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Alarm SOS

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"Well, in any major city, minding your own business is a science. First thing they teach women in rape prevention is never cry for help. Always yell 'fire'. Nobody answers to 'help'. You holler 'fire', they come running."
Detective Somerset, Se7en

Fire alarms, security systems, and other such means of alert are intended to be passive ways of letting people know that something's gone wrong, and are meant to signal that a specific kind of hazard is present. However, sometimes a character is in a bad spot and needs help, but has no active means to summon anyone. By deliberately tripping whatever alarm is available, they can broadcast their distress and (hopefully) count on whoever shows up to assist them. This includes fire alarms, burglar alarms, and old-fashioned signals such as bells.

Note that an alarm being tripped for its intended purpose, as a means of demonstration of function, or as a distraction for enemies doesn't count.


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    Comic Books 
  • Mickey Mouse Comic Universe: An Italian story has Mickey and Goofy locked inside a freezer by some thieves. Freezing and unable to unlock the door, Mickey uses lit matches to set off the freezer's fire alarm, alerting a nearby police officer and leading to their rescue.
  • Tintin: In Red Rackham's Treasure, Tintin is exploring underwater in Calculus's submarine for the wreck of the Unicorn when its propeller becomes caught in a group of weeds. Unable to extricate himself, Tintin deploys the only effective means of communication the submarine was equipped with: a smoke canister intended to be used to mark the location of the shipwreck. This succeeds at attracting his friends' attention, and they use an anchor to pull the submarine out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Abyss: After Lindsey finds out that the Navy SEALs have brought a nuclear warhead onto the rig, she goes to their room and demands that they remove it. When one of them threatens to have her forcibly removed and has another SEAL grab her, Bud triggers an alarm. This brings the rest of the rig's crew to the room on the double and causes the SEALs to let Lindsey go.
  • Aliens: When Ripley realizes that she and Newt are locked in the facility's medical bay with live facehuggers, she first tries to get the attention of the Colonial Marines in the control room through one of the security cameras, not knowing that Burke has turned off the camera feed. After failing to break a window with a chair, she gets the idea to use her cigarette lighter to trip the fire suppression system. The Marines don't know what's actually happening, but Hicks sees the alarm notification on the computer and they come to her and Newt's rescue.
  • Die Hard: John is desperate to get help to fight the terrorists who have taken over the Nakatomi building, but they've cut the phone lines. So he triggers a fire alarm in order to get firefighters (and hopefully police) to come and check it out. The terrorists coolly respond by calling 911 and telling them that it's a false alarm (and then disable the fire alarm system for good measure).
  • The Fisher King: While breaking into a Big Fancy House, the protagonist finds the owner has taken a drug overdose, and so deliberately triggers the burglar alarm on his way out.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl: When Barbossa's crew is attacking the Dauntless after luring most of the Marines away, a British sailor manages to ring the ship's bell, alerting Norrington and the Marines to the attack.
  • Practical Magic: Witch Sally Owens uses her daughter's class phone tree (meant to be used to alert the other moms on snow days or similar school emergencies) to summon enough women to create a coven capable of doing a banishment spell in order to save her sister from Demonic Possession.
  • Saw IV: Rigg is on a tight time limit, so he can't help Morgan himself. On his way out of the building, though, he yanks the fire alarm, ensuring someone will come to help her.
  • The Thing (1982): The fire alarm is used twice to alert the Antarctic crew to the Thing's presence:
    • The Thing first infiltrates the camp in the form of a dog. After it is put in the kennel with the other dogs, it starts to transform so it can absorb and duplicate them. MacReady hears the real dogs' terrified barking and howling from several rooms away, and pulls the fire alarm to get the attention of the other members of the team so they will come and help out.
    • Windows discovers that Bennings has been attacked and copied by the Thing, and tells MacReady and Fuchs. MacReady looks out a window and sees the Bennings-Thing running away. The fire alarm is pulled again to bring the other team members, but it isn't shown who did it.

  • This happens accidentally in Brother Bells. When a gang of robbers breaks into a monastery and believes gold to be hidden in the bell tower, they glance up and see the bells, believing that they are the gold. They try to climb the bell ropes, causing the bells to make a dreadful noise, which alerts the nearby village that something is very, very wrong.
  • Dreadnought!: Exploited by Piper when she's confined to her quarters under computer guard after the initial meeting with Star Empire's hijackers. Knowing that the computer guard won't keep someone locked in a burning room, she sets off the fire alarm by overheating some circuitry in the wall with her curling iron. It works because (thanks to her engineer boyfriend) she knows how to disable the alarms that would normally alert the bridge and bring a whole pack of Red Shirts down on a prisoner under computer guard whose room actually suddenly caught fire.
  • Artemis Fowl: In The Eternity Code, when Artemis has Butler in need of fairy magic, he makes a quick call on the phone and mentions key-words about Haven City that would set off all of Foaly's monitor alarms so they would send someone to investigate, and luckily for Artemis, Holly was just in the area.
  • The Famous Five: In Five Go To Demon's Rocks, the Five's enemy locks them in a disused lighthouse. With no other way to communicate, they light the lighthouse lamp, and sound the bell, which is heard by the nearby village.
  • In Polar Star, Arkady Renko is locked in the freezer of a Soviet factory ship by some people trying to kill him. He tries to light some oily rags near the heat sensors to set off an alarm, but it doesn't work. Ironically he then gets rescued by someone walking past the door who hears him singing, as he's now high from the fumes.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: In "Exogenesis". Marcus tries to contact security with Dr. Franklin's comlink. Since Marcus's DNA doesn't match Dr. Franklin's, it doesn't let him connect. However, it does trigger an Unauthorized User alarm and notifies security of his location, exactly what he was trying to achieve anyway.

    Video Games 
  • Among Us: Hitting the Emergency button summons all the players to the room it's located in for a meeting. If a Crewmate sees an Impostor come out of a vent and/or kill, and can beat them to the button, calling the meeting will save them from being killed (at least until possibly the next round) and can potentially lead to the Impostor being gotten rid of.
  • Deus Ex: Human Revolution: At the beginning, an environmental alarm goes off when Adam is talking to Sarif and he is sent to investigate. Adam discovers that mercenaries are assaulting the building. An e-mail you can read later reveals that Adam had set up the alarms so that an environmental alarm would go off if the security alarms were disabled.
  • The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky SC: During the prologue, Estelle and Anelace confront one of the mercenaries who attacked the Bracer camp. When the mercenary asks how the two would get past the others without any backup, one of the dialogue choices will have Estelle saying that since the phone at the camp was the destroyed, anyone from the nearby Bracer Guild would notice something's off when nobody is responding and will send other Bracers to investigate.


    Western Animation 
  • Dexter's Laboratory: In "Trapped with a Vengeance", when Jonny the Janitor traps Dexter in a class room using barred gates on every possible opening, Dexter pulls the fire alarm. It works, but only enough for Dexter to escape into the vents before Jonny turns up the heating system.
  • Fireman Sam: In one episode, Norman and his mum see a fox and think it's a wolf, so they ring the fire alarm to get help.
  • Gravity Falls: In "Double Dipper", Dipper uses a party popper to activate the sprinkler system in order to destroy the army of clones he made.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars: In one episode, General Grievous sends elite droids to take over an outpost facility. Being outnumbered, the remaining troopers decide the best way to contact help is to destroy the entire base for a relay signal to be sent to the Jedi.