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"This is the Captain speaking. We're just about to enter the patrol area. From now until the time we return there will be no drills. All alarms are real."

—Announcement made on US nuclear submarine during 1961

(But this is.)

Declaration that is invariably included in the announcements of any military emergency situation, prompting the question of just what (if anything) is said when it really is a drill.

Answer: On modern warships, drills are conducted frequently to prepare the crew for some emergency situation or another. Typically an announcement is given throughout the ship before starting the drill (something like: "the ship is entering a training environment..." or "This is a drill, this is a drill!") so that no one actually takes any actions which would be appropriate in an emergency but harmful otherwise. For example: Triggering the engine room's Halon flood if there is not an actual engine fire. This would: 1) Mightily piss off everyone who works there, 2) Risk their deaths by suffocation if they can't get their emergency oxygen gear on in time, and 3) cost a whole heckuvalot to replace the Halon and emergency oxygen gear. Thus, if a real emergency occurs while a drill is being carried out, the announcement "Actual casualty!" or "This is not a drill!" will be given to alert everyone.

Second Answer: In the US Air Force, training messages are preceded by the announcement, spoken or written: EXERCISE EXERCISE EXERCISE. Other announcements are assumed to be real world.

The Royal Navy simply add a prefix - drills are preceded by 'For Exercise' three times. There's also the Safeguard Rule - when this is in force, no mention is made of drills/exercises, and everything is announced as if it was real. Any genuine incidents are preceded by the word 'Safeguard'. It's a distinctive word, and everyone knows what it means, so there is no need to remind people that 'This is not a drill'. Nothing makes people freeze like hearing 'Safeguard, safeguard, safeguard!' over the main broadcast.

Has nothing at all to do with This Is Not A Pipe.

Examples of This Is Not a Drill include:

Anime and Manga

  • Full Metal Panic! has an interesting example—when Gauron had taken control of the AI of the high-tech submarine, the Tuatha de Danaan, he started a fire-drill to isolate the entire crew in the cargo deck. During this drill, the speakers did in fact blare, "This is a drill"...
  • The Ghost in the Shell anime does this properly, when a chopper pilot dies during a training exercise, the dispatcher announces "This is not a drill" before giving the order to withdraw.

Fan Works


Emergency meeting 2p today.
Club room.
REAL emergency. Not a drill.
- R



  • Star Wars: Subverted; stormtroopers ignore Obi-Wan's sabotaging the Death Star's tractor beam. One even says in response to the sudden security measures, "It's probably another drill." This is because Vader wanted the Millennium Falcon and its crew to escape and lead the Imperials to the Rebel base.
  • Any movie involving nuclear missile submarines will have at least a reference to missile launch drills.
    • In Crimson Tide, a fire breaks out in the kitchen. While the first mate is helping to put the fire out, the Captain orders a launch drill, although the actual wording of the announcement given by both the Captain and the XO is "This is an exercise."
    • In The Hunt for Red October Captain Ramius mentions conducting missile drills in his speech to the crew.
    • K-19 The Widowmaker begins with a missile drill aboard the titular submarine. The audience isn't told it's a drill until the system shorts out.
  • Parodied in the movie Dogma:

Hospital P. A.: I repeat, this is not a drill. This is the apocalypse. Please exit the hospital in an orderly fashion. Thank you.

  • Averted in WarGames: the silo crews in the opening are specifically not told it's a drill to test their reactions in a real WWIII situation.

"Turn your key, sir!"

  • Announced constantly in The Fifth Element, pretty much whenever the police show up.
  • Subverted in Resident Evil, where a woman tells a panicky coworker "it's a security drill" right before the Halon is fired up and everyone dies.
  • Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde has this phrase shouted out.
  • In In Harm's Way, the cruiser sailors are sent to battle stations on Dec. 7, 1941 through an announcement, "This is not a drill, this is not a drill, all hands man your battle stations."
  • In The Day After, an Air Force officer, notified of an incoming Soviet nuclear strike, asks if it's just a drill. He waits for a reply, then:

"Roger, copy. This is not an exercise!"



