Skeleton crew

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For other uses, see Skeleton crew (disambiguation).

A skeleton crew is the minimum number of personnel needed to operate and maintain an item at its most simple operating requirements, such as a ship or business, during an emergency and, at the same time, to keep vital functions operating.


Some example uses of skeleton crews include:

  • Shipboard - The barest minimum number of personnel to keep the ship operating after it has been damaged and awaiting tow to port.
  • Blizzards, hurricanes, and typhoons - The least number of personnel to remain at a business location during a major storm to monitor conditions and to make emergency repairs if possible.
  • Inactivity - The least number of personnel necessary to keep an inactive facility from being vandalized such as a Texas Tower, a commercial building in transition between owners, etc.
  • Temporary closings - The smallest number of employees to monitor and maintain the facility while it is otherwise shut down for a holiday, strike, etc...
  • Film crew - The least number of essential workers required on a very low-budget production to shoot some form of media.
  • Television and radio stations - Most broadcasting authorities require a minimum of two employees to maintain a television and radio station, usually an engineer to handle on-air operations and transmitter maintenance, and an office worker to maintain station records and correspondence. Especially for stations on automation or which are translator stations, this is a common mode of operation.