a false alarm

false alarm

A benign situation initially mistaken for an emergency. Mary thought she was going into labor, but it turned out to be a false alarm. When the smoke detectors started beeping, we thought the building was on fire, but it was just a false alarm caused by faulty wiring.
See also: alarm, false

a false aˈlarm

a warning of something, especially something unpleasant or dangerous, which does not in fact happen: They thought the packet contained a bomb but it was a false alarm.
See also: alarm, false
References in classic literature ?
Thus, for example, the individual who defiled a drinking-place would be attacked by every onlooker, while one who deliberately gave a false alarm was the recipient of much rough usage at our hands.
Murray stared, and wondered at the unwonted energy and boldness with which I urged the request, and thought there was no occasion to hurry; but finally gave me leave: stating, however, that there was 'no need to be in such agitation about the matter--it might prove a false alarm after all; and if not--why, it was only in the common course of nature: we must all die some time; and I was not to suppose myself the only afflicted person in the world;' and concluding with saying I might have the phaeton to take me to O-.
Either it had been a false alarm, or the enemy had retreated on finding themselves discovered, and quiet was restored to the village.
Twice or thrice we seemed to get the signal, and a shout was just ready to break from the men's lips when they perceived it was a false alarm.
This may be a false alarm, or a forged letter,'' said De Bracy.
I caught a glimpse of rushing figures, and a moment later the voice of Holmes from within assuring them that it was a false alarm.
When I cried out that it was a false alarm, she replaced it, glanced at the rocket, rushed from the room, and I have not seen her since.
Turner for having alarmed Ralph, and for having given a false alarm.
Pickwick had run down the lane as fast as he could, to convey a false alarm that somebody was coming that way; occasionally drawing back the slide of the dark lantern to keep himself from the ditch.
In another half hour he arrived, and as soon as he had examined the marquis he said that we had had a false alarm.
Again there was a long silence, and I had begun to fear that it was a false alarm, when a stealthy step was heard upon the other side of the hut, and a moment later a metallic scraping and clinking.
This resulted in fire engines being mobilised on blue lights 18,000 times - almost ten a day - to what turned out to be a false alarm.
The official definition of a false alarm is "a fire signal resulting from a cause other than fire".
Andy Talbot, shopping centre manager, confirmed it was a false alarm, saying: "We estimate about 2,000 people were evacuated from the shops and car park.
Sandwell and West Birmingham Trust bosses are so sick of staff misusing toasters that they are introducing disciplinary punishments if a false alarm is set off, the annual fire report reveals.