push the panic button

Panic button

A panic button can either be a button that triggers an alarm or a button that 'resets' a MIDI musical instrument.


Examples of alarm panic buttons are:

  • A button in a critical system (such as a nuclear weapons system) used to quickly activate an extreme measure to mitigate an emergency situation.
  • A red button integral to key fobs which activates a car alarm.
  • A device given to elderly individuals in order to maintain their independence outside of an Aged Care Facility, while still affording them a means of summoning help should they require it (ie a medical emergency that renders them immobile, like a fall, injury or illness). Such a device can also be referred to as an Emergency Medical Alert (EMA) button and can be fitted as either a pendant or bracelet to be worn by the user. MAB's are usually wirelessly connected to a call centre. When the alarm is raised, an operator will call the individual's home to ensure a false alarm has not occurred; if there is no answer, the operator will alert either family members, emergency services, or both.

In pop culture, humorous variants of such a panic button also exist, such as a wearable button bearing only the word "PANIC" or an adhesive key, meant to look like a key for a computer keyboard, usually red, and also bearing only the word "PANIC".

  • A button similar to the above, which is used indoors in self-sufficient houses for elderly people, where it alerts someone inside the house, who will then first check for a false alarm by phoning the person, and if there is no false alarm, will enter the person's flat to check what is the problem.
  • A button used in convenience stores, gas station, or other establishments staffed with a single employee during late hours. Often located under the counter near the cash register or safe, the button can be pressed in times of distress (Such as robbery, disruptive or threatening behavior, or a situation which may warrant assistance), triggering a silent alarm. If the button alarms a private security company, a fee may be charged for each time the button is used. This prevents mis-use, and often aides in the employees judgment of the situation; whether or not it warrants the fee to have help to deal with the situation.


In a MIDI instrument when the note-off message for a played note is not received, the note will sound on endlessly, and also has the potential to raise in amplitude enough to damage the speakers or other components in the sound system. Hitting the panic button will send a note-off command to all keys, stopping any notes that were still playing.

Extensions are available for certain browsers based on this theme, which allow a user to hit a specific keystroke or button in their browser and hide all windows. This is useful in situations where one is viewing private material or pornography on a public system, or playing games when one is supposed to be working.

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