HomeHospital Emergency Color Codes

I was in An Arizona hospital emergency room (as a patient) the other day and I heard various color codes being used.  I attempted to figure out what they meant.  Some people told me what they meant in the hospital that I was in.  I heard called out codes blue, red, and gray.  The gray one is what got me wondering what the codes meant.  I went on the web looking for a standard set of these codes.  To my dismay, there is no standard set of codes.  I believe that is is a tragedy waiting to happen and must be corrected.  I copied the following from a web page for California.

The California healthcare association has created a publication Healthcare Facility Emergency Codes: A Guide for Standardization. The new publication is aimed at assisting the medical facility staff to respond in a uniform manner to situations that may occur in and around the hospital.

Their 11 codes are:




Medical emergency - adult


Medical emergency - pediatric


Infant abduction


Child abduction


Bomb threat


Combative person


Person with a weapon and/or a hostage situation


Hazardous material spill/release

Triage Internal

An internal disaster

Triage External

An external disaster

This code chart is nice and is useful and I believe that it should be implemented nationally.
There are a couple of emergencies that are not included in this chart and they shoud be:

I have not attempted to describe the staff behavior for each color.  The hospital will specify this but most are fairly obvious.

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Written:  2006          Updated:  Febbruary 6, 2006             Back to Top