Thursday, May 19 2005
Last post I mentioned triage at mass casualty incidents, and how the victims were “tagged”, or color-coded by the first-in unit. With an MCI, green means the patient is “walking wounded”, yellow means “soon!”, and red means “Now!”. Our instructor in MCI advised us that, did we find ourselves victims in a train wreck, the best thing to do was to yell out “I’m a Red! I’m a Red!” over and over. He was kidding, of course – reds don’t generally speak. Neither do black tag folks – they be dead.
But a good system is a good system. Color-codes are therefore not unique to field providers.
Hospitals utilize color codes as well. In TV-Land nurses are always sticking their heads out of the patient’s rooms and shouting “Code Blue!” Funny, that’s all they ever yell. Code Blue. One gets the impression that Blue is the only code – and that’s just wrong. There are lots of other hospital codes out there.
But “Code Chartruese” just sounds silly over the intercom. Therefore, many hospitals use the same basic colors but each assigns its own meanings. At one of my facilities, “Code Black” means there’s a bomb threat. At your facility, “Code Black” might mean “Fresh Coffee is Ready”. Therefore, if you hear a code over the intercom, don’t presume to know what it means. You’d look pretty silly fleeing the premises because fresh coffee is ready.
So: Code Green (at this facility) indicates a terrorist or terrorist situation. Or a hostage situation. Something to do with someone being a big jerk. One might therefore hear “Code Green, in parking lot A.” over the intercom. No biggy. Step against the wall to let the SWAT guys run by.
Code Black indicates a bomb threat. Again, no big deal. “Code Black, in parking lot A” simply means you no longer have to get your parking validated.
(Warning for the sarcasm-impaired: The rest of this article is baloney.)
Codes can occur simultaneously, in which case just mix the colors! Mixing our examples above, we get a Code Dark Green, “Terrorist with a bomb.”
If our morally corrupt social engineer claims his bomb is “dirty” with biological, chemical, or radiological material, we must slide a Code Silver, “decontamination needed”, in there somewhere. On the intercom, then, we hear “Code Dark Green with a Silver Lining”.
“Doctor Red” or “Code Red” usually indicates a fire someplace. And it is often the case that a secondary fire might pop up from an explosion, so we now have a “Doctor Red possibly reporting later to a Code Dark, Dark Green with a Silver Lining.”
Anyone hearing that over the intercom will probably Code Brown themselves, which means just what you think it does. Which is a shame, since at their facility “Dark, Dark Green with a Silver Lining” means “The lunch special today is a romaine salad with a light vinaigrette.”