The Travel Emergency Codes You’re Not Supposed To Know About

by SharonKurheg

Lots of businesses have their own special codes for their staff to be aware of emergencies. When I worked in a hospital, “Code Blue,” followed by whatever floor, wing, etc. meant someone who was experiencing cardiac or respiratory arrest. In many places, hearing “Code Adam” means there’s a missing child (it was named after Adam Walsh, a little boy who was abducted in a department store in South Florida in the early 1980s). Some of you may have heard of a “Code Brown” or a “Code V” and frankly, I don’t want to be the one to clean either one of those up. 😉

The various codes have been established so businesses can quickly and effectively communicate with their employees without their guests, customers, passengers, etc. knowing what they’re talking about.

Travel-related organizations each have their own sets of codes, too. Like these…

NOTE: These lists are not at all complete; they’re just meant to give you an idea of what codes are used and why. Also, be aware that codes are sometimes standardized, sometimes not, so not all entities will use the same code, and some codes will mean one thing on, for example, one cruise ship and something else on another.


  • Alert 1 – a plane in the air has minor electrical/mechanical problems. Units standby at fire station for when the plane lands
  • Alert 2 – a plane in the air has major electrical/mechanical problems, a crash is possible. Units standby at runway for when it lands
  • Alert 3 – A plane has crashed at or near the airport
  • Code Adam – missing child
  • Code Bravo – general security alert

Cruise Ships

  • 30-30 – maintenance needed to clean up a mess
  • Alpha (specifically Alpha, Alpha, Alpha on Princess and Royal Caribbean ships) – medical emergency
  • Alpha Team, Alpha Team, Alpha Team – fire emergency on a Carnival Cruise Line ship
  • Bravo or Bravo, Bravo, Bravo – fire
  • Charlie – bomb threat
  • Charlie, Charlie, Charlie – security threat on Royal Caribbean ships
  • Code Blue – medical emergency
  • Code Red – outbreak of illness
  • Delta – damage to the ship on Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Delta, Delta, Delta – possible bio-hazard
  • Echo – the ship is starting to drift
  • Echo, Echo, Echo – possible collision with another ship or the shore on Royal Caribbean ships. On other ships it can mean danger of high winds while at port.
  • Kilo (specifically Kilo, Kilo, Kilo on Royal Caribbean ships) – all personnel to report to their emergency posts
  • Omega or Oscar or Bravo, Bravo or Mr. Mob – man overboard (we heard that on a Disney Cruise once. That was fun.)
  • Operation Bright Star (Code Mike on Oceania Cruises) – medical emergency, urgent assistance required
  • Operation Rising Star – someone died on board
  • Oscar, Oscar, Oscar – man overboard on Royal Caribbean ships
  • Mr. Skylight, or Alpha, Alpha, Alpha – minor emergency
  • Papa – environmental emergency (i.e., oil spill) on Norwegian Cruise Line
  • Priority 2 – leak
  • Purell, Purell, Purell or PVI (public vomiting incident) – cleanup (vomit) on Celebrity ships
  • Red Party – fire at sea
  • Red Parties, Red Parties, Red Parties – fire or possible fire on Disney Cruise Lines ships
  • Sierra – call for a stretcher
  • Star Code, Star Code, Star Code – medical emergency on Celebrity ships
  • Zulu, Zulu, Zulu – a fight aboard the ship


I’ll tell you – I’m really good with “the Google” and could not find very many hotel emergency codes. I think they vary from hotel to hotel or at least brand to brand. However here are some from the Crowne Plaza in Dallas, TX, thanks to, of all people, Cory Doctorow (yes, THAT Cory Doctorow):

  • Code 1 – Medical emergency
  • Code 2 – Person stuck in elevator
  • Code 3 – Fire alarm
  • Code 4 – Weather alert
  • Code 5 – Security/bomb alert
  • Code 6 – Security/Call 911
  • Code 7 – Bugs
  • Code 10 – Toilet problems
  • Code 12 – Water/flood
  • Code 99 – Intoxicated guest
  • Code Green – Upset guest
  • Code white – Inspectors

I also discovered that Loyalty Lobby posted a Marriott Crisis Management Guide in 2013 that included several phrases that were to be used during crisis situations, in order to disguise communications. You can see the list here, about 2/3 down the page. It doesn’t explain what code would be used if, say, there was a killer on the loose or a lost child, but I guess they’re all ready if an inspector entered the building. 😉


Some codes for planes, whether for emergencies or not, as communicated to Air Traffic Control (ATC), vary from country to country, while others are defined by the International Civil Aviation Organization and are therefore standardized. Click here for the full list, but the most important ones for emergencies are:

  • 7500 – aircraft hijacking
  • 7600 – radio failure
  • 7700 – emergency

If a plane has an emergency, they need to tell ATC how many “souls are on board.” The code for that is in “Levels,” using the numbers 1 through 5. Level 1 describes an event that could injure or affect only one or two people. And the highest number, Level 5, is if there are 51 or more people potentially involved.

The aforementioned Alerts could potentially be heard. If you were to hear “Alert 3, Level 4,” that means a plane crashed nearby and somewhere between 26 to 50 souls were affected. This could mean passengers, crew or people on the ground. Add “Alert 4” to the list – that means a serious emergency, such as a hijacking.

The London Underground

  • Code 1 – blood
  • Code 2 – urine/feces
  • Code 3 – vomit
  • Code 4 – spillage
  • Code 5 – broken glass
  • Code 6 – litter
  • Code 7 – everything else
  • Inspector Sands – fire

Feature Photo: picryl

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Christian August 27, 2019 - 1:14 pm

Love “the google” reference.

Eugenio Beltrán-Aguilar October 13, 2020 - 2:24 pm

As a former user of the NYC subway, I can see the need for a coding system but then, I ask, who will respond to most of these calls… nah!


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