Picture this: Alice and Ben are trapped in a panic room and Carl is having a nervous breakdown, Ben finds something sticking in a wall, a red box saying, "In case of crisis within a panic room, break glass." Naturally, Alice and Ben oblige and break the glass with the tiny hammer.
Two different events can happen at this point:
- The thing inside the glass is just what Alice and Ben were looking for to have Carl calm down. The panic attack within the panic room has been averted. And there was much rejoicing.
- Or, the thing turns out to be totally useless, but it doesn't stop Alice and Ben from using it anyway. Somehow. And it either works or just makes the situation worse.
The X in the trope name may also conveniently describe the exact situation the characters are in, as unlikely as it is for the builder to have predicted it. (e.g. "In case of monster attack, break glass")
A common comedic twist on the trope is that the glass pane will turn out to be a Surprisingly Super-Tough Thing. Sometimes the only object suitable for breaking the glass will be placed behind the glass.
Has nothing to do with breaking glass sections of a boss enemy to destroy it. Commonly involves Props when employed in live-action mediums.
In Real Life, buildings and public transportation may have fire safety equipment (a fire axe) in a glass-fronted box, with instructions to break the glass in an emergency. This reduces the likelihood that a miscreant will steal the item.
Contrast No Can Opener.
In case of examples, read below:
- Kingdom Hearts fanfic The Antipode: When a pair of large unidentified objects (really Cid's Gummi Ship and a floating house) crashland into Grandship, Tiz grabs a bazooka from a glass case with a sign that reads: "BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF SANTA IMPOSTER". The ammunition is stored in a second case labelled: "BREAK GLASS IN CASE YOU’RE ACTUALLY REALLY SURE ABOUT THIS."
- Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2: Parodied When Chester V finds himself cornered by the heroes in the final battle, he rushes to a glass box with a tiny hammer in a chain, accompanied by an "In case plan fails, break glass" inscription right beside. Chester uses the tiny hammer to get access to a larger hammer which he uses to break the glass containing Flint's machine.
- Ed, Edd n Eddy's Big Picture Show: Zig-Zagged. The Eds are trying to find a way out of Eddy's Brother's room in order to escape the rest of the neighborhood kids after a scam gone wrong, when they find a red box that reads "In Case of Movie, break glass". Upon doing so, they are rewarded with... a peanut. Fortunately, the peanut contained the key to Eddy's Brother's car. Unfortunately, while the key did open the doors, it fails to start up the car indicating there was no gas in it or the battery died after years of disuse.
- My Little Pony: A New Generation: Mounted next to the front door of Hitch's office is a big red button with a glass cover, intended to be used for setting off an alarm if any unicorns attack the town. Hitch does exactly that when Izzy arrives in Maretime Bay.
- A prison has a fire extinguisher in a glass cabinet labelled: IN CASE OF FIRE, BREAK. Next to it is a gun cabinet labeled: IN CASE OF JAILBREAK, FIRE.
- In military circles: What's the purpose of the reserves or national guard? Break glass in case of war.
- Sonic the Hedgehog in Castle Robotnik: After a power-cut Sonic and Tails are stuck in an Elevator and after ages of trying to pry off the emergency hatch with their hands they notice a box with a spanner in it designed to remove the bolts fixing the hatch closed.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Buffy's high school actually has a fire axe in one of these emergency glass cases by the door of the school. In "School Hard", Spike breaks the glass with the face of one of his own minions in order to get the axe.
- Doctor Who: In "Fugitive of the Judoon", Ruth Clayton's Chameleon Arch is disguised as part of a fire alarm system in an old lighthouse. When she follows her Trigger Phrase instructions and breaks the glass, she is restored to her true self.
- In the BBC Edutainment series Jigsaw, the O-Phone, which was used to summon incompetent superheroes The O-Men, was in a glass case labeled "In Emergency Break Glass". There was no hammer. The way to break the glass was to open the case, use the phone to smash the glass, then put the phone back before using it.