  • Paul Carter's second book was named This Is Not A Drill partly for irony, because he's an oil driller, but mainly because he hears it for real in his first anecdote, where the crew are evacuating an oil rig in imminent danger of capsizing.
  • In Dan Abnett's Warhammer 40,000 Gaunt's Ghosts novel Blood Pact, Daur tells the other prisoners that it's a drill; Rawne says, "It's not a drill." Later, when the Ghosts are put on active pending status, Dalin Criid questions whether it's a drill.
  • In Red Storm Rising, the crew of USS Pharris are told that as they are now in a shooting war, there will be no more drills.
  • Honor Harrington: Near the climax of the first book, she sends a "Code Zulu" message back to Command. The narrative takes a moment to inform the reader that Code Zulu means " Enemy Invasion Imminent" and it is never used in practices or war games to avoid Crying Wolf.
    • The explanation is reiterated in At All Costs when Haven attacks Manticore directly.
  • Spoofed in a Harry Potter parody:

The announcer: "This is not a drill. I repeat, this is not a drill. Last time was a drill, but now it is not! So what if last time I said it was not a drill? I needed to simulate a combat situation! But this time it is honestly not a drill. It's real! Move your asses!!!


Live Action TV

  • The Pilot Movie for the 2004 reimagining of Battlestar Galactica showed Viper pilots scrambling for an emergency with "This is not a drill!" blaring on the PA system (as in the page quote above). Understandable in that the ship was about to be decommissioned and no one had seen or heard from the Cylons in forty years. Throughout the series, the crew continues to be regularly told "This is not a drill" whenever the ship is on actual alert.
  • Parodied on Red Dwarf: "This is not a drill! This is a drill: [sound of electric drill whirring]".
    • Another episode, in which the emergency damaged the ship computer's memory banks, had the computer announcing:

Holly: Rude alert! Rude alert! An electrical fire has knocked out my voice-recognition unicycle! Many Wurlitzers are missing from my database! Abandon shop! This is not a daffodil! Repeat: This is not a daffodil!

      • But since Holly, the ship's AI, is established to be suffering from computer senility, what Holly would say in a real emergency would likely be much the same:

Rimmer: Well, at least Holly's unaffected.

    • Yet another episode (Red Dwarf loved this joke):

Rimmer: (After trying to wake Lister and Cat) Look, Starbug is a blazing inferno, the engine room is waist deep in rocket fuel and we're being attacked off the starboard bow by an unidentified craft!
Cat: Really?
Rimmer: No, of course not really. It's a drill. We're pretending that Starbug is on fire and under attack.
Lister: (Still in bed) And I'm pretending to scramble.

  • The Doctor Who episode The Hand of Fear used the more Britishly laconic "This is not an exercise!"
    • Another story, Warriors of the Deep only had the computer of an underwater military base tell the crew whether or not it was a drill after they'd gone through the motions which would have launched the World War III Weapon of Mass Destruction missiles if it was not. Nobody was very surprised that the sync-operator (the guy that did the launching) was under stress.
  • In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Peak Performance", a combat drill and performance review is interrupted by an actual Ferengi attack.
    • It was also used repeatedly by Data in "11001001" when issuing an order to abandon ship.
    • And announced by Spock in at least one Original Series episode, while sirens whoop and the camera rapidly zooms in and pulls back repeatedly on a flashing red light: "Red alert. Red alert. This is no drill. Repeat. This is no drill."
  • Lampshaded in (of all things) a Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue episode: When the good guys are celebrating what they believe to be the defeat of the big bad, and the alarm goes off. One of the Rangers says "Tell me that's a drill." The mentor informs the team that they don't perform drills.
  • Shows up in Power Rangers SPD during Delta Command Megazord's first appearance. Kat warns all personnel to get to designated safety zones, as the entire base is about to transform into a robot.



It's Christmas at ground zero
The button has been pressed
The radio just let us know
That this is not a test.

  • "Emergency" from the Trancemission from Raveland compilation: "This is not a test. This is an actual emergency."(Creepy Monotone voice)

Video Games


Sailor: Two- no, three ships are burning now!
Traffic control: This is not a drill.
Sailor: Oh, thanks for the heads-up, you idiot!

