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Red Alert

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All hands to battle stations!

The sirens shrilled, urging everyone to panic.

The phrase "Red Alert" comes from the naval tradition of "General Quarters" (also known as "Battle Stations", or "Action Stations" if you're British), an announcement made when a ship prepares for battle. Whatever the wording used, most of the procedures are the same. The alert is sounded by a drum or over an intercom. Off-duty sailors report to their stations, cannons are loaded, and the decks are cleared of non-essential items. On modern ships, lights flash, klaxons sound and all watertight doors are closed to contain leaks if the ship is holed. BREET BREET Ah, great. See Red Alert right away, the Wiki's gone on Self-Demonstrating Article mode. BREET BREET GENERAL QUARTERS. Often accompanied with This Is Not a Drill.

In a Rescue show, or any film with an emergency service like the fire department, there is a variant of the alert that can be called the Emergency Squad Scramble. where the heroes are at their base and the dispatch call sounds. Suddenly the base explodes with activity as the klaxons sound and the dispatcher comes over the PA system with the essential information. Meanwhile, the rescue heroes move quickly, often going down sliding poles to the garage, calmly to suit up and board their vehicles with utter professionalism. Then with the vehicles' rotating lights flashing and sirens sounding, the production's theme music plays the heroes go full speed to the emergency.

This variant also occurs with fighter squadrons before or during a Fighter-Launching Sequence . This often includes a running variant of the Team Power Walk that can be called the Scramble Run where the pilots are seen sprinting to their fighters in full flight gear. In the case of aircraft carriers, this is the trope that often precedes the original version of the Alpha Strike.

Often, all the ordinary lights in the building will be replaced with ominous red lighting, making it abundantly clear that the Alert is indeed Red. (In Real Life, it's generally helpful to keep using ordinary lighting so you can actually see what you're doing; red lighting is typically only used in emergency scenarios when the main lighting system has already been knocked out.)

If this precedes a Boss Battle, it's a Boss Warning Siren.

Now, keep in mind, this is not to be confused with Command & Conquer: Red Alert, nor with Last Alert (known as Red Alert in Japan), nor with the Red Scare. Nor does it have any particular relation to any of the Transformers characters named Red Alert (WOO WOO WOO WOO). But it is similar, however, to Defcon 5. And to Red Filter of Doom.

See also Emergency Broadcast for a version of this for crises affecting entire communities or larger areas.

Got all that? Good. Let's move out.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Macross franchise (and presumably Robotech), play this more realistically, with General Quarters and condition levels rather than the klaxon and red light.
  • Hanaukyō Maid Team. Happens several times in the anime (both seasons) when an emergency occurs in the mansion, sometimes with rotating lights and sirens.
  • Occurs in Bleach anime episode #24 when intruders are detected in the Soul Society.
  • Angel signature confirmed, Type Blue!
  • Gundam's various Cool Ships will invariably have one of some kind. Some series even go so far as to re-use White Base's alert klaxon.
    "Condition Red has been issued! Condition Red has been issued! All pilots, standby in your machines!"

    Comic Books 
  • In Marvel's Laff-A-Lympics special "The Man Who Stole Thursday," all three teams are looking for a figure named Tempus, who had removed Thursdays from the calendar. Scooby-Doo and his friends deduce he's in a room at a nearby hotel, so Shaggy radios "Red Alert" to the Yogi Yahooeys.
  • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy: SHIELD got in this mode when the Heather Douglas clone army started attacking the Triskelion.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Genie calls for an over-the-top Code Red when the titular King of Thieves shows up at the palace, but calls it off when Aladdin introduces him as his father.
  • Toward the end of Inside Out, Riley meets a boy her age, who goes nearly catatonic on her. Inside his head, his emotions are running around like headless chickens, while a Red Alert klaxon blares, "Girl! Girl! Girl!"
    • Earlier, Red Alert lighting can be seen inside of Riley's father's head as his emotions prepare to Put the foot Down.
  • Happens twice in the film The Nightmare Before Christmas.
    • The Mayor of Halloween Town orders the alarms sounded when Jack Skellington disappears (a siren in the form of a stone cat with its tail being turned by a mummy).
    • When Jack causes chaos by giving out dangerous toys on Christmas Eve, the militaries of the world mobilize to stop him, complete with air raid siren.
  • In Sev Trek: Pus in Boots (an Australian CGI spoof of Star Trek: The Next Generation), the ship goes to Red Alert, but it's so loud that no one can hear the captain's orders. They only do it to make Lt. Barf happy anyway.
    Lt. Barf: Captain, we are being hailed. I recommend we go to Red Alert!
    Captain Pinchhard: We haven't even met them! Isn't that a little premature?
    Lt. Barf: Every week we encounter aliens who try to destroy or take over the ship. It would save a lot of time if we assumed the worst now.
  • Parodied in Toy Story - "Red alert! Red alert! Andy is coming upstairs!"
  • Also done in Toy Story 2:
    Woody: Yard sale? Sarge! Emergency roll call!
    Sergeant: Sir, yes, sir! Red alert! All civilians fall in position now!
  • Wreck-It Ralph: Hero's Duty has a "Quarter Alert" that activates whenever a gamer is about to begin play.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Twice in USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage. The first is just after suffering a bomb hit from a kamikaze in the Opening scene. The second happens just after the ship herself is torpedoed by a Japanese submarine.
  • Dr. Strangelove was based on a serious Cold War thriller novel by Peter George entitled... Red Alert.
  • In the film Our Man Flint, after Lloyd Cramden learns that Flint is alive he calls a "Purple Alert".
  • Diamonds Are Forever. Occurs at an American missile base in North Dakota just before Blofeld's Kill Sat attacks with its laser beam.
  • The Final Countdown featured two onboard the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier, though the second one was a bit more subdued as it was more of a preparation montage for the subsequent Fighter-Launching Sequence.
  • Master and Commander has a scene where a middie on night watch suspects an enemy ship is nearby in the fog. Uncertain of what to do, his junior calls "We shall beat to quarters!". We then see the Napoleonic War version of a ship going into Red Alert, and the junior midshipman's decision proves most prudent as the ship is fired upon, but the crew is ready for battle.
    • Unfortunately for poor Midshipman Hollom, the crew witnessed his indecision — this, and other events, cause him to lose what little respect they had for him and they come to consider him a Jonah.
  • Crimson Tide depicts the captain of the Alabama ordering back-to-back drills for "Battle Stations, Torpedo" and "Battle Stations, Missile" while a very real fire is being fought in another compartment. The climax of the film occurs with the crew at Battle Stations, Missile.
  • Tora! Tora! Tora!: Three examples in the film:
  • Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz. After Dolokhov and Fyodor escape from their cells, a guard finally stumbles on the bloody mess they left behind and hits the Big Red Button. Sirens blare throughout the Elaborate Underground Base.
    Colonel Strasser: I want them both crushed. And would someone, kindly, SHUT OFF THAT FUCKING NOISE!
  • X-Men: First Class: As the Soviet freighter approaches the American blockade in the film's version of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the American fleet sounds General Quarters, which includes the bridge crew donning combat helmets and life vests. Seconds later, the Soviet admiral calls Battle Stations.
  • While they don't say "red alert," the Imperial Navy does have an alarm which qualifies. It's used when the Rebel fighters attack the Death Star in A New Hope, albeit at a higher pitch than subsequent uses; when the Avenger collides with and scrapes along another Star Destroyer in The Empire Strikes Back; and finally, in Return of the Jedi when Vader's shuttle is approaching and the Empire is evacuating the Death Star II.
  • Spoofed in Man of Steel. After a massive UFO is seen approaching Earth, the word ALERT is shown flashing on a screen, warning that...Lois Lane's photocopier has run out of toner.
  • Combined with This Is Not a Drill in Threads when the Sheffield emergency council hears an alarm from the HANDEL Warning Console.
    HANDEL Warning Console: Attack warning RED! Attack warning RED!
    Food Officer (Roger Fisher): Is it for real?
    Accommodation Officer: Attack warning's for bloody real!
    Clive Sutton: Right, get to your stations!
  • The climax of Mister Roberts has the captain throwing the siren on screaming "SOUND THE GENERAL ALARM!" while his hapless crew (all Soldiers at the Rear) rush around groggily trying to remember where they were last time they had to man the battle stations a year ago. Why? Because someone threw the captain's palm tree overboard.
  • Averted in Mad Max which opens with the police arguing with the unseen Main Force Patrol dispatcher who refuses to classify their high-speed pursuit of a drug-crazed criminal who murdered a police officer and stole his methane-assisted Pursuit Special as anything other than a 'routine' Code 44. This tells you something about the Crapsack World the audience is being introduced to. It's not until the final act when Max steals his V8 Interceptor for a Roaring Rampage of Revenge that a 'potential Red Alert' is issued.
  • The air raid-type siren that sounds as The Mist spreads across the town. Naturally it doesn't alert anyone to what's coming.
  • When Mewtwo escapes the lab in Pokémon Detective Pikachu, the screens show "ALERT CONDITION: RED" like on Star Trek.
  • Under Ten Flags. A British merchantman is confronted by a disguised German raider, and a crewman says he'd better wake up The Captain.
    First Mate: Get into your lifejacket, laddie—this'll wake him! (hits klaxon)
  • In Spaceballs, Dot Matrix's "Virgin Alarm" goes off with a flashing red decal in her chestplate and a klaxon which Barf mistakes for an Abandon Ship alarm. This is played straight later when Spaceball One's Self-Destruct Button is pressed.
  • A Quiet Place. When Evelyn's pregnancy comes early, she pulls a Big Electric Switch in the basement and the lightbulbs strung around the farm turn a red color, alerting anyone in visual range. She can't use a siren given that there are alien monsters who will be drawn to—and attack—anyone who makes a sound.
  • Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. When Commander Francesca Cook gives the order to alert the Amphibious Squadron, red lights start flashing and a warning klaxon starts sounding as the crews run to their ships.

