So after I realized that the panic button was supposed to be for a redirect URL, I thought of a different use for it.
If I find a thread I like on the "New Posts" list, I click on the button that takes me to the most recent post. What do I do if I want to go back to the new posts list? I could hit "Back", but that won't reflect the fact that I just viewed a post.
Solution? Enable the panic button feature in your userCP, and set the redirect url to be a search query.
Set the URL field to this:
Save changes, and have a look at a thread. Now the panic button is there, and it's essentially the same as the "New Posts" button on the top menu bar.
This obviously is only a good idea for people who don't need the ability to hide the forums really quickly, as the PANIC button is supposed to be for.
Also, this tip has been posted on the Wiki along with instructions on setting up the panic button feature in general.