News, Culture & Society

Codeword used to warn of fire could be scrapped

Commuters have figured out that ‘Inspector Sands’ is staff codeword for fire at train stations and start fleeing when they hear it

  • The ‘Inspector Sands’ announcement is used at stations all over the country 
  • Also used on the underground and airports to warn of possible fire emergency
  • A spokesperson for Railfuture said the codeword ‘clearly needed to be changed’ 

Commuters have called for an emergency codeword to be scrapped after it caused panicked passengers to stampede through stations. 

The ‘Inspector Sands’ announcement is used at stations all over the country, on the London Underground and at airports to warn of a possible fire emergency.

The message, which is sent out over a public announcement system and is believed to have been used for around 20 years, asks for the ‘inspector’ to report to the ‘operations room’. 

The ‘Inspector Sands’ announcement is used at stations all over the country, on the London Underground and at airports to warn of a possible fire emergency (file image of Waterloo station) 

However the overuse of the announcement has meant commuters have figured out its meaning, leading critics to say the ‘outdated’ system should be scrapped.  

Emil Coman, 38, told The Times that the announcement lead people to start ‘nervously running down the tunnels and up the escalators’ at Waterloo Underground station recently.  

However the overuse of the announcement has meant commuters have figured out its meaning, leading critics to say the 'outdated' system should be scrapped (file image of Waterloo station)

However the overuse of the announcement has meant commuters have figured out its meaning, leading critics to say the ‘outdated’ system should be scrapped (file image of Waterloo station)

According to Transport for London, Inspector Sands is activated when the station fire alarm sounds and exists so staff can get prepared, without causing ‘unnecessary alarm’. 

It was borrowed from a code used in London theaters where staff were made aware of potential fires.  

Commuter groups have said its intended purpose of not worrying passengers is redundant as now more people can recognise it. 

A spokesperson for Railfuture said the codeword ‘clearly needed to be changed’. 

A security expert added that the codeword was not designed for the internet age when people could Google the meaning of it.

Network Rail’s director of incident management and operational security said: ‘No staff at any station has ever witnessed any worrying passenger reaction to its use.’

Transport for London declined to comment. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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