  • All Hands has a red alert at the very beginning, and even includes a repeated, This Is Not a Drill.
  • In the book The Andromeda Strain, the noise of the sirens going off when areas become contaminated is so loud that they have to ask someone to turn it down so they can communicate. This tends to highlight the fact that the base systems were not tested properly. This is a major Real Life problem, if a system is not designed correctly.
  • The Famous Five: A non-tech version appears in Five go off in a Caravan. Having previously waved a white shirt to signal to the Five that it is safe to visit the camp, both Nobby and Pongo the chimpanzee wave red cloths to tell the Five to stay away.
    Julian: Both Nobby and Pongo are waving red cloths - doubly dangerous!
  • Hive Mind (2016): The alert that sounds to notify the telepath unit about an emergency run is an example of the Emergency Squad Scramble type, with each team checking in after the automated voice announces the alert.
    Unit emergency alert. We have an incident in progress. Operational teams to stations. Strike team to lift 2.
  • Honor Harrington has the General Quarters (GQ) alarm. While the default sound that plays over the speakers is a harsh buzzer, some navies allow captains to choose their own sound for the "we're going to attack someone soon" variant. The "oh crap we're being attacked without warning" variant, however, remains the normal, recognizable, harsh wail.
  • The first Horatio Hornblower novel had its title changed to Beat to Quarters in the States to emphasize the exciting naval action as opposed to happy returns.
  • Star Wars Legends, of course, had to get in on the action, though the original trilogy didn't.
    • In The Thrawn Trilogy, Pellaeon explains to Grand Admiral Thrawn that the wing commander of the scout ships is fairly certain he eluded pursuit, but that he ordered the sentry ships to yellow alert anyway. Thrawn opines that if they were from the Rebellion (as he insists on calling the New Republic), the ships didn't lose their pursuers. Pellaeon asks if they should go to red, to which Thrawn remarks "There's time."
    • Assault at Selonia has Han trying to fly a horribly-built Selonian ship. Nearly all the lights on the control panel are green, but that's not good - for Selonians, red is positive, green is disaster. It's noted the reason for this is because Selonian blood is green, as opposed to human red.
  • The jinx-affected computer in The Woman Who Made Machines Go Haywire spits out a bunch of the more well known red alerts; without any actual reason (aside from it being affected by a jinx, of course).
  • There Will Come Soft Rains. When the Smart House is on fire, it shouts repeated warnings of "Fire!" and "Run!", the Dramatic Irony being that its residents have long since been killed in a nuclear war.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Pretty much every season of 24 features a CTU "lockdown", complete with stereotypical klaxon sirens and flashing red lights.
  • Averted in Altered Carbon. Realising the Caper Crew have successfully hacked their system, the Big Bad orders The Dragon not to sound the security alert as that will tip the heroes off that their intrusion has been discovered. Instead the hack is tracked back to their base and The Dragon is sent to kill or capture everyone there.
  • Played straight on Babylon 5, though notably, while the alarms are sounding loudly throughout the station, warning the station's occupants to seek shelter and the pilots and security guards to prepare for battle, the command center itself is devoid of the alarms and lights. This is to help the command crew avoid any distractions or hindrances to communication, particularly since they're the ones who start the alarm to begin with. Worth noting how the command crew reacts to the Red Alert changes over time, probably as they become more experienced with such situations. In one second season battle, they have to close the blast doors covering the command center's picture window just in time to avoid getting a piece of debris sent flying into them. In the third season, as soon as a battle starts, they immediately shut the blast shield (and sure enough, midway through the battle, a crippled enemy fighter crashes into the shield hard enough to cause the internal bulkhead to buckle).
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978) had this happen regularly whenever the Cylons attacked.
  • The new Battlestar Galactica has the marvelous three-troper:
    Felix Gaeta: Action stations, action stations. Set Condition One throughout the ship. This Is Not a Drill.
    • The series prided itself on being more like a real ship, with accurate (or at least believable) use of jargon, than other sci-fi series. Three vital pieces of information into three short sentences; even if it wasn't accurate, it would probably still be a very efficient system. An aversion of Defcon 5 — in naval parlance, 'Condition One' is sealing all compartments in full battle-readiness (as cited in the second paragraph of the trope's main body), so it's a correct use of jargon.
  • From a review of the Blake's 7 episode "Bounty":
    " say nothing of the guards' color codes, which include Red Standby Alert (apparently meaning stand around and do nothing), Red Mobilisation (wander around outside the house), and Blue Mobilisation (allow the President and his daughter to escape in a vintage car accompanied by two terrorists)."
  • At around the same time, Chappelle's Show did a similar gag. This was extended in the Deleted Scene on the DVD, where after several color combos and unusually specific shades, it ended in "The color of these shoes".
  • The French-Canadian TV show Dans une galaxie près de chez vous poked fun at this numerous times, with such alerts has "Yellow Alert with suspenders and brown socks" "Purple alert with a ketchup stain" etc... One episode reveals that the ship's crew carries a binder explaining the meaning of each and every alert.
  • Doctor Who:
    • The TARDIS has what could be considered a type of Red Alert, the cloister bell, which rings only to signify epic disaster or a serious threat to the TARDIS ("wild catastrophes and sudden calls to man the battle stations", according to the Fourth Doctor).
    • UNIT in particular has been shown to have a penchant for red, with numerous kinds of Red Alerts depending on what they're facing.
      • "The Poison Sky" has Colonel Mace call a "Code Red Sontaran" when they find out about their presence.
      • "The Stolen Earth": UNIT starts off the episode on Red Alert because, well, look at the title. When they learn the Daleks are attacking, they switch to Ultimate Red Alert.
    • In "The Empty Child", the Doctor tells Rose that the interstellar color for danger is mauve, and most alien species consider humanity's penchant for red positively camp.
      The Doctor: Oh, the misunderstandings! All those Red Alerts, all that dancing...
      • Sure enough, in "World Enough and Time", Missy hears a red alert klaxon and starts dancing to it. Mind you, that's likely because she's rather addicted to chaos.
    • In the Action Prologue of "A Christmas Carol", the Ponds try to notify the Doctor of a crashing spaceship.
      Rory: The light's stopped flashing... does this mean he's coming or do I need to change the bulb?
  • Emergency!: When Station 51 gets a call, the alarm tones sound (in one sixth-season episode, "Family Ties," we see the dispatch process in detail, as the call information is passed along to the dispatcher [address, nature of emergency, etc.]), and the dispatcher (the late Sam Lanier, playing himself, uncredited) presses the buttons to sound the tones as needed (one button for minor calls, where only Squad 51 is needed; or multiple buttons for multiple units, where the Squad and the Engine, and other stations' equipment, are needed); Sam would then say, "Squad/Station 51 (and/or other units), X nature of emergency, Y place, Z time of call," and then the required equipment would head that way to where the action was.
  • Parodied in Get Smart; they have Red Alert, but they also have things like "Magenta Alert" and "Blue Alert".
  • Horatio Hornblower has officers bellowing "beat to quarters!" several times an episode, being about Wooden Ships and Iron Men in the days of Napoleon. In "Mutiny" the sailors have significant trouble manning their stations properly since Captain Sawyer has just given them all double rum.
  • JAG: The trope is seen in several episodes in the contemporary U.S. Navy sense.
  • It also appears once on JAG's successor show NCIS when Gibbs alerts a destroyer's skipper of a potential biohazard threat.
    Gibbs: Skipper, I have reason to believe a bomb, possibly containing a biological agent, is set to detonate aboard this ship by sunset.
