Hospital emergency codes

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For the computer virus, see Code Red (computer worm). For the Portall Album , see Code Black (album). For the Icehouse Album, see Code Blue (album). For the practice of corruption among U.S. law enforcement, see Blue Code of Silence. For the Caroline Cooney novel, see Code Orange (novel). For the American punk band, see Code Orange (band).

Hospital Emergency Codes are used in hospitals worldwide[citation needed] to alert staff to various 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. These codes may be posted on placards throughout the hospital, or printed on employee identification badges for ready reference.

Back of a hospital ID badge showing disaster codes.

Hospital emergency codes may denote different events at different hospitals, including nearby ones. Because many physicians work at more than one facility, this may lead to confusion in emergencies, so uniform systems have been proposed.

Colour code standardization[edit]

Codes by colour[edit]

Note: Different codes are used in different hospitals.

Code Blue[edit]

Cardiac arrest[edit]

"Code Blue" is generally used to indicate 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". This phrase was coined at Bethany Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.[9] 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".

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.[10] Such practices are ethically controversial,[11] and are banned in some jurisdictions.[citation needed]


"Doctor" Codes[edit]

"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. _____", where the doctor's "name" is a code word for a dangerous situation or a patient in crisis. e.g.: "Paging Doctor Firestone, third floor," to indicate a possible fire in the location specified. "Paging Dr. Stork" normally indicates that a woman is in labor and needs immediate assistance.[citation needed]

Codes by emergency[edit]

Bomb threat[edit]

Cardio-Respiratory Arrest[edit]

Child abduction/missing person[edit]

Combative person/assault[edit]



Code Red.

Hazardous Materials Spill/Release/Decontamination[edit]

Hostage Situation[edit]

Internal disaster[edit]

Lockdown/limited access[edit]

Mass-casualty incident / External Disaster[edit]

Severe weather[edit]

Theft/armed robbery[edit]

Total divert[edit]

Other Codes[edit]


  1. ^ a b c AS 4083-1997 Planning for emergencies-Health care facilities
  2. ^[1].pdf>
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c LISTSERV 15.5 – MEDLIB-L Archives
  7. ^ California Healthcare Association News Briefs July 12, 2002Vol. 35 No. 27
  8. ^
  9. ^ Unplugged: Reclaiming Our Right to Die in America, Wiliam H. Colby, page 63
  10. ^ "Slow Codes, Show Codes and Death". New York Times (New York Times Company). 22 August 1987. Retrieved 2013-04-06. 
  11. ^ DePalma, Judith A.; Miller, Scott; Ozanich, Evelyn; Yancich, Lynne M. (November 1999). ""Slow" Code: Perspectives of a Physician and Critical Care Nurse". Critical Care Nursing Quarterly (Lippincott Williams and Wilkins) 22 (3): 89–99. doi:10.1097/00002727-199911000-00014. ISSN 1550-5111. 
  12. ^ "Hospital Emergency Codes - Hospital Association of Southern California (HASC)". Retrieved 7 August 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l
  14. ^ Code Red/Code Blue/Code whatever....what do you have/what are they for? danigirl58 (Posted: Mar 28, 2006)
  15. ^ ABC News, Tornadoes tear through Dallas, April 3 2012.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b Code Red/Code Blue/Code whatever....what do you have/what are they for? Page 1 - HappyNurse2005 (Mar 28, 2006)

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