Emergency Code Words That Were Supposed to Stay a Secret

Most of us go on vacation to relax, see new places, and get away from work. While there are numerous locations to choose from, and a trip is supposed to be a real break, it turns out that the crew on our cruise ship or airplane try to keep any additional stress a secret.

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That’s why there are emergency code words that were supposed to stay a secret from passengers. The crew uses code words to keep a relaxing environment because few things would be worse than passengers going into a full-blown panic during an emergency.


If you hear the expression “pan-pan,” then it’s time to hang onto your seat. This is a universal saying that means that something serious is occurring in the aircraft, plane, or vehicle, but people’s lives aren’t in jeopardy, so it’s not considered an emergency.

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They just need people to know that something urgent is happening, or they need someone to be ready just in case their vessel requires some repairs. This means that emergency services can be on standby for when the vehicle arrives at its destination rather than traveling to a separate rescue site.


Something you don’t want to overhear on your flight – especially if you can’t swim – is the code word “ditch.” Yes, this means that you’re likely about to land on the water. Thankfully, there are so many safety procedures in place to make sure that people are kept as safe as possible.

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Maybe there’s a reason to pay attention to those in-flight safety demonstrations after all? The expression has been used so much throughout the years that it has been officially added to the dictionary. This option is only viable if the pilot can’t do anything else.

Red Party

“Red party” is an interesting code word and one that has had lots of people guessing throughout the years. Does it mean that someone is having a huge party? Perhaps it’s a party with a specific dress code as entry is only granted to those wearing red?

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While they’re reasonable guesses, they are far from the real meaning. Hearing a “red party” means there is a fire someplace on board a ship. The code word will commonly be followed by the site of the fire so that the crew can put it out before it becomes life-threatening.

Code One

It turns out that trains also share some code words with cruise ships and planes. One example that is used across all types of transportation is “code one.” This expression means that someone is hurt on board, and they require medical attention.

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It is mainly used on cruise ships and trains because people are typically on them for longer and have more freedom of movement than passengers on planes. The crew needs assistance or a passenger with first aid training to attend to the patient at the scene quickly.

Three Days in Canada

While most of us keep to ourselves on a plane, others like to talk to others on the flight. But why do the flight attendants continue talking about their trip to Canada when you’re not flying there? Turns out it’s their code to talk to each other about passengers on the plane.

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The total amount of days is the row number of the passenger. The country, in this circumstance Canada, refers to the seating letter. So, if you overhear them whispering about “three days in Canada” and you’re sitting in 3C, you’re going to want to listen up.

Code Red

While “code red” is one of the most severe emergency codes that can be used on planes, the expression is most often used in movies. It is only used in a worst-case scenario, so if you hear it, there’s a good chance you’ll be landing relatively soon on the nearest airstrip.

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If they call it while flying over the ocean, you’ll end up landing in water instead. It is more likely to hear “code red” when you’re still in the airport where there will be a different safety procedure in place – but this is still very unusual.

Last-Minute Paperwork

The coded phrase “last-minute paperwork” is used to speak to passengers instead of other crew members. This is used when the aircraft is delayed for some reason, but the crew doesn’t want to explain to passengers the actual answer why since it’s typically not serious.

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Delays are largely short and dealt with before people begin to take notice. It could be that there is an actual problem with the paperwork, the maintenance staff needs to repair something on the plane before it takes off, or they need to even out the weight.

Priority One or Priority Two

Some captains prefer to use sweeping code words rather than having specialized expressions for each different incident. Captains of cruise ships have many things to think about while steering the ship, so it’s difficult to remember multiple phrases and meanings.

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“Priority one” generally indicates there is a fire on the ship, though the size of the fire isn’t specified. “Priority two” means there is an internal leak. Luckily, despite the common small leaks while in the water, the crew is specially trained to mend the leaks before they become a bigger problem.

Mr. Sands

“Mr. Sands” is an emergency code used on London Underground trains. This doesn’t refer to the Sandman commuting or an especially sandy passenger. It indicates that there is some type of threat on one of the underground lines or that a fire is started on a train or in the station.