    Captain: How real do you think that threat is?
    Gibbs: (flatly) Very real.
    Captain: (immediately turns around to face the XO) Sound General Quarters. Deploy the flying squad, start with the ventilation systems, and alert sickbay to the situation and have them stand by.
  • Jokingly Discussed in an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles—when Kensi's cell phone rings and sounds like a red alert siren, Deeks asks if they now have to man their battle stations.
  • The Orville largely being an homage to the Star Trek franchise and particularly Star Trek: The Next Generation, both yellow and red alert are used on a fairly common basis. Tactical alert has also been seen.
  • Person of Interest. In "God Mode" our heroes break into a secret government facility, setting off the red alert. The Oh, Crap! moment occurs when the noise and sirens stop, because they know someone with the authority to cancel the alert has just arrived on the scene.
  • Powerless (2017). When the alarm starts blaring, Emily starts going through a giant binder to identify the code, while the others try to remember it.
    Ron: Which alarm is that? Zombie virus?
    Wendy: Alien invasion.
    Jackie: Giant spider robots from another dimension where the Nazis won?
    Teddy: No, that one goes eeyoo-eeyoo-awdub-awdub...
    Wendy: Ah, yeah.
  • Power Rangers: Practically every episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers would have the alarm in the Command Center going off (represented as a spinning light within a rhombus-shaped shell) whenever there was trouble afoot. Power Rangers Zeo replaced it with a spinning pink and orange light, and Power Rangers Turbo replaced that with a six-segment trapezoidal light-up sign, both of which made the original alarm's noise. Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue had the typical blares used inside the Aquabase, Power Rangers S.P.D. also had similar blares inside the Delta Base and so did Power Rangers RPM in the garage. (Other series may not have blares at all, or alternate means of notification- i.e. Princess Shayla's bubbling fountain.)
  • Quark. Dr. Otto Palindrome is introduced talking about how the crew of his Space Station are able to calmly and rationally handle any crisis. Behind him through a window is the control room: the word DISASTER shows up in red, and the crew start arguing and fainting over the unseen crisis. Otto then turns on the communicator and the room is filled with the klaxon blaring.
    Otto: Until now.
  • Red Dwarf parodied the hell out of this trope and played it for laughs most of the time,
    • The first example kicked off with an exchange highlighting how pointless it was in their circumstances in "Legion":
      Rimmer: Go to Blue Alert.
      Lister: Why? There's no one to alert, we're all here.
      Rimmer: I would just feel better if we were all on our toes because we were all aware this is a blue alert situation.
      Lister: We all are on our toes... (and so on)
    • Famously parodied:
      Rimmer: Go to Blue Alert. [A blue lightbulb at the back of the ship starts flashing silently ]
      (Some time later)
      Rimmer: Step up to Red Alert.
      Kryten: [dead serious] Sir, are you absolutely sure? It DOES mean changing the bulb!
    • What do you get combing Red and Blue Alert? This:
      Holly: Purple Alert! Purple Alert!
      Lister: What's a Purple Alert?
      Holly: Well, it's worse than a Blue Alert, but better than a Red Alert. Kind of a Mauve Alert...
    • "Back in the Red" has a new shade — brown. That can't be pretty.
      Kryten: We must take action! Be bold, positive, decisive! Suggest we move from Blue Alert to Red Alert, sir!
      Cat: Forget red! Let's go all the way up to Brown Alert!
      Kryten: There's no such thing as Brown Alert, sir!
      Cat: You won't be sayin' that in a minute! And don't say I didn't alert you!
    • And combined with Curse of Babel with Holly in "Demons and Angels".
      "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."
  • Averted and then played straight in the first and second seasons of SeaQuest DSV. The original featured a rather low-key alarm klaxon and the 1MC call "General Quarters, all hands to battle stations," along with stock shots of watertight hatches sealing throughout the boat. The second season played the trope to the hilt, adding in lots of flashing red lights and making the siren painfully loud.
  • Stargate SG-1:
    • They avoided Red Alert, primarily because it's set in the modern era or 20 Minutes into the Future; the human starships use General Quarters.
    • The "Unscheduled Offworld Activation" alert, where someone potentially hostile dials in to the SGC gate at a period when they're not expecting arrivals, does use spinning red lights and sirens.
  • The name of this trope comes from the Red Alert in Star Trek. Over the many series Star Trek had accumulated many variants:
    • Yellow Alert - When the ship is approaching a potentially dangerous situation.
    • Double Red Alert - Extreme and immediate danger, e.g. a bomb on board is about to explode. Was eliminated from the show's lexicon after appearing a handful of times in the original series.
    • Blue Alert - The ship is about to enter planetary atmosphere (on Voyager) or about to use its cloaking device (on Deep Space Nine). or is experiencing a life support failure (on Next-Gen). Possibly meant as a general "this might feel weird/we may experience some turbulence" warning.
    • Grey Alert - The ship is running out of fuel and is rationing power to a bare minimum (AKA Condition Grey)
    • Tactical Alert - The same as Red Alert, and in fact its ancestor. (In the early years of Starfleet, the first Enterprise's systems were not exactly optimized; Red Alert was as much an optimization of emergency systems such as hull plating polarization, allowing said systems to power up in seconds rather than minutes, as it was a warning for the crew.)
    • When Reed wanted to create a new emergency protocol that would improve on Tactical Alert, Trip dubs it "Reed Alert".
    • General Quarters, bringing this full circle.
    • There was also a rarely used "Condition Green" which was a distress code to alert the receiver that the landing party had been captured. Given how often it happened, you'd think it would get heard more often. One reason why it wasn't was that it was specified to mean "The landing party has been captured, but don't take any immediate action!". Perhaps confusingly, "Condition Green" was used in some material in the Next Generation era to indicate standard operating mode - "all clear" as opposed to Yellow Alert (elevated alert level) and Red Alert.
    • Also famously parodied in MAD Magazine:
      Spock: Call for General Alert.
      Kirk: Paging General Alert! Paging General Alert!
      Spock: This is no time for joking around, Captain. We have a major disaster here!
      Kirk: Is that so? Then have Major Disaster report to the bridge - at once!
    • In Star Trek (or at least the later series), however, the use of low lighting is somewhat justified, as it means that all the little light-up buttons on the control panels show up better, and means that the light won't reflect off the glass surfaces.
    • On Star Trek: Discovery, the titular starship goes to "Black Alert" whenever they use the experimental "spore drive".
    • Star Trek: Voyager. In "Year of Hell" Neelix is made a security officer and is being his usual annoying self to the Chief Security Officer, Mr Tuvok.
    “We're just about done rebuilding the internal security sensors, and we're just about to program the audio signal. Do you want it to say, ‘Intruder alert’ or do you want it to say something more dramatic like ‘Warning – intruder alert!’ or ‘Intruders among us! Danger! Danger! Intruders among us!’?
  • Briefly featured in the short-lived alien invasion show Threshold, when the heroes have reason to believe their secret base has been compromised: in addition to the flashing red lights (no klaxon), every regular ceiling light in the building is extinguished and replaced by strobes for no apparent reason.
  • UFO (1970): SID (Space Intruder Detector), SHADO Control and Moonbase all call them whenever a UFO is detected, so it happens on an average of once per episode.
  • Parodied on Whose Line Is It Anyway? when the "Red Alert" siren is used for the "Do The Hustle" alarm.
  • Harry Hill's TV Burp had a flashing-lights-and-klaxons Soap Alert for when the characters on EastEnders, Coronation Street, or Emmerdale set themselves up for total disaster—like, say, someone announcing happily to their friends before a wedding that "This will be the best day ever."