- Kamen Rider Zero-One: In "I Am the President and a Kamen Rider", there's an emergency glass encasing the A.I.M.S. Shot Riser. Isamu breaks it to hit a HumaGear looming behind Yua.
- The Red Green Show: "No Duct Tape" features an emergency supply of duct tape in a windowed box, complete with a sign "in case of emergency break glass". Unfortunately, when Red breaks the glass, the 50-year-old roll of duct tape crumbles in his hands.
- Compound: Since ammunition for all weapons except the three blue pistols is limited, every level is littered with "emergency weapon" boxes that hold a pistol with infinite ammo in them in case you run out of ammunition and still have enemies to fight. Pretty nice Anti-Frustration Features.
- Icarus Needs: A key needed to progress is found in a box with a sign next to it that reads as follows: "Break Glass In Need of Key".
- Persona: When the demons start attacking, Mark grabs an emergency axe from one of the red boxes in the hospital to defend himself. While the emergency the box refer to is something more mundane like a fire, the axe proves to be a lifesaver.
- Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando: The duo finds a new wrench and a rock encased in a glass next to each other. The wrench has a label stating "In case of emergency, break glass with wrench"; while the rock states a complex logic puzzle that Clank is eager to solve before Ratchet breaks the glass and takes the wrench.
- Starship Titanic: The SGT Lounge has a long stick behind the glass, and the hammer to break the glass is elsewhere. The long stick is to grab a lemon from the Promenade Deck's multi-season room. You need the parrot's perch, which isn't long enough to reach the lemon, in order to push the button on the case within which the hammer is ensconced. Only then can you obtain the Long Stick. It's that kind of a game.
- Thief II: The Metal Age features an amusing variant: "In time of peril, breaketh glass."
- Unreal: At the end of the Vortex Rikers level, there's a glass box with two medpacks inside of it, with the "Break Glass" text above it. There's another instance where this is required, break the glass in order to open the hatch to the level's exit.
- Zork: Grand Inquisitor has a glass case marked, "In case of adventure, break glass." It contains a sword, map, and hammer. You can't just take the sword and map; you have to open the case, take the hammer, close the case, break the glass, then take the items.
- Doodle Toons: In the episode "Fast Food Follies", Pip and Goldie feed a customer a burger that causes him to breathe flamesnote . To extinguish the flames, Goldie grabs an axe from in a nearby box labeled "In case of fire, break glass."
- Dark Legacy Comics: A murloc has marked "In case of questors, break glass" on its loot. The item inside is a yellow exclamation point that the Murloc uses to impersonate a quest giver, so that the questor doesn't think it's a quest target.
- New School Kids: Parodied in one strip, where the red box reads "Break glass if you want, I guess". The boys, of course, smack it, causing alarms to blare and a red light to appear. As the strip's title indicates, it's really the garage door opener.
- Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: In one strip, there is an emergency box, but after someone breaks it, it is revealed that the emergency was a glass shortage, and he just made it worse.
- Sluggy Freelance: Torg has had to break his Emergency Stash of pants several times over the course of the comic.
- Spinnerette once showed such a box in the background of Dr. Lambha's lab, labeled "In case of Heather, break glass".
- xkcd: In case of emergency, a glass repair kit.
- Zeus' Godly Goodtime: Dedede keeps a third cake stashed away in the event that the first two are eaten (courtesy of Kirby and Yoshi in this case). Fat Princess Got to this one, sparking his Rage Breaking Point.
- Best of the Worst:
- Parodied in the episode where they reviewed Silk. The movie's DVD is inside a clear jewel case, which in turn s encased by a glass box on the wall. When they are about to review the film, Rich breaks it with a hammer.
- A copy of Neil Breen's Pass Thru was held in one of these on the off chance that Max Landis ever returned. It was broken open when one of the chosen films was just to dull to finish or talk about.