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The reasoning behind using “Mr. Sand” was because fires were generally put out with bags of sand as they put out the flames before fire extinguishers became the replacement method. Fun fact: theaters in England use the same code if they have a fire in their building.

Blue Juice

Time on the airplane can be the perfect beginning or finishing touch to your vacation before you have to return to the real world again. If you overhear flight attendants discussing “blue juice,” then nothing to worry about; this isn’t a new beverage that you need to try.

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In reality, they are discussing the restroom. Yes, they usually don’t want to openly talk about a problem in the bathroom, so they decide to use code words instead. In fact, hearing “blue juice” might mean that you want to avoid taking a bathroom break anytime soon.

A Collection of Sounds

In addition to code words, some crews also have collections of sounds they use to communicate with each other. The best part is that most people never think anything of the sounds. If you’re landing, have your seatbelt buckled and hear one bell, this indicates the landing gear is engaged.

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The second means that the crew can stand up from their seats to help passengers deplane. Three short bells tell the crew they need to go back to their seats for a message from the pilot, while five short bells alert the team they have to perform an emergency evacuation.

Cabin Crew, Arm Doors, and Cross-Check

If you’ve been on an airplane, then the odds you have heard the saying “cabin crew, arm doors and cross-check” is pretty high. While it sounds pretty uptight, it’s not as menacing as it initially appears. The “arm doors” part of the saying is to ensure that the door handles have been shifted to the ‘armed’ position.

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This means the slides will naturally inflate if the doors are opened, and it needs to be in this position while the engines are operating. The “cross-check” part is to remind the crew members to check the doors near them.

Operation Bright Star

Cruise ships are essentially floating cities that travel around the world, and they have everything they need to ensure that people are taken care of while they are away from home for long periods of time. When you hear “operation bright star,” it means the crew is caring for a passenger.

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When a passenger needs emergency medical care, all first aid trained crew members in the area is required to get there as fast as possible. Fingers crossed that you don’t hear “operation rising star” since this means that a passenger on the ship has died.

Mrs. Kate Fire Warning

Fire warnings are so frequently used to signal wildfires, what happens when it becomes an official emergency code used on public transportation? One passenger in Amsterdam was puzzled when they heard that “Mrs. Kate Fire Warning” needed to go to the front desk.

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They checked the internet to learn that it was code to security that there was an emergency – possibly a fire – that needed to be put out. Giving the warning a name was in an effort to normalize it so that people wouldn’t pick up on it and go into an extensive panic.


Though a common phrase, what does it actually mean? Ship pilots or captains reserve this phrase for the worst kinds of emergencies where people are about to die. On the other hand, it’s not only captains and pilots that use this code word.

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In numerous countries, the expression is also used amongst firefighters, police officers, and transport organizations. It came from the French phrase “Venez m’aider,” which translates to “come help me.” The emergency code word is said three times in a row so that it’s not mistaken for something else.

Numbered Codes

Being a member of the crew on a plane or ship requires much more learning than first meets the eye. The code 7,500 is a transmitter that alerts air traffic control towers to a threat of hijackers on the aircraft or that the plane has already been hijacked by someone else.

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Code 7,600 indicates there is a radio failure on the aircraft. Another code is 7,700 that is considered to be the general emergency code. Flight attendants also say they come up with a new secret code before each flight in case they have to alert the captain.

Purell, Purell, Purell

“Purell, Purell, Purell” is exclusively a term on ships that indicates an issue. The cruise ships use this code to inform the crew that someone got sick on the boat, and they need a cleanup crew as quickly as possible. It’s said three consecutive times to ensure that no one mistakes the phrase.

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The word “Purell” is used because it is a well-known brand of sanitizer that people from all over the world use. Unfortunately, seasickness is something that has taken over many people’s vacations throughout the years, and it’s someone’s miserable job to clean it up.

Mr. Mob

It can be easy to get a bit carried away you’re on a cruise ship. Tragically, some people have gone so over the top that they literally go overboard. This is a large emergency and means that the entire crew needs to collaborate to find and pull them back onto the ship safely.

