hit panic button

panic button

noun
1.
an alarm button for use in an emergency, as to summon help.
Idioms
2.
push/hit/press the panic button, Informal. to give way to panic in a distressing situation.

Origin:
allegedly first used in reference to emergency bell systems on World War II bombers such as the B-17 and B-24

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
panic button
 
n
1.  a button or switch that operates any of various safety devices, for use in an emergency
2.  informal hit the panic button, press the panic button to react to a situation by demanding emergency action; become excited; panic

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