  • In Doom (Zen Studios), the table turns red with terror when a wave of demons spawn after you 1) fail a Minigame in "To Hell and Back", or 2) start the "Hell on Mars" side mode. Better get rid of those demons quick!
  • Spelling R-E-D in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines starts this, where the entire playfield is illuminated with red flashers and all shots are worth 1 million points.
  • In The Party Zone, when the "Big Bang" jackpot is lit, every light on the playfield turns red.
  • Multiball in Star Trek: The Next Generation begins with Red Alert klaxons blaring as the Enterprise prepares to open fire on the Borg ship.

  • X Minus One's "The C-Chute": At the start of the episode, a klaxon rings over the intercom, preceding the announcement of the Kloran ship. With the ship on "Condition Red", all crew are supposed to go to their stations while the passengers are confined to one cabin.
    SFX "Now hear this, Condition Red, Condition Red. We are under attack from a Kloran battle cruiser. All hands forward to battle stations. Passengers will remain confined to the aftercabin. Condition Red, we are being attacked, Condition Red."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Since a substantial amount of the fun in Paranoia is screwing with the players/being screwed with by the GM, this kind of thing is actively encouraged, particularly of the "too-loud-to-hear-the-actual-instructions" variety. At least one of the adventure modules has a sequence in which [something bad happens] and, as the players are scrambling in an undoubtedly doomed attempt to fix it, it's suggested that the GM continually shout AOOOGA, AOOOGA while conspicuously looking at a stopwatch ... if he can't find an actual klaxon to use.