- Dream SMP: In the "Las Nevadas" series finale, after noticing fireworks being set off over Las Nevadas, Foolish presses an Emergencies-only button behind a sheet of glass. Its purpose is to call Quackity's slime army which he spent the previous months creating and training in case he got cornered in an attack on the country.
- Half in the Bag: After a serious scandal concerning one of their interviewees, they slapped a gag like this on a later video so as to cover its relation with the aforementioned interview episode.
- RedLetterMedia: After a Best of the Worst episode in which Max Landis made a guest appearance and brought Double Down, a Neil Breen film, as one of the three movies to review, the RLM crew kept another Breen film under a glass container in the studio marked with "In Case of Max Landis, Break Glass." After sexual assault allegations were leveled at Landis, the RLM channel de-listed Double Down, and the glass case was quietly relabeled "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass." The crew eventually did break the glass and watch the film when another film they had scheduled to review proved unwatchable.
- The Review Team: "Alone Against Snippit" has this tippet — "In case of any sort of disaster, break the friggin' glass!"
- In Space with Markiplier:
- The backup radio transceiver is sealed in a glass box that reads "Radio fer callin' aliens".
- Another box reads "Disguise fer foolin' aliens".
- Another glass box contains a Cartoon Bomb with a sign "Bombs fer blowin' aliens up". The Captain opens it with a high kick and it lights up itself.
- The Amazing World of Gumball: In "The Decisions", Darwin swims to the door that leads to the water valve, but it is locked. Next to the door, he sees a case containing an axe in case of emergencies. Instead of breaking the glass to retrieve the ax, Darwin just uses the whole case to break open the lock.
- Batman: The Brave and the Bold: In one of the Cold Opens, Batman has to defend Abraham Lincoln from a steampunk-power-enhanced John Wilkes Booth (It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context). Blink and you'll miss Abe grabbing the axe from the rack marked IN CASE OF EMERGENCY OR CONFEDERATE CYBORG ATTACK.
- Ben 10: Inverted when a giant lightbulb containing and powered by a swarm of Megawhatts is labeled with "In case of emergency, do NOT break glass".
- Brickleberry: In Case of Connie, Break Glass.
- CatDog: One episode has the titular characters travel into an exotic land to suddenly steal the throne from Rancid Rabbit. Rancid goes back to a case that says, "In Case of Emergency, Break Grass".
- Casper the Friendly Ghost: In the short "Ghost Writers", there is a glass case at the Paramount cartoon studio reading "In Case If You're Fired—" and containing a gun.
- In the Dan Vs. episode “Dan vs Burgerphile”, the owner of the restaurant gets to one of these to reset the sprinklers when the building catches fire. He pulls out a tiny hammer, only to break the glass with his barehand and then the sprinkler system on.
- Family Guy:
- "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein": When a group of nuns gets word of Peter entering a synagogue, they rush toward a case reading "In Case Of Heresy, Break Glass" and smash it to reveal rulers inside.
- "No Giggity, No Doubt": Quagmire worries that Courtney, a teenage girl he's about to have sex with, is actually his illegitimate daughter and breaks open a case to fetch an emergency DNA test (it's next to a case for an emergency HIV test).
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: In "Billy and Mandy Save Christmas", Santa has an "In Case of Vampire, Break Glass" case in his office, ready just in case his wife decides to try to turn everyone into vampires again.
- Kenny and The Chimp: When Kenny contracts Swine Flu, which results in him ending up with a pig for a head, he discovers that Professor XXXL's office has a box labelled. "In Case of Swine Flu". When Chippy opens it, it's revealed to contain a chef-sizzling bacon which scares away the flu.
- Looney Tunes:
- Double Subverted in "The Hardship of Miles Standish", John Aldin (played by Elmer Fudd) finds a glass case reading "In Case of Indians, Break Glass". He simply lifts the glass up and takes out the gun behind it... then he breaks the glass.
- "Kitty Kornered": Porky takes out a gun from behind glass when he thinks he's being attacked by men from Mars.
