come.
- This is also at least partly Truth in Television, as many hospitals will use this code if they need a lot of medical personnel in a particular part of the hospital (e.g., "Doctor Alcome to the emergency ward.")
- In Lean on Me, Principal Clark declares that, when the fire inspectors are spotted, he'll announce a "Code 10", subtly telling the staff to get the chains off the doors. Of course, the idea is kind of ruined when the inspectors do come, and he starts screaming, "Code 10! Code 10! This is Joe Clark! Get those chains off those doors!" over the radio. What an Idiot!
- In Monsters vs. Aliens, a guy at a UFO-spotting station in Antarctica is rather shocked to actually pick up something, and on the verge of panic calls in to headquarters to report a "Code Nimoy".
- John Woo's Broken Arrow gets its title from such a code. "Broken Arrow" is code for an accident involving nuclear weapons; in the film, a weapon is stolen (known as an "Empty Quiver") under the pretense of such an accident.
Giles: I don't know what's scarier, losing nuclear weapons, or that it happens so often there's actually a term for it.
- Die Hard: McClane ferrets out the fake "police dispatcher" by subverting it: using the wrong police 10-code to describe his situation. When the dispatcher smoothly claims that all units have been dispatched to his code,
"You mean you had to dispatch all units for the naked people wandering around?"
- In A Beautiful Mind, when the main character is in hospital, the staff uses "code red" for when a patient starts cutting himself.
- The Simpsons Movie has Mayor Quimby issuing a "code clack" emergency to clean up Lake Springfield.
Code Black? That's the worst color there is. No offense, Carl
Carl: Nah, I get it all the time.
- Different codes are used in Chuck Palahniuk's Choke, by a renegade mother to covertly contact her son.
- Also by the hospital looking after her... when Nurse Remington is summoned to the front desk, it probably means you have outstayed your welcome.
- One Running Gag in Robert Rankin's Armageddon II: The B-Movie was to have police disagreeing over which code was specifically required for a particular emergency. (Since they included "demon-possessed vehicle in a towaway zone", we can safely say that whoever came up with the codes is either very Genre Savvy or Crazy-Prepared.)
- In the Modesty Blaise novels, the name "Jacqueline" inserted into any conversation is Modesty and Willie's private signal for 'I'm in trouble and can't talk openly.'
- The City Watch Discworld Diary contains a clacks-based parody of police emergency codes, with codes for crucial messages such as "Knocking off early for lunch" or "Gargoyle officer ate messenger pigeon (message included), please re-send".
- In The Stand, the code in the early part of the book that meant everything was screwed was 'Rome Falls'. Another military squad had a code that signaled them to take out a guy with a camera who'd gotten footage they didn't like.
- The Animorphs sometimes did this in case any controllers had the phone bugged. They'd talk about hanging out or going to the mall to signal a need to meet up.
- Sherlock uses "Vatican cameos" — a reference to a Noodle Incident mentioned in The Hound Of The Baskervilles — as a warning to John that something dangerous is about to go down.
- In Alas, Babylon, the titular phrase is a running joke used by the protagonist Randy Bragg and his brother Mark when things go wrong. At the novel's beginning, Mark, a Strategic Air Command colonel, uses the phrase to get a message to his brother that the Cold War is about to go hot.
- Played with in Chuck, where the staff have "Code Pineapple" to rapidly evacuate the store in case of emergency, but when they actually try to implement it they manage to induce a panicked stampede for the doors. Which, ironically, helps to avert the actual emergency.
- In the Grey's Anatomy episode "It's the End of the World," "Code Black" is passed between doctors and staff. It apparently stands for an explosive on the premises. It's an unexploded bazooka shell in the innards of a man about to undergo surgery.
- On Kings Silas' staff has a "code for when [he takes] too long in the bathroom".
- Which is a funny reference to the Biblical story where a Israelite assassin was able to escape because all of the guards and servants assumed that the king (whom he has just killed) was simply taking his time in the bathroom.
