You know the old trope of how the person has a "backup plan of last resort" where in case of the person going missing or turning up dead, they have info that will be released.

How many scenes have we saw where the person says "If I do not call in every 24 hours, they system will email your secret to the paper ..." or something similar?

I for the life of me cannot remember what this is called. Help!


1 Answer 1


It is called a Dead Man Switch since it operates the same way that a physical Dead Man Switch works.

A backup plan in case of untimely death or incapacitation, used as a threat to protect the holder. If that person dies or fails to issue some form of communication within a set period of time, the plan goes into action automatically, making it in the interests of the threatening party to not harm that person. Provided, of course, that the threatening party knows about it. A common plot involving this trope is the switch is put in danger of being set off either by accident or by somebody who had no way to know about it.

  • Thanks! This has been bothering me all weekend and no amount of google searches would get me to the answer.
    – saunderl
    Sep 9, 2013 at 3:04
  • "Provided, of course, that the threatening party knows about it." - Nice Kubrick reference.
    – Peter
    Jul 27, 2017 at 18:16

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