Patients and visitors at any of Piedmont Healthcare’s hospitals will now hear plain language emergency announcements instead of codes with corresponding colors.

The practice was recommended by 25 state hospital associations and several leading federal agencies.

The change in the alerts, which notify staff, patients and visitors of various emergency warnings or safety threats, was implemented Sept. 1. It is part of Piedmont’s continuing commitment to put patient safety at the forefront of its strategic focus.

As Piedmont Healthcare has grown from five to 11 hospitals over the past four years, entities that have joined the system have brought with them their own color-coded systems. As a result, a code at one hospital might hold a different meaning at another hospital. This system can lead to code confusion among providers who work at multiple facilities.

“We are committed to patient, staff and visitor safety, and this ensures clear communication and increases safety on our campuses,” said Kevin Brown, president and CEO of Piedmont Healthcare. “By using standardized plain language alerts at all of our hospitals we can be sure that our staff and visitors understand the information being communicated without any further explanation.”

The use of plain language emergency alerts is recommended by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

FEMA states that it is important that responders and incident managers use common terminology as the use of plain language in emergency response is a matter of public safety, especially the safety of those affected by the incident.

For example, formerly a “Code Red” would have indicated a fire. Under the new system, the alert will be “Facility Alert – Fire Alarm” followed by the location of the threat. One exception is that Code Blue, which indicates a medical emergency, will remain.

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