- "Bewitched Bunny": when Bugs Bunny finds himself cornered by Witch Hazel in her house, he finds a conveniently-placed wall-mounted box labeled "MAGIC POWDER" with the glass front reading "IN CASE OF EMERGENCY BREAK GLASS" complete with a little hammer on a chain attached to it. Bugs uses it, revealing a sort of small bomb or grenade which he hurls at Hazel, turning her into a female rabbit!
- "To Hare Is Human": Bugs has another mounted box around his bed marked "In case of coyote, break glass". Inside the box is a Banana Peel, which he throws in front of the ladder that serves as the stairway to his hole. Once the coyote steps on the peel, his next stop is the Coyote Disposal and a date with gravity.
- "3 Ring Wing Ding": Cool Cat has been posing as a great fire eater while trying to evade hunter Colonel Rimfire at a circus. He is later forced to swallow fire at gunpoint, and in his rush to put out his smoking head, Cool Cat runs up to a case labeled "IN CASE OF FIRE BREAK GLASS", smashes the glass... and gets a bucket of water tossed at him, dousing the internal fire.
- Tiny Toon Adventures: In "Buster's Directorial Debut", near the end of the short, Buster finds a box that says, "In Case of Emergency, Break Glass", which has a box of magic dust in it. He uses it to turn Sandy into a goldfish, but decides not to turn Babs back to normal with it until after he's finished filming Furrball on the Roof.
- "Mississippi Hare": Shuffle is carrying a pistol that gets wet when a glass full of water spills. He then gets a second one from a red box reading: "For Dry Pistol, Break Glass"
- Quick Draw McGraw: The host segment Snooper and Blabber has the show's cast as volunteer firemen. Blabber is seen destroying windows with an axe. When Snooper asks what he's doing, Blabber replies "It says 'In case of fire, break glass,' Snoop!"
- ReBoot: In "Nullzilla", Phong has an extended Crazy-Prepared-plan for a Godzilla-sized null monster rampaging through the city. This includes a large weapon in a case that reads "IN CASE OF GIANT NULL MONSTER THREATENING CITY — BREAK GLASS".
- Rick and Morty: In "The Vat of Acid Episode", Rick's second vat of acid has a gun next to the oxygen tank with this label that Morty could use if someone were to use a ladle to test the acid.
- The Simpsons:
- In the fifth "Treehouse of Horror", Homer goes insane after being forced to go a long time without TV or beer. Marge runs across a glass case that says, "In Case of Spousal Insanity, Break Glass", where she finds a baseball bat.
- "Home Sweet Home-Dum-Diddly Doodly" (season 7, episode 3) has Homer and Marge be declared unfit parents, which means Bart, Lisa and Maggie are put in foster care with the Flanders. When Ned discovers the Simpson children were never baptized, he goes to the household Emergency Baptism Kit, which is inside a case with a breakable glass front, and includes a small hammer for shattering the glass. Inside is a chalice, a bible, a life preserver, and an air horn.
- SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Bossy Boots", after Mr. Krabs passes out after hearing SpongeBob "fire" Pearl, SpongeBob breaks an emergency case containing a dollar bill to wave under Mr. Krabs' nose like smelling salts.
Mr. Krabs: Is that a twenty?
- In the olden days, fire extinguishers were often contained in cabinets like these in public buildings, equipped with a metal breaker on a chain to break the glass pane with. It's less used in new installations though, due to the dangers of broken glass shards, and such cabinets are now usually designed with a glass door on the front that can be pulled open or a plexiglass front with a pre-scored cut in the material.
- In Europe, Australia, the United States, Canada, and several other countries, fire alarm break-glass "call points" are still in wide use, designed so a small button or lever right behind the glass will be pressed when the glass is smashed, sounding the alarm. Having the glass cover reduces the likelihood of pranks in which people set off the alarm even though there's no fire.
- On some trains and buses, the "emergency door open" handle, which opens the door in the event of an accident or fire, is behind a transparent plexiglass cover.