Someone just mentioned in a question that having all the lights on your starship flash red was a good way to tell people to find somewhere safe whilst the ship fights Borg or whatever the alien of the week is.

But what do people actually do during red alert besides run frantically down corridors? Is there a safe spot for civilians onboard a Federation starship? Or are they 'press ganged' into helping out?

  • 13
    Hopefully change out of their red shirts...
    – NominSim
    Oct 17, 2012 at 22:44
  • Heeey, I didn't say all the lights... More like, there's red lights all over the ship, such that you can't miss one. But even on the bridge, not all the lights turn red.
    – Izkata
    Oct 17, 2012 at 22:56
  • @Izkata I exaggerate....
    – AncientSwordRage
    Oct 17, 2012 at 23:00
  • Side thought, I wonder if the answer can be found in an early "Shut up, Wesley" episode...
    – Izkata
    Oct 17, 2012 at 23:06
  • 1
    You mean besides hide and hope they are on one of the luckier Federation ships that doesn't lose all hands on board? Ships named Enterprise for example? Oct 19, 2012 at 22:49

3 Answers 3


On a contemporary naval ship - all crew will have a designated action station (battle stations sounds cooler, but is not strictly correct) in addition to their regular duty station. Even "non-combative" crewmen, such as cooks and orderlies, will have an action station: as part of a damage control team, or first aid, etc. Even on a civilian merchant ship, crew would have been trained in fire-fighting and damage control roles.

The USS Enterprise (NCC-1701) is a bit different, in that the primary role is non-military (and many of its crew are scientists rather than combative), it carries a large number of civilians, and many systems are at least semi-automated. Starfleet probably use Red Alert to mean a call to action stations (again - which is more dramatic).

Still, there are references in several episodes of designated shelter areas for civilians - presumably they have extra shielding, more structure around them, and rapid access to the lifepods.

As for Starfleet personnel - every serving crewman would have been trained in an "action" role - damage control, medical aid, etc, regardless of their primary role on ship. Even semi-automated systems can (and do) fail in the 24th century.

  • 1
    hmm... can't say that I recall a specific example of action or battle stations being called which appeared different to a red alert - do you have a clear example of how they're different?
    – HorusKol
    Oct 18, 2012 at 6:34
  • 2
    I know what he's talking about. They call red alert all the time, but they only call out "Battle stations" on occasion.
    – Kalamane
    Oct 18, 2012 at 8:04
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    To emphasize the point here, contemporary naval vessels are massively over-manned not just for day to day operation, but even for fighting the ship as long as it remains in good working order. All that extra crew is there to deal with damage and continue fighting the ship. Oct 18, 2012 at 13:23
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    RED ALERT is a state of readiness indicating the crew should go to their designated stations. On a navel vessel you would be closing all water-tight doors and limiting movements through the ship. Operations would remain isolated maximizing shipboard readiness. A battle alert would generally be issued only when the threat of actual combat would occur. Red Alerts could be issued when an unknown alien menace or interstellar event could be taking place. Put another way, A call to "battle-stations" is a Red Alert. A Red Alert is not always a call to combat readiness, just shipboard preparedness. Oct 18, 2012 at 22:47
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    @Thaddeus Star Trek seldom distinguished between Action Stations and Red Alert. Roddenbery was an Army Officer, not Navy, so got some things wrong, but those things are now part of the setting. Of course, we could always confuse the landlubber crowd more by mentioning conditions X/Y/Z as well... but again, those ain't part of Trek. The Federation Star Fleet is decidedly not the USN in space; if anything, its closest relative is the NOAA commissioned core...
    – aramis
    Oct 19, 2012 at 22:11

A Red Alert is call for all crew members to go to a higher state of readiness or "alertness".

A call to battle stations simultaneously calls a red alert, and requires the crew to man their assigned battle stations, which would include, but would not be limited to: manning weapons, the assembling of armed security teams, repair stations and medical personnel preparing for casualties.

During a red alert, civilians are sometimes directed to remain in designated areas, or their quarters. The fact that this distinction is not made on every alert indicates that it may not be required behavior.

  • In addition to Red Alert is Yellow Alert and Double Red Alert (Plus more), so I don't think battle stations is the best distinction..
    – Izkata
    Oct 17, 2012 at 23:38

This is addressed in the TNG: Technical Manual

Non-Bridge Personnel

During Red Alert situations, crew and attached personnel from all three duty shifts are informed via alarm klaxons and annunciator lights. Key second shift personnel are ordered to report immediately to their primary duty stations, while other second shift personnel report to their secondary duty stations. Key third shift personnel (who are presumably on their sleep cycle) are ordered to report to their secondary duty stations (or special assignment stations) in fifteen minutes.

  • Level 4 automatic diagnostic series run on all ship's primary and tactical systems at five-minute intervals. Bridge given immediate notification of any significant change in ship's readiness status.

  • If presently off-line, warp power core to be brought to full operating condition and maintained at 75% power output. Level 3 diagnostics conducted on warp propulsion systems at initiation of Red Alert status, Level 4 series repeated at five- minute intervals.

  • Main impulse propulsion system is brought to full operating condition. All operational backup reactor units are brought to hot standby. In actual or potential combat situ-ations, Saucer Module impulse propulsion system is brought to full operating status.

  • All tactical and long-range sensor arrays are brought to full operational status. Secondary mission use of sensor elements is discontinued, except with approval of Ops.

  • Deflector systems are automatically brought to tactical configuration unless specifically overridden by the Tactical Officer. All available secondary and backup deflector genera-tors are brought to hot standby.

  • Phaser banks are energized to full standby. Power conduits are enabled, targeting scanners are activated. Level 3 diagnostics are performed to confirm operational status.

  • Photon torpedo launchers are brought to full standby. One torpedo device in each launcher is energized to full launch readiness and primed with a standard antimatter charge of 1.5 kg.

  • The Battle Bridge is brought to full standby status and backup bridge crews are notified for possible duty in the event of possible Saucer sep maneuvers.

  • All three shuttlebays are brought to launch readiness. Two shuttlecraft are brought to launch minus thirty seconds' readiness.

  • Onboard sensors record the location of all personnel and alert Security of any anomalous activity. Location and activity information is recorded for post-mission analysis.

  • Level 4 automated diagnostics are performed to verify readiness of autonomous survival and recovery vehicle systems (lifeboats). Readiness of ejection initiator servos is verified through a partial Level 3 semi-automated check. Security officers are assigned to insure that all passageways to lifeboat accesses are clear.

Red Alert Mode operating rules require two additional shuttles to be brought to urgent standby, and all nine remaining operational vehicles to be maintained at immediate standby.


In the event a set of casings is loaded, and the ship then stands down from Red Alert, the warhead fuels are off-loaded and returned to storage, and the launcher system is powered down.

What happens on the Bridge

Red Alert.

During Red Alert condition, all bridge stations are automatically brought to Full Enable Mode. Tactical systems are placed on full alert and, if unoccupied, the duty security chief will occupy the bridge Tactical station


Yellow and Red Alert operating rules generally require the presence of at least two command personnel [on the Bridge], in addition to Conn and Ops.

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