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People can easily get swept up in the current or the waves from the ship and end up lost. Luckily “Mr. Mob” alerts the crew. It’s an acronym for “man overboard,” but some ships use the phrase “Oscar, Oscar, Oscar” if someone has gone into the water.

Code Blue

Walmart also uses emergency code words! Walmart is the biggest retail store company on the planet. However, having that number of stores across the country and the world means they have their own code words for their staff to use in emergencies.

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“Code blue” is one of the numerous codes on the list. This one indicates to employees that there might be someone with an explosive inside the store, or one could’ve been planted. Patrons have to quickly exit the building and call for emergency services to come and deal with the threat.

Code Green

People go to Walmart stores across the world for their great deals, and people can find themselves lost in the aisles for multiple hours. Tragically, all of those transactions taking place each and every day means there is typically a lot of money in each store location.

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Plus, there can be numerous other reasons that someone would want to keep people as hostages. If you hear “code green” on the Walmart store’s loudspeakers, then it means that someone has been taken hostage, and everyone else needs to figure out a strategy before the situation gets worse.

Code Red

An emergency in any store means that everyone needs to evacuate from the building and head to safety. Although most people never have to actually use their emergency training, all staff members are required to learn what to do if something happens.

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One of the numerous pieces of training they cover is fire procedure. Specific fire exits found around the store enable people to get outside as soon as possible. Then, firefighters arrive to put out the flames. “Code red” indicates to staff to put in place their fire safety plan.

Code C

Some code phrases mean something innocent and are just easier to communicate to someone across the store, like “code C.” This code means that an employee needs a member of the customer service team or a cashier to assist them with a problem or a demanding customer.

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You know, the customers that want to return something even though they’ve lost the receipt or kept it for years. Or maybe the customer that wants a discount despite coming to shop without coupons. If you hear a “code C” announcement, then one of them is shopping at the store.

Code 300 or Department 51

Sometimes, those Walmart deals are just too good that people go crazy – or they have built-up anger that is waiting to come out. Regardless, Walmart doesn’t want to turn into a WWE ring and has plenty of security guards on hand to ensure everyone’s safety.

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There seems to be no reason that the store has two different code words to call their security guards. Maybe one means there is more of a danger? Whatever the case, calling for “code 300” or “department 51” tells the security team that they’re needed right away.

Code White

“Code white” is a code for both customers and staff members if they’ve knocked items off the shelf or need some assistance. It just means there has been an accident that needs to be cleaned up right away. The code words will be followed by the location of the mess.

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Did you know that “code Adam” actually came from Walmart? It’s an emergency code that tells others that there is a missing child. This expression is now part of the emergency procedures for stores around the world to be on the lookout for an unattended kid.

Code Orange

Working at Walmart requires making sure that everything is always kept hygienic and clean. The store also stocks many types of cleaning products that could be split. If you hear “code orange,” that means that there were chemicals split someplace inside the store.

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It could be dangerous chemicals, so it’s crucial to clean it up using special cleaning products.

However, the staff is generally used to dealing with various situations. They’re trained in how to keep everyone safe and get things running smoothly without anyone being at risk or in a position of danger.

Code Brown

“Code brown” is one code that you do not want to hear because it indicates that there is someone armed with a weapon inside the store, and they might be using it on people. In 2019, Walmart came under scrutiny about their selling of firearms and ammunition.

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For years they’ve abided by the rules, but their stores remained targets. In September 2019, it was declared that even more regulations were in place as they have since banned the sale of many firearms in addition to refusing to allow patrons to carry one inside their stores.

Code Black

Many people check that they have anything they need in case there is an emergency – especially if it’s weather-related. Walmart is one of the several stores that have winter weather procedure plans to try and ensure that everyone remains safe during extreme weather cases.

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This means collecting water and food as well as prepping the house with blankets and flashlights. But “code black” means that extreme weather could be closer than many predicted. This could generally strike at any minute, like natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, or tsunami.