"This is The Captain speaking. We're just about to enter the patrol area. From now until the time we return there will be no drills. All alarms are real."
— Announcement made on US nuclear submarine during 1961
Cautionary statement during a time of military emergency to inform personnel (and the audience) that any alarms or sirens are signals of imminent threat, and that they should be prepared to respond accordingly. Since actual drills and other training exercises are clearly announced as such (keep reading to learn why), this is Truth in Television
On modern warships, drills are conducted frequently to prepare the crew for some emergency situation or another. Typically an announcement is given throughout the ship before starting the drill (something like: "the ship is entering a training environment..." or "This is a drill, this is a drill!") so that no one actually takes any actions which would be appropriate in an emergency but harmful otherwise. For example: Triggering the engine room's Halon flood if there is not an actual engine fire. This would: 1) Mightily piss off everyone who works there, 2) Risk their deaths by suffocation if they can't get their emergency oxygen gear on in time, and 3) cost a whole heckuvalot to replace the Halon and emergency oxygen gear. Thus, if a real emergency occurs while a drill is being carried out, the announcement "Actual casualty!" or "This is not a drill!" will be given to alert everyone.
In the US Air Force
, training messages are preceded by the announcement, spoken or written: EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE. Other announcements are assumed to be real world.
At least in the Submarine force of the US Navy
, drills are augmented with personnel, usually senior or experienced enlisted, who act as the Drill Team, who wear a distinctive item that signifies them as a member of the Drill Team (such as a red ballcap). The purpose of the Drill Team is to allow participants to take their actions with as much verisimilitude as possible, intervening only to keep the participant from taking an action (such as the above mentioned Halon example) that would cause harm to the ship or crew but otherwise letting them do everything else as if it were real. Reactor SCRAM drills actually involve SCRAM
'ing the reactor for real. It's an interesting synthesis of the trope, because even though there is often no advance warning of a 'casualty,' the obvious presence of the Drill Team makes it clear that a Drill is being conducted for those in the affected space.
The Royal Navy
simply add a prefix — drills are preceded by 'For Exercise' three times. There's also the Safeguard Rule — when this is in force, no mention is made of drills/exercises, and everything is announced as if it was real. Any genuine incidents are preceded by the word 'Safeguard'. It's a distinctive word, and everyone knows what it means, so there is no need to remind people that 'This is not a drill'. Nothing makes people freeze like hearing 'Safeguard, safeguard, safeguard!' over the main broadcast.
Has nothing at all to do with This Is a Drill
or This Is Not A Pipe
. Compare And You Thought It Was a Game
, in which a situation originally mistaken for entertainment turns out to be the real thing. Also compare Red Alert
, which often uses this for extra measure.
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Anime and Manga
- Full Metal Panic! has an interesting example — when Gauron had taken control of the AI of the high-tech submarine, the Tuatha de Danaan, he started a fire-drill to isolate the entire crew in the cargo deck. During this drill, the speakers did in fact blare, "This is a drill"...
- The Ghost in the Shell anime does this properly, when a chopper pilot dies during a training exercise, the dispatcher announces "This is not a drill" before giving the order to withdraw.
- Paul Carter's second book was named This Is Not a Drill partly for irony, because he's an oil driller, but mainly because he hears it for real in his first anecdote, where the crew are evacuating an oil rig in imminent danger of capsizing.
- In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Daur tells the other prisoners that it's a drill; Rawne says, "It's not a drill." Later, when the Ghosts are put on active pending status, Dalin Criid questions whether it's a drill.
- In Red Storm Rising, the crew of USS Pharris are told that as they are now in a shooting war, there will be no more drills.
- Honor Harrington:
- Near the climax of the first book, the eponymous heroine sends a "Case Zulu" message back to Command. The narrative takes a moment to inform the reader that Case Zulu means " Enemy Invasion Imminent" and it is never used in practices or war games to avoid Crying Wolf.
- The explanation is reiterated in At All Costs when Haven attacks Manticore directly.
- Spoofed in a Harry Potter parody:
"This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. Last time was a drill, but now it is not! So what if last time I said it was not a drill? I needed to simulate a combat situation! But this time it is '''honestly''' not a drill
. It's real! Move your asses!!!
- In Vorpal Blade, there are several "intruder alert" announcements for the Marines aboard the titular spacecraft, but when the Demons attack the trope phrase is added, though for some the "not a drill" announcement doesn't sink in immediately.
Live Action TV
- The Pilot Movie for the new Battlestar Galactica showed Viper pilots scrambling for an emergency with "This is no drill!" blaring on the PA system. Understandable in that the ship was about to be decommissioned and no one had seen or heard from the Cylons in forty years. Throughout the series, the crew continues to be regularly told "This is no drill" whenever the ship is on actual alert.
- Parodied on Red Dwarf: "This is not a drill! This is a drill: [sound of electric drill whirring]".
- Another episode, in which the emergency damaged the ship computer's memory banks, had the computer announcing:
Holly: Rude alert! Rude alert! An electrical fire has knocked out my voice-recognition unicycle! Many Wurlitzers are missing from my database! Abandon shop! This is not a daffodil! Repeat: This is not a daffodil!
Rimmer: (sarcastically) Well, thankfully Holly's unaffected.
