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In the Star Trek: TNG episode, "Cause and Effect", Picard gives the order for all hands to abandon ship. It's the only instance I can remember but there may have been others.

Now if we accept that he couldn't have known that Enterprise would explode so soon and so it would be reasonable to hope that an orderly evacuation was still possible, it still leaves the question of, how?

Unlike Enterprise-E I can't remember any time where Enterprise-D was shown to have life-boats, and although there are a few shuttle-crafts on board, Enterprise-D appears not to have learned from Titanic in that regard: They don't look like enough to accommodate all 1,000 or so crew and passengers.

So how could they abandon ship?

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  • I think the only other time the Enterprise D was evacuated in an emergency was in 11001001, and they were in spacedock at the time. – J... Jul 30 '20 at 16:47
  • @J...: True for emergency evacuations (I think), but they also did a non-emergency evacuation in "Starship Mine." That was (obviously) accomplished in a more conventional fashion (beaming people out in groups, at a leisurely pace). – Kevin Jul 30 '20 at 20:19
  • @Kevin Yes, I didn't mention it because that wasn't properly an evacuation - it was scheduled maintenance (vs. an order to abandon ship). – J... Jul 30 '20 at 21:37
  • It's true that the Enterprise's escape pods were never shown individually, but you can clearly see the ports/doors that open so escape pods can exit. Or, they could have been the tops of the escape pods laying flat against its hull. – Sovereign Inquiry Aug 1 '20 at 17:14
  • In this link to the Galaxy class Enteprise's blueprints, you can clearly see the square-shaped escape pods lining the underside and overside of the saucer and engineering sections. – Sovereign Inquiry Aug 1 '20 at 17:15
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The TNG Technical Manual offers a range of scenarios for ship evacuation of the Galaxy Class Enterprise-D

Resources available for abandon-ship scenarios include:

Ability to transport up to 1,850 persons per hour from the ship via personnel transporters, including the use of emergency beam-out-only transporters.

Availability of five personnel shuttlecraft on immediate standby and up to six additional shuttles available on twelve-hour notice. Additional shuttle vehicles may be available depending on other mission requirements and maintenance status. Total transport capacity of these vehicles varies with range and other factors, but averages 250 persons per hour from standard orbit to a Class M planetary surface.

Abandon-ship protocols include use of ASRV (autonomous survival and recovery vehicle) lifeboats, which provide free space survival accommodations for up to 1,400 individuals for up to fourteen days. A total of four hundred ASRVs are available

In a lesser emergency in either the Saucer Module or the Stardrive Section, the saucer separation maneuver is an option, with evacuation of the ship's company to whichever section is not affected by the crisis. Evacuation protocols include options to leave behind a team of engineering personnel or other specialists who will attempt to deal with the emergency situation.

Environmental suits are available for evacuation into the space environment. In such scenarios, personnel may exit through any of the exterior airlocks, through the shuttle- bays, or through the exterior turbolift couplings (assuming that the turbolift system has been disabled). Environmental suits are available in storage lockers at all exit ports and shuttle- bays, as well as in emergency equipment lockers located in corridor storage modules located throughout the habitable volume of the spacecraft.

It is very likely that Picard intended for immediate evacuation via the ship's non-warp-capable lifepods and warp-capable shuttles.

The nature of its missions in the galaxy requires that the Enterprise carry a set of small spacecraft for dedicated escape and rescue operations. Located throughout both the Primary and Secondary Hulls, these ejectable lifeboats are designed to meet the short-term survival needs of the starship crew in the event of a catastrophic emergency.

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You may also wish to note that in TNG: Cause and Effect, Riker explicitly mentions that the Enterprise has emergency escape pods.

RIKER: This is the Bridge. All hands to emergency escape pods.

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    Also, apparently, the Enterprise D was equipped with a Captain's Yacht which could be usable as an emergency vehicle. – Reginald Blue Jul 29 '20 at 20:46
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    There's also the transporters in the cargo bays that can be used. One thing that I don't think has been confirmed either way is if the saucer of one galaxy class can dock and operate with the driver section of another. If it could, and there was the drive section of another galaxy available then it could give the option for everyone to evac to the saucer, the saucer un-docks, then docks with the driver section of the other ship and warps away – SpacePhoenix Jul 29 '20 at 21:14
  • Is that EACH lifeboat can support 1400 people for 14 days? Or, in total, the 400 lifeboats can support 1400 people for 14 days -- so 3.5 people per boat? – Shane Jul 30 '20 at 0:54
  • @Shane - lol. The (400) lifeboats can support 1400 people for 14 days. They also link together so that they can share supplies and, presumably, with the help of the shuttles, become low-warp capable. – Valorum Jul 30 '20 at 7:06
  • @Shane There's a fractional number because there are two different versions of the lifeboat. The picture shown actually reflects only 80 of the 400 lifeboats - the version with four doors. The normal ones only have two doors, and presumably more seats than the four-door version (though the tech manual doesn't say as much). The four-port versions exist to increase the density of the cluster when the lifeboats are docked in space to share supplies and allow medical personnel access to other pods' injured crew. – T.J.L. Jul 30 '20 at 12:39
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The Enterprise-D had plenty of escape pods for the crew to use - room for up to twice as many as the ship's regular complement. We just never see them used for all seven seasons and a movie.

escape pod details on a model

Those big yellow squares are the lifeboats. They're more obvious as decals on the model kits than on the TV, but they are there and can be seen in the show (screenshot from the Season 6 episode Relics). I have no idea why they made the escape pods yellow for the model kits (my kit didn't have decals - but I did have instructions to paint all of the escape pods yellow, which I didn't).

escape pods on the TV model of the Enterprise-D

A new model with extra detail was put together for the big screen because of the higher fidelity and larger viewing area for cinema screens, and so the escape pods are even more obvious. I don't know why we don't see any pods launching as the saucer crashes down into the planet.

escape pods details on the Enterprise-D model used for Generations

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    Possibly odd perspective, but if I'm going to crash into a planet either way, I'd rather do so in a much larger, more structurally sound vehicle, especially if there' no certainty that I can get to the smaller alternative vehicles in time. – Austin Hemmelgarn Jul 30 '20 at 12:48
  • The escape pods have independent power to make a safe landing... Or just float in space for a bit – HorusKol Jul 30 '20 at 13:23
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    Another reason they likely didn't use the escape pods in Generations is that the star drive was going critical. The saucer was at least a substantial structure, so using a pod prior to that point would have likely resulted in its destruction. When it became obvious the saucer would crash, there wasn't a lot of time left to order their use. – Machavity Jul 30 '20 at 15:27
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    @Machivity Except we've seen that the most likely cause of destruction of a Federation starship is warp core beach, so standard escape pods should be able to withstand that ;) – HorusKol Jul 30 '20 at 15:31
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    @AustinHemmelgarn while that would have the advantage of a lot of heavy ship serving as a crumple zone in front of you ... it also has the disadvantage of a lot of heavy ship loaded with inertia behind you .... – rackandboneman Jul 30 '20 at 18:10

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