London Underground passenger fears ‘nuclear attack’ as cryptic code used in station evacuation but clued up Londoners reveal what it really means

A London Underground passenger was left confused after being asked to evacuate Tottenham Court Road station and hearing a cryptic code in a pre-recorded announcement that made them fear a “nuclear attack” or something sinister.

Taking to TikTok, the Tube passenger said: “This happened in Tottenham Court Road and I immediately thought it was a nuclear attack. What is this code for?” In the video, a pre-recorded announcement asked “all passengers leave the station immediately” and “Would Inspector Sands please go to the operation room immediately.”

Clued-up Londoners quickly jumped to the comments to explain the real meaning behind the London Underground announcement. “Inspector Sands is code for fire, in old days they used sand to put fires out,” wrote one commenter.

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“It’s code for fire,” added another. “I thought everyone knew this.” Obviously not everyone does know this as other Tube passengers admitted they had been confused by the announcement in the past.

“I was in Euston and I thought Inspector Sands was having a nap because he didn’t respond for ages,” joked one person in the comments. Another added that in their “twenty years in London” they had never heard the announcement.

Inspector Sands is a code phrase used by Transport for London to alert staff and other organisations like the police to an emergency or possible emergency. Examples include a fire.

It is an automated public address announcement which is sometimes generated automatically by the station’s fire warning system, or station control manually triggers it. You may sometimes hear it as part of routine fire alarm testing.

There is no need to panic if you do hear an Inspector Sands announcement. Staff will always give you guidance if there is an incident.

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