panic button

Idioms
  1. push/hit/press the panic button, Informal. to give way to panic in a distressing situation.

Origin of panic button

allegedly first used in reference to emergency bell systems on World War II bombers such as the B-17 and B-24
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

British Dictionary definitions for push the panic button

panic button

noun
  1. a button or switch that operates any of various safety devices, for use in an emergency
  2. hit the panic button or press the panic button informal to react to a situation by demanding emergency action; become excited; panic
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Idioms and Phrases with push the panic button

push the panic button

Also, press the panic button. Overreact to a situation, as in Don't worry; Jane is always pushing the panic button, but I'm sure the baby's fine. This term originated during World War II, when certain bombers had a bell-warning system so that the crew could bail out if the plane was severely hit. Occasionally a pilot would push the button in error, when there was only minor damage, causing the crew to bail out unnecessarily. By 1950 the expression had been transferred to other kinds of overreaction.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.