- Scrubs played with this once (as well as having some straight uses of it). J.D. fakes getting a 'Code 3' on his pager to escape a patient. When asked by the patient what it is, he replies "It's worse than a Code 2 but not as bad as a Code 4" and hurries out of the room.... barreling straight into a stretcher placed across the door and pitching headlong over it. Carla, still standing in the room, comments "That's a Code 2."
- In Red Dwarf, upgrading from a "Blue Alert" to a "Red Alert" requires manually unscrewing and replacing the colored flashing lights.
- In the episode Back in the Red, Cat suggests they forget Red Alert, and go straight to Brown Alert.
- Parodied a bit in the new generation of Doctor Who, when the Ninth Doctor gets a color coded emergency, Code Mauve, which is apparently the galactic standard. Earth's normal Code Red, apparently, is camp. "All those Red Alerts, all that dancing."
- Parodied in Community episode "The Politics Of Human Sexuality" when the security officer informs Dean Pelton that there's a 'five-nine-seven' currently occurring in his office:
Dean Pelton: "There's a dog-fighting ring in my office?!"
- On The West Wing, characters used a code to get someone to immediately stop whatever they were doing, come quickly, and not ask questions by making a casual reference to an "old friend from home."
- Star Trek had "Condition Green", which was code that the landing party had been captured and/or was otherwise communicating under duress and that the ranking officer aboard ship was to take no action unless an opportunity presented itself.
- Grant Imahara mentioned behind the scenes of MythBusters that when they enlisted the help of the police to test the "Bed Sheet Rope" myth, the cops were unusually amused at the fake prisoner number of "3.14" (for pi) he gave himself. Turns out it was because they misread it as "3-14", which is the California police code for "indecent exposure".
- On Hotel Babylon, asking someone if they've got any purple requisition forms was the code for "Immigration Raid Incoming!" Given how many of the staff are immigrants, this code got used quite a bit.
- Subverted on The Big Bang Theory when Howard has to go to the hospital:
Nurse (into PA system): I need an orderly with a wheelchair. I got a robot hand grasping a man's penis out here.
Howard: Could you be a little more discreet?
Nurse: I'm sorry, we don't have a code for "robot hand grasping a man's penis".
- In one Emergency! episode, there's an explosion and fire in the hospital basement. "Doctor Evac" is paged over the intercom to signal the need to evacuate without alarming the patients.
- Paranoia has a few dozen of 'em, such as Code 15 ("traffic accident") or 38 ("renegade mutant using unauthorized mutant power") or 54 ("free Hot Fun back at Central"). Confusingly, numeric codes are also informally used to gossip / treasonously wager about how many clones will get killed during a mission; clones normally come in six-packs, so when a "Code Seven" mission comes along...
- In Modern Warfare 2, there's a scene in which the hijacking of a Russian submarine with nuclear missiles takes a sudden turn for the worse. Much, much worse. Everything Ghost can do is scream "Code Black! Code Black!!!" and watch a nuke heading for the US.
- Lampshaded completely in Final Fantasy XIII when boarding the airship Palamecia: When first intruders are detected, the bridge declares Code Red, which later is raised to Code Green and eventually Code Purple. But it gets ridiculous once the intruders disappear from the security scanners:
Col. Nabaat: "That means... we're Code Yellow. No, wait, Code Blue? If we were Orange, that would mean..."
Primarch: "Desperate times demand flexibility. Code White."
Truth in Television
- The characters in the Robert A. Heinlein-esque The Saga of Tuck use American Sign Language, rotating numeric call signs and shortwave radios to maintain communications. It would probably be more light-hearted, seeing as they're all high school students, if someone hadn't nearly died.
- Parodied in EVE Online machima Clear Skies. The title vessel has fifteen color codes; of these four are known: Code Red ("Imminent Ship Destruction"), Code Orange ("Imminent Judith Chalmers Encounter"), Code Yellow ("It's time to start running"), and Code Blue ("Armed incursion of the ship"). Charlie- who wrote these things- mentions a fifth code, Fuschia, though what it means is unknown.
- Several Protectors of the Plot Continuum missions in Middle-Earth are Code 10, meaning the Sue is joining the Fellowship as a "Tenth Walker". The number goes up with the number of additional Mary Sues added; one mission was a Code 18 (nine added characters).