    Video Games 
  • Final Fantasy XIII plays with this trope and Colour Coded For Your Inconvenience - First an intruder alert causes Code Red, which later escalates to Code Green, and after the prisoners escape to Code Purple. Hope wonders aloud what the heck it all means, and then it's completely lampshaded when Colonel Nabaat starts having her epic Villainous Breakdown, shouting "That means we're Code Yellow. No, wait, Code Blue?. If we were Orange, that would mean...?" But then Primarch Dysley puts an end to it and remarks that "Desperate times demand flexibility: [Beat] ''Code White!"
  • Half-Life: The Black Mesa Facility would like to inform you that pressing the alert button as a joke is not OK, Dr. Freeman. (Not real dialog, just a joke since you can turn it on and piss people off, and later on it is on by default and you can turn it off For the Evulz).
    • Half-Life 2 does something similar: After disabling some huge thumpers and getting bugbait to control antlions, one of the Combine Bunkers has an alarm going off. Inside, there's a red button that you can push to turn it off.
  • In Star Trek: Armada II, alerts are a form of stance in a vessel or station's AI menu. Green Alert is where a ship will not attack unless given a strict order to do so (this includes not firing back), Yellow Alert will have ships fire at enemy ships and stations if fired upon, Red Alert (default) has ships attack enemy ships and stations if they are in range. A production station's alert status affects the default AI stance of any vessels built from it.
  • In Star Trek: Bridge Commander, you can order First Officer Saffi Larson to set the ship's alert status. Green alert is shields and weapons offline, yellow alert brings up shields to 100% power for protecting the ship from minor hazards (nebulae, etc.) and red alert brings up shields and weapons. There are hotkeys to quickly change alert status which is important as staying on full Red Alert status drains the ship's power. The ship's alert status can also change automatically; if you give Petty Chief Engineer Brex orders to power the shield or weapon systems, those respective alerts are active. Saffi will also automatically call for Red Alert if the ship falls under attack.
  • Star Trek Online features condition red when the player engages an enemy, both in space and on away missions which prevents the player from performing non-combat actions such as full impulse, beaming/warping out to Sector Space, etc.
  • In the PC version of Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, one of the music tracks is called "Red Alert". Fittingly, it typically plays during missions when the shooting starts.
  • The Crusader series of video games bring the trope off of ships and into the world at large. Whenever the alarm goes off, big red bulbs light up (and some spin, like old-style police flashers), klaxons sound, and a bland female voice says things like, "Code Red!" Oddly, nine times out of the ten the Silencer, usually the cause of the Red Alert, can shut it off by tapping a switch on the wall.
  • Used reasonably in the Escape Velocity series: a warning alarm sounds when a hostile vessel turns its attention on you - and then promptly shuts up, letting you frag the baddies and/or get the heck out of Dodge as appropriate. (If you have an IFF Decoder, you may also get to see the enemy vessel's dot turn red at this moment.) A klaxon also blares constantly while your ship is disintegrating; you'll want to deploy your Escape Pod when you hear this if the Strict Play option is on.
  • Similarly, in the X-Universe series, when a hostile ship comes within about 10 kilometers, you hear a single bleep, then the background music changes to the battle soundtrack.
  • The Evil Genius video game has three alert levels: Normal (green button, normal duties), Warning (yellow button, everybody is armed and ready), and Danger (red button, everybody is armed, ready, runs, and fires at will). Warning and Danger both cause a klaxon to sound continually in the background. This gets annoying really fast, especially at Yellow Alert. All you want is for your minions to walk around armed, in case enemy soldiers show up. So why do you have to keep listening to that annoying klaxon? There is, fortunately, a glitch, where if you double-tap the button in rapid succession the klaxon stops.
  • Bosconian features a "CONDITION" indicator. If it's "GREEN", that means no enemies are attacking, but it will eventually change to "YELLOW" ("Alert! Alert!"), and you will have to destroy one of the hexagon-like space stations to get it back to "GREEN". Condition "RED!!" (as it appears in-game) only appears if you take too long to complete a stage. During this time, the enemies attack relentlessly, making more likely for you to lose a life.
  • Halo:
    • In Halo 3, when a Scarab is about to explode, a submarine klaxon-type sound is heard. The same sound is heard when destroying the large artillery emplacements in Halo: Reach.
    • At the beginning of Halo: Combat Evolved, when Capt. Keyes is convinced that there's no way to sneak past the Covenant battle group stationed at Installation 04, he orders the Pillar of Autumn brought to "Combat Alert Alpha". Klaxons sound throughout the ship, the crew and Marine complement get to their stations, and the cryogenics bay thaws out the Master Chief. This doesn't last too long as the MAC Gun gets taken out and in accordance of Cole Protocol, orders everyone, especially the Chief and Cortana, to abandon ship while he lands the Autumn on the ring.
    • In Halo 5: Guardians, when you destroy the Kraken's reactor, a klaxon can be heard, as well as an Elite yelling for everyone to abandon ship.
    Soldier: A red spy is in the base?!
    • And of course actual alerts during gameplay: "Alert! The enemy has taken our intelligence!" And for that matter: "A spy is sapping my sentry!"
  • Played straight in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, as the GFS Olympus goes into "Condition Red" during the Space Pirate attack at the beginning of the game.
  • In the Disgaea series, the arrival of a crew of pirates in the Item World is preceded by the sound of klaxons and the screen flashing red a few times.
  • Darius:
    • Announcing boss fights with a loud siren and a screen-wide warning is a hallmark of the franchise.
    • In Dariusburst Chronicle Saviours in CS Mode, clearing certain missions will trigger a "WARNING" screen on the mission map and disable surrounding missions, replacing them with alternate versions until those new missions are completed.
  • Armor Games' Web Game In3structotank during the introductory sequence. As Dirk Danger is drinking coffee a light descends from above and starts flashing red, causing him to do a Spit Take.
  • Magical Doropie introduces Boss Battles with a red flashing screen saying "ALERT!!"
  • In Mega Man X: Command Mission, and, even earlier, in Mega Man X4 Boss Battles open with an alarm siren and the word "WARNING" flashing in red stencil letters.
  • In Touhou, the nuclear-powered final boss of Subterranean Animism, Utsuho Reiuji, is unique in that she announces her spellcards not with the generic noise and Super Move Portrait Attack, but with sirens and CAUTION scrolling across the screen.
  • Rock Raiders players could sound "Action Stations" if a monster or slimy slug showed up, which caused any armed Rock Raiders to start attacking the critters in question. It also sounded automatically if a building was damaged.
  • FTL: Faster Than Light has any number of warnings that alert you to things like your hull integrity running down, enemy Boarding Parties, and the Rebel Flagship's dreaded Power Surge.
  • Descent: "Self Destruct Sequence Activated", followed by klaxons, strobing lights, and seismic tremors, after the destruction of each reactor or boss.
  • The final non-Zero-Effort Boss boss of Gradius Gaiden has no background music. Instead, you're treated to several minutes of emergency klaxons.
  • A subtle example: in XCOM: Enemy Unknown, every time abduction sites are located, or a UFO is detected, a small warning alarm goes off (code yellow). When a terror site occurs, a louder, more insistent alarm is trigger (code red). The "Activation" cutscene at the beginning of the game also shows the red alert as soldiers are scrambled for the first time.
    • A less subtle example happens in the Enemy Within expansion during the XCOM Base Defense mission. Bradford even states "Security Status RED" before fighting off an attacker.
  • A rather annoying example in The Journeyman Project. The deep-sea military base NORAD VI in 2112 has an alarm perpetually going off accompanied by a bland voice repeating that sleeping gas is in the vents (which you have to avoid using an oxygen mask). And it lasts for almost the entire time zone. The remake, Pegasus Prime explicitly classifies the situation as "Red Alert", slightly quiets the alarm and voice, and adds a section involving piloting a submarine from one base to another, while avoiding torpedoes fired by the operators of other subs and the bases.
    • Earlier, the Temporal Security Annex has this when the time rip occurs: "Warning. Warning. Warning. Temporal rip detected. Alert status: Alpha. Temporal distortion imminent. Agent 5, proceed to Ready Room."
    • The protagonist's time travel suit has "Yellow" (50%), "Orange" (25%), and "Red" (Critical) alert levels as its energy supply depletes.
  • Space Quest I and its VGA remake start with Roger Wilco waking up from a nap in the janitor's closet on the starlab Arcada, finding too late that the ship has been invaded by Sariens and the ship will self-destruct in 15 minutes.
    • In the VGA remake, there are two electronic signs that say "Red Alert". You can smell and taste them with the extra cursors, with hilarious results.
      • Smell: "You notice a smell common to electronics which haven't had power applied to them in a long time."
      • Taste: "Boy, was that a bad idea! Your tongue now bears the residue left behind by adventurers who, like yourself, have felt the need to press various and sundry organs against the sign."
  • SimCity 2000 has a civil defense siren that goes off in the event of a disaster, whether selected by the player or automatically started in-game. There's an option for "No Disasters", and a special track is called "Disaster Decision" in some versions.
  • In P.N.03, after defeating the Mission 9 boss, a self-destruct timer starts, the lights strobe on and off, and a stock submarine-style klaxon begins blaring.
  • Bosses are announced by a klaxon plus more or less Engrish in Blazing Star.
  • RayCrisis: "Encroachment over 90%! Encroachment over 90%! Encroachment over 90%!"
  • In Twisted Metal: Black's Prison Passage stage, klaxons sound followed by PA system announcements as the ship the player starts on prepares to dock at the prison. There's also the low health klaxon.
  • Metroid has "Time Bomb Set! Get Out Fast!" after destroying Mother Brain. The Famicom Disk System version also has a buzzing klaxon during the escape sequence.
  • Super Metroid has two Red Alert situations; at the beginning, when Ridley attacks Ceres Station and kidnaps the Metroid hatchling, triggering the Self-Destruct Mechanism; and at the end, when Zebes is about to undergo an Earth-Shattering Kaboom. In both instances, a klaxon is integrated into the music.
  • In Flashback, one of the jobs in New Washington is a Timed Mission where you must race to the city's nuclear reactor core to stop it from going critical, with alert klaxons blaring along the way.
  • Metal Gear (MSX)'s music for when Snake is spotted by the enemy is actually called "Red Alert" on the soundtrack album. A klaxon alarm also plays in certain alert situations, such as triggering a laser tripwire.
  • In the Cinematronics arcade game Danger Zone, a siren signals an incoming nuclear strike.
  • Ikaruga, in addition to the traditional Boss Warning Siren, plays an ominous low-pitched klaxon prior to the Bullet Hell extravaganza in Chapter 4-2.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog
    • Sonic CD, in lieu of the terrifying "Drowning" music used in other titles, uses a klaxon when Sonic is running out of oxygen underwater or running out of time in a Special Stage, in fact the same one as the alarms in Launch Base Zone from Sonic 3 & Knuckles.
    • Sonic Adventure, in the last third of Sonic's version of Final Egg:
    Emergency! Emergency! Dispose of any intruders!
    • Sonic Adventure 2 opens its Dark Story campaign with Eggman breaking into a GUN base, with yet more security alerts going off during Eggman's first stage.
    ''Intruder alert! Intruder alert! Security breach at Gate 3! Intruder has been located in the northern quadrant and is moving in the direction of the underground base! All units prepare to engage! Emergency battle formations: standard battle procedures initiated! Locate and stop the intruder from entering the security area! This is not a drill! Repeat: This is not a drill!
  • Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis has Emergency Mode, complete with repetitive alarm, that sends park visitors scrambling for cover. Frequently doubles as an Emergency Squad Scramble since unless the cause for alarm is a storm that miraculously does no damage, an Emergency Mode declaration usually involves deploying your dinosaur containment teams to rope in escaped specimens.
  • MacSpudd!!, an old Macintosh game utilizing the World Builder engine, has a klaxon and "WARNING" voice when the player's vehicle is critically damaged.
  • Sol Cresta's boss battles are announced with a Boss Warning Siren that says, "WARNING: A big enemy is approaching at full throttle. There is a huge hostile reaction. Intercept it with a perfect attitude. Ready to fire." For mini-bosses, it's yellow, while for main bosses, it's red.


