Seven councillors and 19 members of the public were trapped in a library after staff forgot they had a meeting, locked the doors and went home.
Some of the intrepid councillors used torches to beam SOS signals outside after getting trapped in the public library at about 8.30pm on Thursday.
West Sussex County Council has apologised for the blunder, which involved a number of elderly people.
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But a spokesman from the council added: “It was just one of those things.”
He added: “People weren’t in any danger. We apologise for any inconvenience.”
It is understood the people involved – which also included council officials – were locked in Crawley Library for about 30 minutes after the meeting ended.
Labour councillor Peter Lamb, who was among those trapped, said: “We tried a range of activities from banging on doors to shining lights.
“It was personally amusing on my part but I think some people were upset.
“What if there had been a fire?
“You can’t really keep the doors locked in a building.
“It was a community meeting and there were a lot of elderly residents.
“A number of people were angry rather than upset.”
Conservative Richard Burrett added: “We held our East Crawley County Local Committee meeting and when we went to leave we realised all the doors had been locked.
“We waited for a while and then tried the emergency numbers.
“Some worked, some did not.
“Eventually we got out.”