November 7, 2013

Emergency notifications come in burst of colors

Knowing how to react in an emergency situation can save lives, but sometimes it’s confusing what particular colors mean in emergency notifications that are communicated by email and overhead announcements across Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Knowing how to react in an emergency situation can save lives, but sometimes it’s confusing what particular colors mean in emergency notifications that are communicated by email and overhead announcements across Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

(iStock image)

Red, Yellow, Orange, Pink, Purple, Black and Silver sound like a rainbow of colors in a young child’s crayon box, but knowing what the colors mean in emergency notifications can allow for faster response, said Pam Hoffner, MSN, R.N., VUMC’s director of Emergency Preparedness and Response.

“VUMC’s comprehensive emergency operations plan and its supporting sub plans can be implemented at a moment’s notice and are regularly reviewed, updated and modified to reflect the changing environment.

“[rquote]It’s important to know what each code means because a quick response can matter in the safety of our faculty, staff and patient population[/rquote],” Hoffner said.

Red, yellow and orange alerts are sent by either email notification or across overhead speakers located throughout the Medical Center when there’s a potential emergent situation, Hoffner said.

• A Red Alert means that a fire has been spotted. Red Alert is followed by the location where the fire has been spotted and those in that area should follow the procedures for their area.

• A Yellow Alert Standby means to standby for a situation and to “prepare to activate” the Emergency Operations plan.

• An Orange Alert means that it’s time to activate the Emergency Operations plan for the situation.

Emergency situations that are announced during yellow and orange alerts are: mass casualty, tornado warning, inclement weather, flood, unannounced survey, or outages of oxygen, medical air, electricity, water, steam (heat), phone system, vacuum system, computer system or beeper system.

And then there are the “Code” announcements:

Code Silver is for an “active shooter” situation.
Code Black is for a bomb threat.
Code Pink is for a missing infant (younger than 12 months).
Code Purple is for a missing child (1-12 years).
Code Walker Adolescent is for a missing teen (13-17).
Code Walker Adult is for a missing adult, 18 or over.

Hoffner suggested that faculty and staff take a look at the Emergency Preparedness website. Click on Medical Center, and then “Quick Reference Guides” for more information. There should also be a flip chart of the Emergency Operations Quick Reference Guide located in all units and departments on the main Medical Center campus and at Vanderbilt Health One Hundred Oaks.

In addition to overhead alerts and emails at VUMC, another way that faculty, staff and students across the University can be informed of an emergency situation is through AlertVU, which is used only for emergencies posing an imminent threat or danger to the Vanderbilt community, such as a tornado headed toward campus or an active shooter.

“AlertVU is the core component of the Vanderbilt emergency mass notification system. It is designed to deliver a short brief message and provide emergency instructions across several communication modalities,” said Johnny Vanderpool, Vanderbilt’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. “[lquote]I always remind people — read the AlertVU message and follow the instructions. It just might save your life.[/lquote]”

All Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff are automatically enrolled in AlertVU using their Vanderbilt email address and their Vanderbilt phone number, if they have a Vanderbilt phone number.

Users may enter additional phone numbers by which they wish to receive voice or text alerts and students may also enter a contact number for a parent if they wish for a parent to be notified of emergencies at Vanderbilt.

To make sure your AlertVU information is up to date, or to add additional numbers visit A VUnet ID and password are required.

The University homepage will continue to be the primary location for all information and ongoing updates. Other existing systems, such as the pager system used by the Medical Center, campus security notices, electronic message boards, sirens, other campus and medical center websites and social media will continue to be used as part of the University and Medical Center’s overall emergency communications strategy.

And as part of the expanded AlertVU effort, your local desktop management team may install an application called Alertus on your office PC.

Alertus will display a full-screen notification whenever AlertVU is activated. This application operates behind the scenes, and has no impact on the performance of your machine. When AlertVU is activated, you will be asked to acknowledge the notification and then you may resume normal activity.

Alertus is also available for use on your personal computer while you are using the Vanderbilt network. Downloads are available here.

Alertus should not be downloaded to your office PC unless instructed by your desktop team — that will be handled centrally in most areas.