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Workplace Emergency Code Words 

Emergency Code Words

Have you ever felt the need to use it?

Workplace emergency code words are any words or phrase used during a conversation that alerts others to a problem and summons help as quickly as possible. The term typically refers to ‘a signal’ that is embedded into normal communication.

Examples of workplace situations where emergency codes can help

A member of your front desk staff is having a difficult time calming someone down and the situation is escalating to shouting, swearing or threatening.  She may be able to verbally signal another worker close by or use the intercom to page “Mr. Arnott to the conference room” (“Mr. Arnott” is a fictitious name/emergency code). This is simply a signal to bring assistance to the lobby area.

A supervisor during a high risk job termination is nervous and the person he is sacking is becoming extremely agitated. The supervisor calls someone and asks them to email the “blue file.” This signals to call the police and have them respond immediately.

The best code words or phrases are something that fit the environment in which you work. The best code words are simple and easily recognised.

Warnings about emergency codes

Avoid using multiple code words for multiple actions. For example, code silver could mean someone has a weapon. Code grey could mean that there is a violent person without a weapon. Code black could mean alert security staff that there is someone who is threatening personnel. In a life threatening situations when people are in fear of physical harm they can easily get the codes confused, which could be dangerous and put other people in harm’s way.

Never force employees to learn multiple codes – especially colours or numbers that can be easily mixed up. One emergency code matches one protocol. Having too many can cause confusion and panic. Keep it simple!

Ensure that your staff do not think it’s funny to play around with the codes or use them as practical jokes. The codes are meant to be used in emergency situations only – using them for attention or fun should not be tolerated.

Any employee who receives an emergency code should clearly understand what to do – call 999, alert security or send other employees to the person in need.

If employees are tasked to attend to someone’s aid, they need to enter the area cautiously, being observant of the situation and make an assessment before they proceed. You should avoid escalating the situation any further.

At your next safety or security meeting, put emergency codes on the agenda. Discuss their advantages for keeping your workplace safe and think which would be most effective for your environment. They require planning and rehearsal to ensure an appropriate response.

Remember two important things when choosing your word:

1) Make sure you choose a word or a phrase that is appropriate for your environment

2) Make certain that it can be easily used in everyday conversation

Once the procedure has been implemented and staff fully trained, routinely test the emergency code word to ensure that staff fully understand their responsibilities!