While re-watching DS9 "The Adversary" (S3E26), in the scene where Miles O'Brien almost catches a hostile changeling infiltrating the Defiant, it occurred to me that I didn't know if Miles even had the authority to initiate an intruder alert. Traditionally, we see captains giving the order for a ship to go to alert status, but in this case, O'Brien is only an enlisted crewman.

Now, obviously the computer shouldn't allow just anyone to register an alert, and I suspect this is why most non-Captains report to the Captain and allow them to make the call. However, one could also imagine a situation where an ordinary crewman (like O'Brien) came across a time sensitive issue, and needed to trigger an alert immediately.

So, my question is this: Who actually has the authority to trigger the different alert levels on a ship (Red, Yellow, and Intruder)? And could O'Brien have triggered a security alert from engineering without the Captain's authorization?

  • 12
    Miles might be an enlisted man but he's also a Chief Petty Officer and Chief Engineer (and head of the Engineering Dept.) and senior staff.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 19:49
  • 2
    I was specifically curious about the TNG/DS9 era, but context from any era would be appreciated for completeness. And good catch about his other ranks.
    – bracec
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 20:10
  • 9
    This is only my head cannon, but in S1E26 of TNG we see that everyone on the Enterprise has full access to the ship's communication system. The only thing that stops people from spamming communications is that everyone in the time period is a well adjusted adult and they don't feel the need to do so. Maybe the same goes for issuing alerts?
    – 16807
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 1:26
  • 6
    To put this in a contemporary context for reference: in the US Navy literally anyone can 'call away a casualty'. This is an informational item, but the five or so people who can actually change the operational posture of the ship - the 'alert' to which you refer - have a number of mandatory actions, one of which is usually to change the operational posture.
    – user51340
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 1:49
  • 2
    I could swear from TOS that at least once someone just slammed a button on the wall like a fire alarm, but I saw that a few decades ago--Maybe it was the captain and the thing he hit on the wall was just a standard communication panel?
    – Bill K
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 17:06

1 Answer 1


Red and Yellow (and Black and Grey and Blue) alerts

The TNG Technical Manual indicates that the command authority to signal alert conditions (or give any shipwide orders) ultimately rests with the vessel's Commanding Officer, typically a captain, and, by extension, their First and Second Officers. Additionally, Red and Yellow alerts can also be triggered by event conditions (such as the failure of a critical system or someone pointing lasers at you) although these can be overriden by the commander if there's a good reason to do so.

Within the bridge itself, it's the Operations (Ops) Manager who is responsible for physically setting the ship to condition red or yellow but the computer can also be ordered to do this by one of the ship's command staff and can also do this automatically. The next order is usually to inform the Captain (or most senior officer) that their presence is required on the bridge.

Operational authority for the starship rests with the Commanding Officer (usually the captain or duty officer). The Commanding Officer is responsible for execution of Starfleet orders and policy, as well as for interpretation and compliance with Federation law and diplomatic directives. As such, the Commanding Officer is directly answerable to Starfleet Command for the performance of the ship.

The Main Bridge is directly responsible for the supervision of all primary mission functions. Through the Operations Manager, the bridge also monitors all secondary mission functions to provide an optimal operating state. The multimission operational profile of the Enterprise requires extensive coordination between different departments.

Intruder alerts.

By comparison, the command ....

"Intruder Alert!"

... can be given by any member of the crew and can be done verbally or via a comm panel. The ship may also declare an intrusion alert on its own without a crewman being present.

This alert signals to the bridge Chief of Security that an intruder has been spotted which will, presumably, result in the arrival of a security team as well as informing the bridge that an intruder is suspected.

  • 5
    You missed the double red alert. My +1 in any case
    – Hans Olo
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 20:18
  • 8
    Given the double red was only used once, and in TOS, I think this still constitutes an exceptional response for only 30 minutes from asking time. Accepted and +1'd!
    – bracec
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 20:27
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    My comment was not a critique against Valorum, just the statement of a fact. His answers are always exceptional :-)
    – Hans Olo
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 21:01
  • 5
    OP was mostly interested in TNG-era policies. I also missed out the Reid Alert.
    – Valorum
    Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 21:07
  • What about the Reed Alert or the Tactical Alert, from Enterprise S2E9 "Singularity," when the writers suggested that Malcolm Reed invented the alert system from whole cloth with no history?
    – jejorda2
    Commented Apr 15, 2019 at 12:59

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