America's Nuclear Submarines Are So Tough They Can Crash into Mountains and Survive

America’s Nuclear Submarines Are So Tough They Can Crash into Mountains and Survive

This is a fair and common question of ours. The phrase “chicken switch” has long been associated with devices designed to help our Nation’s bravest escape life-threatening circumstances, which is exactly what our products are designed to do for those men and women who work around electrical arc flash hazards.

Here’s the interesting and historical context of the phrase “chicken switch:”

Maritime roots: In the Navy, a submariner would use the emergency blow activator or “hit the Chicken Switch” on the ballast control panel to blow compressed air into the ballasts on a submarine in an emergency. This action would rapidly ascend the vessel to the surface of the water. In 2005, the USS San Francisco slammed into an underwater mountain and the crew used the “chicken switch” to save the majority aboard. Incredible story, by the way.

Aerospace roots: defines Chicken Switch as “a device by which an astronaut may eject the capsule in which he or she rides in the event that a rocket malfunctions.”

Other uses: Most recently, an eclectic/hipster brand of subscription-order Chicken Switch coffee was launched out of Texas. In the music world, Chicken Switch is the name of a classic R&B song by The James Hunter Six as well as the title of a 2009 remix rock album by the band Melvins.



Martek has made “Chicken Switch” a powerful name in electrical arc flash safety. We have found that once someone learns about it, they don’t forget it. In the marketing world, we call that being “sticky,” which is when brand name gets adopted as common use and is intensely memorable. It’s what Clorox® has become to bleach and what Kleenex® has become to tissues. In fact, competitors tell us that people frequently ask them for a “chicken switch” for various breakers and control switches. There have been mixed reactions to the name, especially by folks unfamiliar with the historic life-saving roots of the phrase. However, the name and quality of our products have helped us achieve a favorable market position and a brand recognition that we wouldn’t dare abandon. We embrace Chicken Switch; even if it is occasionally used with a little “tongue in cheek” as it’s mentioned.

So, sit back and have a cup of Chicken Switch coffee, rock-out to the Chicken Switch album, and rest assured that you can safely operate electrical switchgear outside of the arc flash boundary with your Chicken Switch® remote actuator.