We show that external fluctuations induce excitable behavior in a bistable spatially extended system with activator-inhibitor dynamics of the FitzHugh-Nagumo type. This can be understood as a mechanism for sustained signal propagation in bistable media. The phase diagram of the stochastic system is analytically obtained and numerically verified. For small-noise intensities, front propagation becomes unstable, and excitable pulses arise as the only possible spatiotemporal behavior of the system. For large-noise intensities, on the other hand, the system enters an effective regime of oscillatory behavior, where it exhibits spontaneous nucleation of pulses and synchronized firing.