• Before making a single edit, Tropedia EXPECTS our site policy and manual of style to be followed. Failure to do so may result in deletion of contributions and blocks of users who refuse to learn to do so. Our policies can be reviewed here.
  • All images MUST now have proper attribution, those who neglect to assign at least the "fair use" licensing to an image may have it deleted. All new pages should use the preloadable templates feature on the edit page to add the appropriate basic page markup. Pages that don't do this will be subject to deletion, with or without explanation.
  • All new trope pages will be made with the "Trope Workshop" found on the "Troper Tools" menu and worked on until they have at least three examples. The Trope workshop specific templates can then be removed and it will be regarded as a regular trope page after being moved to the Main namespace. THIS SHOULD BE WORKING NOW, REPORT ANY ISSUES TO Janna2000, SelfCloak or RRabbit42. DON'T MAKE PAGES MANUALLY UNLESS A TEMPLATE IS BROKEN, AND REPORT IT THAT IS THE CASE. PAGES WILL BE DELETED OTHERWISE IF THEY ARE MISSING BASIC MARKUP.


WikEd fancyquotes.pngQuotesBug-silk.pngHeadscratchersIcons-mini-icon extension.gifPlaying WithUseful NotesMagnifier.pngAnalysisPhoto link.pngImage LinksHaiku-wide-icon.pngHaikuLaconic

All hands to battlestations!

"I remember that sound! That's a bad sound!"

The phrase "Red Alert" comes from the naval tradition of "General Quarters" ("Action Stations" if you're British), where a ship prepares for battle. Much 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 one of the most important steps taken is to close all watertight doors, thus if the ship is holed the leak is contained. See Red Alert for a wiki version.

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 Power Walk that can be called the Scramble Run where the pilots, are seen sprinting to their fighters in full flight gear.

Now, keep in mind, this is not to be confused with Command And 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 Five. And to Red Filter of Doom.

Understand? Good. Let's move out.

Examples of Red Alert include:

Anime and Manga

  • The Macross franchise (and presumably Robotech), play this more realistically, with General Quarters and condition levels rather than the klaxon and red light.
  • Happens several times in the anime Hanaukyo Maid Tai Hanaukyo Maid Tai (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!"



  • Doctor 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.
  • 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.
  • Toy Story - "Red alert! Red alert! Andy is coming upstairs!"

 Woody: Yard sale? Sarge! Emergency roll call!

Sergeant: Sir, yes, sir! Red alert! All civilians fall in position now!

  • Ghostbusters. 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 shot 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.
  • Master and Commander had a scene where a young officer, suspecting the enemy ship is nearby in the fog and about to attack, calls "Beat to quarters!" We see the Napoleonic War version of a ship going into Red Alert and the officer's decision proves most prudent as the ship is fired upon and the crew is ready for battle.


  • Star Wars, 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."
    • A novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe 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.
  • In the book The Andromeda Strain, the noise of the sirens going off when areas become contaminated is so loud that it 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.

Live Action TV

  • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Famously parodied on Red Dwarf:

 Rimmer: Go to Blue Alert.

(Some time later)

Rimmer: Step up to Red Alert.

Kryten: Sir, are you absolutely sure? It does mean changing the bulb!

    • Also:

 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...

    • Not to mention the first example kicked off with an exchange highlighting how pointless it was in their circumstances:

 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)

      • And who could forget:

 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!

  • Speaking of which, in the first season of the revived Doctor Who, 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.

    • UNIT in particular has been shown to have a penchant for red, employing "Red Alert", "Code Red Sontaran", and "Ultimate Red Alert in season 4.
    • The TARDIS has what could be considered a type of Red Alert, the cloister bell, which rings to signify a galactic disaster. I.e the end of the universe.
  • 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.
  • Stargate SG-1 avoided Red Alert, despite many of its characters being Dangerously Genre Savvy, primarily because it's set in the modern era or Twenty Minutes Into the Future; the human starships use General Quarters.
    • The "Unscheduled Offworld Activation" alert does use spinning red lights and sirens, though.
  • Pretty much every season of 24 features a CTU "lockdown", complete with stereotypical klaxon sirens and flashing red lights.
  • 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. Note: three vital pieces of information into three short sentences; even if it wasn't accurate it would probably still be a very efficient system. (In addition, it's actually an aversion of Defcon Five--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.)
    • The original 1970's series had this happen regularly too, whenever the Cylons attacked.
  • From a review of the Blakes Seven 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".
  • 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.
  • Parodied in Get Smart; they have Red Alert, but they also have things like "Magenta Alert" and "Blue Alert".

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 "This means we have a Code Blue! Or maybe Code Yellow. If it was Code Orange that would mean...?" But then Primarch Dysley puts an end to it and remarks that "Desperate times demand flexibility: [[[Beat]]] Code White!"
  • 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).
  • In Star Trek Armada II, alerts contain a different approach, Green alert is were 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 ship's and stations if fired upon, Red alert (Default) has ships attack enemy ships and stations if there in range
  • 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.)
  • 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).
    • 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? Editing a game file could probably solve that issue, unless this was intentional so that your minions don't walk around armed.
  • 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.
  • In Halo 3, when a Scarab is about to explode, a submarine klaxon type sound is heard.
  • 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.
  • Announcing boss fights with a loud siren and a screen-wide warning is a hallmark of the Darius franchise.
  • 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, Boss Battles open with an alarm siren and the word "WARNING" flashing in red stencil letters.


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!
  • Sev Trek: Puss in Boots (the Australian CGI spoof of Star Trek: The Next Generation). The ship goes to Red Alert, but it's so loud no-one can hear the captain's orders.
  • 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 the DEFCON system is the BIKINI alert system, which operates in this manner. The colour scale consists of (in ascending order) White, Black, Black Special, Amber and Red. Most of these refer to terrorism, except Red Alert which means either "Britain is at war" and/or "imminent nuclear attack." Presently thanks to the heightened risk of terrorism, most government installations are on Black Special by default.
    • That was replaced by 'UK Threat Level' about... ooh, about five years ago. We had to replace all the signs. It's been at 'Heightened' since its inception.
  • 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 travellers 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.
  • 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.

Emergency Squad Scramble Examples:

Live Action TV

  • 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.
  • London's Burning usually featured a similar but lower-key scene centered on one or two fire engines.
  • 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 the Station 51 is being deployed.
  • S.W.A.T. 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.

Western Animation

Real Life

  • 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.

Scramble Run Examples:


  • In the Star Wars Expanded Universe 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 Television

  • The voice of 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".

Video Games

  • Wing Commander often featured this.
    • In particular, the Fighter Launching Sequence in the first Wing Commander game is accompanied by a Red Alert complete with klaxon, even for routine patrol missions.
  • Spiritual Successor Starlancer carries on the tradition, with 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.

Web Comics

  • Benjamin Glee thinks strafing is the best way to show you're focused, even if there isn't a Red Alert.

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!

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 2, 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.