    Western Animation 
  • In a Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode that parodies the Homeland Security color alert system, code red is followed by code blackwatch plaid, which is then followed by an alert consisting of the cover art from Rush's Moving Pictures album.
  • Red Alert! WOO WOO WOO WOO!
    • To completely ruin the joke, there is a Transformer named Red Alert. The meme comes from a Red Alert toy note  that would say his name followed by a brief siren if you pushed a button. "Red! Uh-lurt! Woo woo woo woo!"
  • In Metalocalypse, the Tribunal calls a "Purple Alert" when Nathan Explosion is elected governor of Florida. It's extremely irritating.
  • The Herculoids episode "Prisoners of the Bubblemen". After Dorno frees Zandor and Tarra, the enemy leader orders "Sound the alarm" and a tower starts a lighthouse-like rotating red light at its top, with a whooping siren accompaniment.
  • Jonny Quest TOS
    • Episode "The Sea Haunt". As the title creature climbs onto the deck of the ship the captain tells a crewman to "Sound the alarm! All hands on deck!", and an alarm bell starts ringing.
    • In both "Arctic Splashdown" and "The Robot Spy" there are "scramble alerts" at Air Force bases, with jets taking off. In "The Robot Spy" the Duty Officer actually says he's going to call a "Red Scramble" and pushes a Big Red Button with the label "Red Alert".