- But since Holly, the ship's AI, is established to be suffering from computer senility, what Holly would say in a real emergency would likely be much the same.
- Yet another episode (Red Dwarf loved this joke):
Rimmer: (After trying to wake Lister and Cat) Look, Starbug is a blazing inferno, the engine room is waist deep in rocket fuel and we're being attacked off the starboard bow by an unidentified craft!
Rimmer: No, of course not really. It's a drill. We're pretending that Starbug is on fire and under attack.
Lister: (Still in bed) And I'm pretending to scramble.
- The Doctor Who episode The Hand of Fear used the more Britishly laconic "This is not an exercise!"
- Another story, Warriors of the Deep only had the computer of an underwater military base tell the crew whether or not it was a drill after they'd gone through the motions which would have launched the World War III Weapon of Mass Destruction missiles if it was not. Nobody was very surprised that the sync-operator (the guy that did the launching) was under stress.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Peak Performance", a combat drill and performance review is interrupted by an actual Ferengi attack.
- It was also used repeatedly by Data in "11001001" when issuing an order to abandon ship.
- And announced by Spock in at least one Original Series episode, while sirens whoop and the camera rapidly zooms in and pulls back repeatedly on a flashing red light: "Red alert. Red alert. This is no drill. Repeat. This is no drill."
- Lampshaded in (of all things) a Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue episode: When the good guys are celebrating what they believe to be the defeat of the big bad, and the alarm goes off. One of the Rangers says "Tell me that's a drill." The mentor informs the team that they don't perform drills.
- Shows up in Power Rangers S.P.D. during Delta Command Megazord's first appearance. Kat warns all personnel to get to designated safety zones, as the entire base is about to transform into a robot.
- In one episode of The Big Bang Theory, it's revealed that Sheldon forces Leonard to participate in emergency drills so that they will be ready should the apocalypse ever strike Pasadena. They have personalised hard hats and reflective vests to wear.
- Used in the first episode of Andromeda, right after the crew went through a battle stations drill.
Thompson: Please tell me this is another drill!
[the console emits sparks]
Alien co-gunner: This is no drill!
Thompson: I was afraid of that!
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's "Christmas at Ground Zero":
It's Christmas at ground zero
The button has been pressed
The radio just let us know
That this is not a test
- "Emergency" from the Trancemission from Raveland compilation: "This is not a test. This is an actual emergency."(Creepy Monotone voice)
- Qualifies as one of the oldest in the book. It probably dates back to the navies of the 19th Century, when ships became very large and powered by steam. The "black gang" down in the machinery could see and hear nothing of what was going on beyond the hull of the ship.
- The classic historical example of its use is in the alarm siren on December 7, 1941: "AIR RAID PEARL HARBOR THIS IS NOT DRILL".
- Oddly enough, the old Emergency Broadcast System's script for actual nuclear attack◊ does not use the phrase "This is not a test".
- It does however use the phrase "Attack warning means that an actual attack against this country has been detected".
- Sometimes, an air-raid siren on the airfield means; 'get to your battle station'. Only some time after you got there will you hear if it was practice, an exercise, or what.
- This was done about twice-weekly for the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, the instruction being "go to your bombers and wait to see if you're nuking the USSR".
- Then there is the joke: This is not a drill. Repeat, this is NOT a drill. This is a chainsaw.
- At the Samar island engagement Capt Evans of the USS Johnston simply said, "Gentlemen we are going into battle."
- In the modern US Navy, the actual phrases used differ from ship to ship and branch to branch (i.e. surface vs. submarines), and even different procedures may be used by different training teams on the same ship (engineering vs. combat systems, for example). Sometimes emergencies are simply called away as if they were real, with drill monitors wearing different colors stationed in advance to prevent the crewmen from doing anything that might actually be dangerous, and only inform the crew that it was a drill at the end. Even when the drill is not initially announced as such and was not pre-scheduled, however, the whole crew generally knows they're coming — when the guys with red hats start hanging around the engine room for no reason, it becomes pretty obvious. Drills are also generally not held any time there's a higher potential for a real emergency (like entering a combat or patrol zone).
- Subverted... kinda. In the first volume war memoir 'Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall' comedian Spike Milligan was conscripted into the Royal Artillery as a Radio Operator. He quotes extensively from the Regimental War Diary a message about a large invasion force spotted in the English Channel heading for Britain that was sent by his unit. Shortly after, a panicked War Office got in touch asking what steps had been taken and had the Navy been informed... Hilarity Ensures and in the end the CO is ordered to London to clear things up. In his book Milligan confesses that the message had been sent by him as part of a drill but that he had neglected to preface the message with the phrase 'PRACTICE' before he sent it.
- Inverted in the IDF, where every drill announcement is preceded by 'this is a drill'.
- Some schools always announce when they're going to be doing fire drills, so as to avoid causing a panic.
- During Able Archer '83 (Nato's rehearsal for a nuclear war, and perhaps the closest the world has come -- completely by accident -- to the real thing), every single message in the exercise was prefaced with "EXERCISE-EXERCISE-EXERCISE" both for the benefit of NATO troops to make sure that they did not misunderstand an exercise communication for a real communication, and for any Warsaw Pact intelligence personnel who might be listening in, so that they did not misinterpret a routine wargame for the real thing and launch a preemptive strike.