Coded messages often announced over a public address system of a hospital
Hospital emergency codes are coded messages often announced over a public address system of a hospital to alert staff to various classes of on-site emergencies. The use of codes is intended to convey essential information quickly and with minimal misunderstanding to staff while preventing stress and panic among visitors to the hospital. Such codes are sometimes posted on placards throughout the hospital or are printed on employee identification badges for ready reference.
Hospital emergency codes have varied widely by location, even between hospitals in the same community. Confusion over these codes has led to the proposal for and sometimes adoption of standardized codes. In many American, Canadian, New Zealand and Australian hospitals, for example "code blue" indicates a patient has entered cardiac arrest, while "code red" indicates that a fire has broken out somewhere in the hospital facility.
In order for a code call to be useful in activating the response of specific hospital personnel to a given situation, it is usually accompanied by a specific location description (e.g., "Code red, second floor, corridor three, room two-twelve"). Other codes, however, only signal hospital staff generally to prepare for the consequences of some external event such as a natural disaster.
Standardised color codes
Australian hospitals and other buildings are covered by Australian Standard 4083 (1997) and many are in the process of changing to those standards.
Code Black: Personal threat
Code Black Alpha: missing or abducted infant or child
In the UK, hospitals have standardised codes across individual NHS trusts (England and Wales) and health boards (Scotland), but there are not many standardised codes across the entire NHS. This allows for differences in demands on hospitals in different areas, and also for hospitals of different roles to communicate different alerts according to their needs (e.g., a major trauma centre like St. George's Hospital in South London has different priority alert needs to a rural community hospital like West Berkshire Community Hospital).
Some more standardised codes are as follows:
Code black: hospital at capacity – no available beds for new admissions from A&E. A code black is declared by the hospital's general bed manager, who then relays this to the local ambulance service and posts updates for local healthcare services such as GPs and district nursing teams.
Code red: This is the United kingdom's rapid response code. This call gets specialist Doctors and Trauma teams to the location for assistance in things like major traumas and deteriorating patients in situations like choking or airway compromise. This call also can be used to activate a major hemorrhage protocol in the event of a massive bleed. This call is referred to as Code red, staff assist, Trauma protocol or Rapid Response. This is the only emergency protocol which has a code. The only other is what is announced as a Mass casualty protocol not any codes. This is to show a major incident has taken place like a terrorist attack and the protocol is activated to alert specialists and begin special emergency procedures like mass casualty triage and decontamination.
- Major haemorrhage protocol – activated via the Code red system. A peri-arrest call is put out, but the transfusion lab is also alerted. A specified number of units of O-negativepacked red blood cells and (sometimes FFP and platelets) are immediately sent to the location of the call. The transfusion lab will crossmatch any saved blood samples for the patient, or await an urgent cross-match sample to be sent. Once this is done, units matching the patient's blood type will be continually sent until the major haemorrhage protocol is stood down.
Otherwise, non-colour codes are mostly used across the NHS:
2222 (crash call or peri-arrest call) – dialling 2222 from any internal phone in nearly all NHS hospitals will connect the caller immediately to the switchboard. The caller can then specify the type of cardiac arrest or peri-arrest call (usually adult, paediatric (or neo-natal) or obstetric) and give a location (eg "Adult cardiac arrest, Surgical Admissions Unit, ground floor B block" or "Obstetric peri-arrest, obstetric theatres, 4th floor maternity wing") and the switchboard will bleep the members of the relevant cardiac arrest or peri-arrest team. Some UK hospitals do not have a peri-arrest team, and the cardiac arrest team can be used for urgent medical emergencies where cardiac arrest is imminent.
'Fast bleep' codes – a 2222 call for a specific member of staff. For example, in status epilepticus, it is not necessary to call the crash team (as is done in cardiac arrest) but a fast bleep can be made to the on-call anaesthetist to come urgently.
Trauma call – adult (trauma centres only): usually called over a PA system across the emergency department, triggering a 'trauma call' paging request to all members of the trauma team - including a trauma surgeon and senior members their surgical team, an anaesthetist and ODP, emergency medicine consultant or registrar and members of their team (this will be usually be an FY1 or SHO). Trauma calls are similar to 'resus codes' used in the US.
Trauma call – paediatric (trauma centres only): triggers a 'trauma call' paging request to all members of the paediatric trauma team - including a trauma surgeon and senior members of their surgical team, often additionally a paediatric surgeon, a paediatric anaesthetist, ODP, (paediatric) emergency medicine consultant or registrar and members of their team (this will be usually be an FY1 or SHO).