    Real Life 
  • Britain's version of the DEFCON system was the BIKINI alert system, which operates in this manner. The colour scale consists of (in ascending order) White, Black, Black Special, Amber and Red. It was replaced by "UK Threat Level" system in 2006, which isn't a color-coded system.
    • The HANDEL system, which was the UK's Nuclear Attack warning system and companion to the BIKINI states, also had this, with "Attack Warning Red" being the cue to set off the Four Minute Warning. Other colours included "Fallout Warning Black", which meant imminent fallout danger, "Fallout Warning Grey" which was for expected fallout and "Attack Warning White" which was the all clear.
  • Truth in Television: The United States Department of Homeland Security Terror Alert Level, which is on Yellow by default. There are two lower levels (Blue and Green), but they have never been called. Orange Alert has been called a few times, but Red Alert has only been called once, after some idiot terrorists tried to sneak liquid explosives onboard airplanes coming in from England and have caused problems for millions of air travelers since.
    • Shortly after the terror alert system was first created, Jay Leno did a bit on The Tonight Show spoofing it. The final mock colour alert was "White with a black dot," which meant "Terrorists are impersonating Jay Leno."
    • The system was also spoofed by Stephen Colbert in the opening on one episode of The Colbert Report. Colbert reported that the alert level had been raised to brown, because "somebody spilled coffee on the chart."
    • Another spoof, this one from Saturday Night Live: a color-coded system is introduced and explained, but all the colors are virtually-indistinguishable shades of white (white, off-white, bone, putty, etc.)
    • Also mocked by comedian Ron White. He says if it were up to him, there would be two levels of alert: "Go find a helmet", and "Put on the damm helmet".
  • Some real-life fire alarms sound like red alert klaxons.
  • HMNB Devonport, in Plymouth, UK, tests the Nuclear Accident Siren every Monday morning at 1130. This is a massive, WWII-esque 'The bombers are coming!' alarm that can be heard about a mile away in parts of the city and is a little unnerving if you haven't heard it before or aren't expecting it.
    • This is common to all sites holding significant amounts of nuclear material, such as the Harwell Campus, containing the former Atomic Energy Research Establishment where much of Britain's nuclear research and development was done. The timings can differ though, with siren tests at Harwell only carried out monthly.
  • Residents of the midwestern United States are no doubt intimately familiar with tornado sirens, which are designed to emit an amazingly loud wailing sound when a tornado is spotted nearby, warning everybody to seek shelter immediately.
    • Although all it usually does is either prompt people to run outside and see the funnel cloud or to sit inside and turn the TV to the local news to see how close it is.
    • Military installations will often use a similar system, which include the added convenience of a distinctive alarm reserved for incoming enemy attack.
    • Especially in the suburbs and rural areas of the northeastern US and in rural Germany, but also in other places around the world that rely on volunteer firefighters, these sirens will often be instead used to alert volunteer firefighters, almost always alongside pagers. However, many communities have begun to remove their fire sirens due to noise complaints and rising call volumes.
    • A more comprehensive list of common signals in the United States is the steady "Alert" tone for weather-based warnings which can also include severe thunderstorms, the wailing "Attack" tone which is intended for an incoming enemy attack back during the Cold War days, an alternating "Hi-Lo" tone usually reserved for fire calls, etc. This is by no means what every state or city uses, as some use their own system of tones, leading to the infamous "broken" siren in Chicago that sounds "Alternate Wail" which is a combined wailing and hi-lo signal.
  • Some retail businesses such as Walmart have color-coded alerts announced over the PA system to advise employees of emergencies such as a natural disaster (code black), armed person on store grounds (code brown), medical emergency (code white), bomb threat (code blue), and fire (code red), among others. This includes the dreaded Code Adam (Missing Child).
  • Hospitals often use a color code system for various situations: Code Red is for fire or smoke, Code Blue is for a cardiac or respiratory emergency, Code Grey is a patient that's become violent or combative, and Code Silver means a weapon or hostage situation.
  • Modern US Navy warships actually have several alarms, which all sound distinct so you can tell precisely which emergency you are in. They are the Collision, Chemical, Flight Crash, and of course General alarms. Each alarm is usually followed by an announcement re-enforcing the alarm and giving specific directions. Additionally, a brass bell is rung over the announcing system in the case of a fire, flooding, or other damage to the ship, with directions on where to go to fight the casualty.
    • For example: *GENERAL ALARM SOUNDS* "General Quarters, General Quarters, all hands man your battlestations. Proceed up and forward to starboard, down and aft to port. Reason for General Quarters is: (missile inbound/torpedo sighted/alien attack/drill/etc)."
    • For a fire: *BELLS SOUND* "Fire, fire fire! Fire in compartment (compartment number), (compartment name). Away the at-sea fire party, provide from Repair 5. All hands not involved, stand clear of the scene."
      • On an aircraft carrier, however, this changes. Carriers require everyone to man their assigned fire stations and prepare to fight a fire. Not reacting to these alarms can result in serious injury or death, such as what happened during the disastrous fire aboard USS Forrestal in 1967. Many of the people killed in the fire were asleep when the fire broke out on the flight deck, and were killed when the fire spread to their quarters after two large bombs detonated. The policy changed after that, and came in really handy a year and a half later when a similar fire broke out aboard the carrier USS Enterprise. Having all hands assisting with fire suppression enabled the ship to get the fire under control within four hours, losing only 28 men killed — a huge difference from the Forrestal fire which took more than a day to extinguish completely and killed 134 men.
  • For German U-Boats, a crash (or emergency) dive would begin by someone shouting "ALARM!!!" Afterwards, an alarm bell would sound throughout the boat as the crew rushed to get to their diving stations. As the engine crew sealed the exhaust vents, shut down the diesel engines, and switched to the electric motors, all available crew would rush forward to the torpedo room in order to give the boat extra weight to pull it down while the forward ballast tanks were opened. They were authentically recreated in the film Das Boot.
    • "Alarm" is also the German go-to word for red alert and is used for any military situation in which readiness must be immediate.
  • In the Age Of Sail, drums were commonly used to sound the alarm - the English Royal Navy of this era ordered it to be done with "Beat to Quarters!", realistically depicted in Master and Commander (see above) - since they could be heard throughout the ship. This was not only done when they had spotted an enemy, but would also sometimes be done as a matter of routine at daybreak, as this was the time they were most likely to be sighted by an enemy, meaning it was best to be prepared for a fight.
    • Another old pre-siren alarm used on Civil War-era ironclads was a gragger, which was a large ratchet-type device where a board attached to a rotating mechanism would be spun by a coiled spring around a large ratchet gear which would be static and attached to a post on the deck, producing a loud clacking sound as the board moved over the gear's teeth. If you've ever heard a gragger, you know that even the small ones can be loud so you can only imagine what one the size of a small naval cannon anchored to the deck would sound like to sleeping sailors.

Emergency Squad Scramble Examples:

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Ghostbusters (1984). The first time a call comes in, Janine hits the siren and the title characters do a Emergency Squad Scramble to get dressed and take off in the Ectomobile.
    • Justified in that they set up shop in an old, abandoned, apparently-still-functional, yet remarkably cheap firehouse. The confused look on everyone's face for about 5-10 seconds after the bells start going implies that, in-universe at least, this wasn't part of the plan and Janine just felt like doing it.
    • The surprised look is because it's their first job ever. The comedy comes from the fact that Janice had just assured the client they'll be very discreet — cue flashing lights and sirens.

    Live-Action TV 
  • This is a staple of Chicago Fire, with activities at Firehouse 51 coming to a halt when the distinctive klaxon goes off and the dispatcher announces, in the event of a major call out, "Battalion 25, Engine 51, Truck 81, Squad 3, Ambulance 61: [TYPE OF EMERGENCY] at [ADDRESS]".
  • Code Red had a really dramatic Emergency Squad Scramble with a large firehouse crew and fleet, including the Fire Chief in his own car, as shown here.
  • Emergency! had the distinctive Quick Call system where each station has its own series of tones to indicate it is being called up and a klaxon that sounds to confirm that Station 51 is being deployed. The dispatcher would then specify what unit(s) were being called ("Squad" for the medics, "Engine" for the fire engine, or "Station" for both), where they had to go, and the time of the alert. Once, a very tired John Gage mixed them up when awakened and climbed on the engine rear by mistake, with DeSoto yelling behind him "IT'S NOT FOR US!"
  • London's Burning usually featured a similar but lower-key scene centered on one or two fire engines.
  • In S.W.A.T. (1975), the opening credits started with the team responding to an alert over their radio by gearing up and boarding their police van. As seen here.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The Tabletop RPG Shadowrun supplement "Neo-Anarchists' Guide to Real Life'' mentioned how exciting it was to watch a DocWagon Crisis Response Team respond to a crisis "Code Blue" alert.

    Video Games 

    Western Animation 
  • Fireman Sam: "All present and correct, sir!" "Right, let's go!"