    • Featured in any Ace combat featuring a mission where your base starts being bombed by enemy forces.
    • A possible Dark Reprise in one mission in 5; the reinforcements were told by the 8492nd that it was just a drill, and the AWACS had to (almost frantically) state that no, it wasn't a drill, there really was an air battle over the stadium and they needed the reinforcements. Justified in that the reinforcements, arriving from a distance away, couldn't see the combat area and couldn't tell for themselves whether or not it was a drill.
  • Used in the beginning of the Sonic Adventure 2 Dark Side Story when Dr. Robotnik attacks the military base where Shadow is kept.
  • Every space battle fought with the clones in Star Wars Battlefront 2 has this trope being yelled out by a voice while you are in the hangar.
  • Spoken by Cortana over the intercom at the beginning of the first Halo game as the Marines aboard the Pillar of Autumn are mobilizing to defend against Covenant boarding parties.
  • The opening cutscene for X-Com: Apocalypse:

"Launch all X-Com fighters! Stand by all combat teams! THIS IS NOT A DRILL!"


Web Comics

Western Animation

  • The Simpsons parodied it way back when they were a short on The Tracy Ullman Show. One short has Homer waking the family and herding them into a bomb shelter yelling that "World War Three has begun" and "This is not a drill". When they get to the bomb shelter, he reveals to the viewers that it was a drill, and chastises his family for taking so long - but they aren't listening due to being rightfully shivering in terror.
    • After this happens a couple more times, the family turns the tables on Homer and lock him in the shelter for the night.

Homer: "Run for your lives everybody, this is not a drill!"

  • Spoofed in the Angry Beavers Halloween special, where a general scrambling the troops goes "This is not a drill! Repeat, this is not a drill! If it was a drill, I'd be telling you it was, but it's not!"
  • Justice League Unlimited, when firing the Binary Fusion Generator.
  • An episode of American Dad had Stan late to a CIA nuclear war exercise. Director Bullock had told everybody that once the exercise begins, everybody is to act like the crisis is 100% real. Stan rushes in and asks if it's real, and Bullock says, "One Hundred Percent!" Causing Stan to panic and rush his family to the woods.

Real Life

  • Qualifies as one of the oldest in the book. It probably dates back to the navies of the 19th Century, when ships became very large and powered by steam. The "black gang" down in the machinery could see and hear nothing of what was going on beyond the hull of the ship.
    • The classic historical example of its use is in the alarm siren on December 7, 1941: "AIR RAID PEARL HARBOR THIS IS NO DRILL".
  • Oddly enough, the old Emergency Broadcast System's script for actual nuclear attack does not use the phrase "This is not a test".
    • It does however use the phrase "Attack warning means that an actual attack against this country has been detected".
  • Sometimes, an air-raid siren on the airfield means; 'get to your battle station'. Only some time after you got there will you hear if it was practice, an exercise, or what.
    • This was done about twice-weekly for the Strategic Air Command during the Cold War, the instruction being "go to your bombers and wait to see if you're nuking the USSR".
  • Then there is the joke: This is not a drill. Repeat, this is not a drill. This is a chainsaw.
  • At the Samar island engagement Capt Evans of the USS Johnston simply said, "Gentlemen we are going into battle."
  • In the modern US Navy, the actual phrases used differ from ship to ship and branch to branch (i.e. surface vs. submarines), and even different procedures may be used by different training teams on the same ship (engineering vs. combat systems, for example). Sometimes emergencies are simply called away as if they were real, with drill monitors wearing different colors stationed in advance to prevent the crewmen from doing anything that might actually be dangerous, and only inform the crew that it was a drill at the end. Even when the drill is not initially announced as such and was not pre-scheduled, however, the whole crew generally knows they're coming—when the guys with red hats start hanging around the engine room for no reason, it becomes pretty obvious. Drills are also generally not held any time there's a higher potential for a real emergency (like entering a combat or patrol zone).
  • Subverted... kinda. In the first volume of his war memoir Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall by comedian Spike Milligan, who was conscripted into the Royal Artillery as a Radio Operator. He quotes extensively from the Regimental War Diary a message about a large invasion force had been spotted in the English Channel heading for Britain was sent by his unit. Shortly after a panicked War Office got in touch asking what steps had been taken and had the Navy been informed... Hilarity Ensures and in the end the CO is ordered to London to clear things up. In his book Milligan confesses that the message had been sent by him as part of a drill but that he had neglected to preface the message with the phrase 'PRACTICE' before he sent it.