In 2000, the Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC) determined that a uniform code system was needed after three people were killed in a shooting incident at a hospital after the wrong emergency code was called. While codes for fire (red) and medical emergency (blue) were similar in 90% of California hospitals queried, 47 different codes were used for infant abduction and 61 for combative person. In light of this, the HASC published a handbook titled "Healthcare Facility Emergency Codes: A Guide for Code Standardization" listing various codes and has strongly urged hospitals to voluntarily implement the revised codes.
In 2003, Maryland mandated that all acute hospitals in the state have uniform codes.
In 2008, the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems, Oregon Patient Safety Commission, and Washington State Hospital Association formed a taskforce to standardize emergency code calls. After both states had conducted a survey of all hospital members, the taskforce found many hospitals used the same code for fire (code red); however, there were tremendous variations for codes representing respiratory and cardiac arrest, infant and child abduction, and combative persons. After deliberations and decisions, the taskforce suggested the following as the Hospital Emergency Code:
Code Red: fire (also someone smoking in facility) (alternative: massive postpartum hemorrhage)
Code Silver: weapon or hostage situation
Code White: neonatal emergency or, in other hospitals, aggressive person evacuation. In some hospitals, the latter is called a Code Violet.
Code Green: emergency activation.
Code Black: bomb threat
External triage: external disaster (external emergencies impacting hospital including: mass casualties; severe weather; massive power outages; and nuclear, biological, and chemical incidents)
Internal triage: internal emergency (internal emergency in multiple departments including: bomb or bomb threat; computer network down; major plumbing problems; and power or telephone outage.)
Rapid response team: medical team needed at bedside (a patient’s medical condition is declining and needs an emergency medical team at the bedside) prior to heart or respiration stopping
In 2015, the South Carolina Hospital Association formed a work group to develop plain language standardization code recommendations. Abolishing all color codes was suggested.
Note: Different codes are used in different hospitals.
"Code blue" redirects here. For other uses, see Code Blue.
"Code blue” is used to indicate that a patient requiring resuscitation or in need of immediate medical attention, most often as the result of a respiratory arrest or cardiac arrest. When called overhead, the page takes the form of "Code blue, [floor], [room]" to alert the resuscitation team where to respond. Every hospital, as a part of its disaster plans, sets a policy to determine which units provide personnel for code coverage. In theory any medical professional may respond to a code, but in practice, the team makeup is limited to those with advanced cardiac life support or other equivalent resuscitation training. Frequently these teams are staffed by physicians (from anesthesia and internal medicine in larger medical centers or the emergency physician in smaller ones), respiratory therapists, pharmacists, and nurses. A code team leader will be a physician in attendance on any code team; this individual is responsible for directing the resuscitation effort and is said to "run the code". Most usually, it’s used as a case of emergency and when a doctor or surgeon calls “Code Blue!” it is representing an emergency.
This phrase was coined at Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas. The term "code" by itself is commonly used by medical professionals as a slang term for this type of emergency, as in "calling a code" or describing a patient in arrest as "coding" or "coded".
In some hospitals or other medical facilities, the resuscitation team may purposely respond slowly to a patient in cardiac arrest, a practice known as "slow code", or may fake the response altogether for the sake of the patient's family, a practice known as "show code". Such practices are ethically controversial, and are banned in some jurisdictions.
"Plan blue" was used at St. Vincent's Hospital in New York City to indicate arrival of a trauma patient so critically injured that even the short delay of a stop in the ER for evaluation could be fatal; "plan blue" was called out to alert the surgeon on call to go immediately to the ER entrance and take the patient for immediate surgery.
"Doctor" codes are often used in hospital settings for announcements over a general loudspeaker or paging system that might cause panic or endanger a patient's privacy. Most often, "doctor" codes take the form of "Paging Dr. Sinclair", where the doctor's "name" is a code word for a dangerous situation or a patient in crisis, e.g.: "Paging Dr. Firestone, third floor," to indicate a possible fire on the floor specified.
Specific to emergency medicine, incoming patients in immediate danger of life or limb, whether presenting via ambulance or walk-in triage, are paged locally within the emergency department as "resus" [ri:səs] codes. These codes indicate the type of emergency (general medical, trauma, cardiopulmonary or neurological) and type of patient (adult or pediatric). An estimated time of arrival may be included, or "now" if the patient is already in the department. The patient is transported to the nearest open trauma bay or evaluation room, and is immediately attended by a designated team of physicians and nurses for purposes of immediate stabilization and treatment.
Inspector Sands, code used over PA system in British public transport to indicate a serious situation