hit the panic button

panic button

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

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
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

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Slang Dictionary

hit the panic button definition

and press the panic button; push the panic button
  1. tv.
    to panic. : She hit the panic button and just went to pieces. , Don't press the panic button until you think it through.
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw-Hill Education.
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