This Code at The Airport Means There’s a Security Threat. What Should You Do?

Airport personnel have their own secret language. “PAX” refers to “passengers”. The airplane itself is called “equipment”. While many of these codes hold little value to passengers, there are some that can help them survive dangerous situations.

Airport staff use certain codes to communicate about security issues without causing panic. Being aware of these can help you stay alert and get through security threats.

Airport Codes that Signal a Security Threat

Code Bravo

Code Bravo indicates a general security threat. It can be used for anything from a weapon sighting, to a suspicious person, to unattended luggage. It’s also not uncommon to hear this code during airport security drills.

In most cases, security agents will shout “Code Bravo” before yelling “freeze”. The idea is to cease passenger movement so security can investigate the person or item that triggered Code Bravo.

Code Bravo works in several ways:

  1. It alerts airport staff of the existence of a potential security risk, such as a terrorist or bomb.
  2. By commanding everyone to freeze, security personnel look for telltale nervous reactions that might give away an unknown terrorist.
  3. It allows the airport security to keep the civilians out of harm’s way while they apprehend the threat.
  4. Code Bravo is often used to distract civilians. It’s common for airport staff to yell “Code Bravo” to make the people manageable without there being a serious threat. The false notion of a security threat reduces the risk of people interfering. This allows airport staff to deal with nonthreatening issues such as lost kids or escaped pets.

Code Adam

The origin of Code Adam dates back to the 1981 kidnapping of a six-year-old child named Adam Walsh. This code typically signals an emergency involving a lost child. Code Adam alerts airport personnel that there’s a child missing. You can also expect to see police walking in to help with locating the lost child.

The usage of Code Adam isn’t limited to airports. Public places such as malls and parks also use this code to alert their staff about a missing child.

Code 7500

Code 7500 typically signals a hijacking risk. Aboard a plane, Code 7500 indicates that hijacking is either underway, or that the plane has already been hijacked.

Code 7500 isn’t completely unheard of inside the terminal. If you hear airport staff use this code, it usually means there’s one or more terrorists or potential hijackers at the terminal.

Code Red

Airport staff only use Code Red in the event of a real emergency at the airport or on the plane. If you hear this code while on the plane, know that there is a serious reason for it. Pilots are instructed to land at the nearest possible suitable airport in the event of a Code Red.

Hearing Code Red at the terminal typically means there’s a confirmed security risk, such as a bomb or terrorist. Airport security and police are almost immediately mobilized to deal with the situation.

What can you do if there’s a security risk at the airport?

Simply knowing the secret airport codes for security threats won’t help keep you safe. You also need to know how to react to such emergencies. Here are some crucial airport safety tips:

Don’t Panic

Knowing the security codes can put you at risk if you panic upon hearing them. If you break into a run upon hearing “Code Bravo”, airport security could easily mistake you for a threat. Stay calm and stay where you are unless security personnel instruct you to do otherwise.

Be Alert

Being aware of your surroundings is a habit all travelers should look to develop. When you hear the code for a security threat, this habit may well save your life. Notice someone behaving in an unusual manner, or an abandoned bag or device? Inform airport personnel promptly and discretely.

Hear a quick pop? It could be gunfire. Real life guns don’t quite sound like they do in the movies. The actual sound of a gunshot is often described as being similar to that of fireworks and car backfire. Should you hear something like that, immediately try to make out the direction it came from. Next, run to the nearest exit or hiding spot.

If there’s a Code Adam, try to steer clear of the security personnel’s way. At the same time, look around and try to remember if you’d seen the missing child. Don’t shy away from making inquiries from others around you.

Take Responsibility for your Travel Companions

If you’re traveling with one or more companions, your awareness puts you in a good position to make the right decisions. Unless one of your travel companions has received training dealing with security threats, assume the responsibility. Quickly reassure your companion/companions, and make sure you stick together.

Follow Airport Staff Instructions

In an emergency situation, the airport staff’s first move is to help civilians. If there are no announcements and you’re unsure of what to do, seek out airport personnel.

Every member of airport staff receives training about emergency response and evacuation procedures. Follow their instructions.

Choose a Safe Place to Hide

If you’re in a crowded area, try to remain on the fringe. Stay clear of windows and glass doors. In case of a blast or gunfire, the glass can shatter and cause life-threatening injuries.

Head to the nearest exit. If that seems dangerous, find a safe hiding spot. Based on the nature of the security threat, restrooms, furniture, and terminal stores’ counters can serve as good hiding spots.

Save Emergency Contacts on Your Phone

Every traveler should make it a point to save their travel insurance provider’s emergency hotline number in their phone. If the security threat results in injuries, local clinics and hospitals may be overwhelmed. If you’re hurt, your travel insurance helpline may be able to help arrange medical assistance.

As it does in case of accidents, thefts, and illnesses, travel insurance can be a big financial relief in the event of an airport security crisis. But not all travel insurance plans cover risks such as terrorism and hijacking.

Check whether your existing travel insurance policy offers coverage for these hazards. In some instances, you may be able to include benefits such as cancellations and medical costs arising due to an act of terrorism.

At Insubuy, you can search for and compare relevant insurance plans easily. Create your account, compare plans, and buy the plan you need right on the website. Insubuy’s experts are well-versed in English, Chinese, and Spanish. They’re all licensed insurance professionals based in the U.S. What’s more–all consultations are absolutely free. Note that the codes for security threats are not standard for every airport in the world. Also, there are many other codes that remain closely guarded secrets. Learning the common codes is just the first step to becoming an observant traveler–something we should all strive for in this unpredictable world.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!

Let us improve this post!

Tell us how we can improve this post?


For visitors, travel, student and other international travel medical insurance.

Visit or call +1 (866) INSUBUY or +1 (972) 985-4400