    Real Life 
  • The underground WWII Cabinet War Rooms in London did this trope with classic British understatement. Their air raid alarm was a modest doorbell at the exit stairs, with the sign "This bell ringing indicates immediate danger overhead". Bunker occupants were thus warned that going outside was temporarily inadvisable.
  • A variation on this trope occurs in hospital emergency departments, in which an ambulance crew can radio a hospital dispatcher for "medical control" - asking a hospital-based doctor for instructions on how to manage a critically ill/injured patient while en route. The dispatcher's radio will emit a loud, harsh buzz/honk sound, audible throughout the triage area, when such a call is placed. If the call warrants assembling a resuscitation team, the dispatcher will then issue an overhead page to the rest of the department, indicating what the emergency is (adult or pediatric, medical or trauma) and how long before it arrives.
    • It is also worth note that most hospitals DO have a "code red." It is used in case of fire. (other common codes are blue, in case of cardiac arrest; ADAM, in case of missing persons; triage, in case of a large amount of incoming emergency patients; and some sort of bomb threat code.)
  • This is also how most fire departments work. Tones will come over the PA system followed by the dispatcher saying which units are to be dispatched and the nature and location of the call.
    • The tones have another purpose besides an audible alert. Each department in an area will have distinct two-tone alerts that are used to un-squelch pagers and radios, so as to not hear the radio all day unless a call comes in. Firefighters and EMS workers can tell who is being dispatched just by recognizing the tones.
      • In communities with volunteer fire and EMS, these tones activate pagers and, if a fire department still has it, a control box in the station that activates a siren. However, many communities have removed their sirens due to noise complaints.
    • Fire stations in countries where the fire department and ambulance service are separate organisations usually use a simple bell or klaxon to summon the crews to their vehicle or vehicles. British fire stations usually send details about the call-out to an old school dot-matrix printer loaded with carbon paper; ambulances, which are usually off-station to shorten response times and are sometimes called upon to transfer patients between hospitals, have police-style radio sets instead.
      • Many paid fire departments also use this system instead of tones, such as New York City and Chicago. This is because they are both too large and too busy for radio tones.
    • Before there was computer-aided dispatching, radios, or printers, there was the Fire Alarm Box System, the most well-known being the Gamewell system made in Massachusetts, where a majority of fire departments still use this system. This utilizes red fire alarm boxes on each corner as well as a telegraph system. When a box is pulled, it goes to a fire alarm office, who will then retransmit the box number to the stations needed for the call. Paid fire departments who use this system, such as Boston, where this system was first installed in 1852, will have bells in their stations to ring out the box number closest to the emergency. For volunteer departments, they may have a Gamewell Diaphone, a horn that will blow the box number. As with sirens, many communities have removed diaphones as well as a variety of other horns due to noise complaints.

Scramble Run Examples:

  • In the Star Wars Legends novel Specter of the Past, we are treated to two separate chapters starting with the battle alarm going off at an unfair moment for Wedge Antilles: the first time in the middle of dessert, the second in the middle of the night. (His commander was feeling hunchy, though, and so Rogue Squadron were already sleeping in their ships...)

    Live-Action TV 
  • UFO (1970): The voice of Master Computer and early warning system SID: "Red--Alert--Red--Alert--U-F-O--U-F-O." One of the most direct Battle of Britain homages on this page, not surprising given that Gerry Anderson spent his National Service in the RAF.
    • Moonbase called them too. SHADO Control once called a "Maximum Security Alert - Condition Red".
  • Battlestar Galactica (1978) has the requisite rush for the warriors to get their flight gear. In addition, a battlestar is so big a ship that the scramble run includes an internal railcar system running the length of the ship to ensure that pilots report to the launch areas at once.

    Video Games 
  • Wing Commander:
    • In the original game, the Fighter-Launching Sequence included a shot of pilots running down a passageway to their ships while red lights were flashing for a red alert, even with routine, previously planned missions where there was no need to rush.
    • In Wing Commander IV, Blair's Oh, Crap! moment about the heavy carrier Vesuvius turning around to engage the light carrier Intrepid is immediately followed by him calling "Battlestations!", and rushing off to his fighter to launch in defense of the Intrepid.
  • Starlancer has a short cutscene of fighter crews running along the corridor while a red light flashes. One can only assume the Squadron Leader's briefings have a tendency to overrun.
  • Star Fox: "BUREEP! BUREEP! BUREEP! Emergency! Emergency! Incoming enemy fighters, prepare for launch!"
  • Rigid Force Alpha: "[klaxons] Captain! The station is under attack by an unknown force. Deploying Rigid Force Alpha. Heavy battles reported. Prepare for combat, Good luck, captain!"
  • Janes USAF: The Red Arrow “training campaign” begins with Nellis AFB coming under attack. A klaxon blares as the ATC says the following
    Scramble! Scramble! We are under attack! Alarm RED! Alarm RED! This is Tower! Anyone who can take off, do it NOW!! Flush! Flush! Everyone, Take Off!

  • Benjamin Glee thinks strafing is the best way to show you're focused, even if there isn't a Red Alert.
  • Air Force Blues had Barbie eating a sandwich when the the red light came on, followed by his squadron commander yelling at him to SCRAMBLE!

    Western Animation 
  • SWAT Kats has their scramble alarm linked to Callie Briggs' communicator. It sounds the alert buzzer and flashes the red light throughout the main building in the salvage yard, especially in the garage where they often are fixing cars. Whenever it goes off, it's time to move move move!
  • ReBoot: When Megabyte attacks the Principal Office in Bad Bob, a guard binome presses a large red button causing red lights to flash, claxons to sound, and the system voice to keep calmly repeating "Scramble". Six binomes are shown running to their CPU flying cars and taking off.

    Real Life 
  • Most uses of this trope can be traced to the real-life Battle of Britain, the first time that radar technology allowed defending fighters enough warning to wait on the ground rather than running constant standing patrols. The 1969 film features many examples, with pilots lounging in the sun in full flight gear until the dispatcher rings the scramble bell.
  • This practice still goes on today in NATO, where it's called Quick Reaction Alert or QRA for short. The British used it for their V-bombers (which were bombed up), where you possibly had as little as five minutes before nukes started landing, the instruction being take off and head for the "start line" .
    • The far more common version of this, on a nearly daily basis during the Cold War and about monthly now involves fighter jets (usually two) being scrambled to intercept and escort away Soviet/Russian "Bear" bombers who have entered NATO-monitored airspace to test reaction times- i.e. for the fun of it.
  • In modern times, many military installations will have a public address system that is used to warn of imminent attack or natural disaster, in a Real Life version of Canned Orders over Loudspeaker. For the alarms related to enemy attacks, the American military uses a color-coded alarm system, with Red typically being reserved for imminent or ongoing large-scale attacks.
    • The tradition dates back to World War II, during which the radio broadcast "Condition Red" was used to warn anyone with a radio that the sender had detected an imminent enemy attack, usually but not always by enemy aircraft. "Very Red" was also used a couple of times in the Pacific to describe very large attacks.



Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Emergency Squad Scramble, Code Red


Assault on Prison Island

Eggman launches a one-man raid on Prison Island in search of its dark secret.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / RedAlert

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