Color-coded alert systems provide little benefit in hospital shootings

Hospital shootings are becoming distressingly common--and safety advocates say that the color-coded alert systems used by most healthcare facilities are not only inadequate, but may endanger the lives and safety of hospital patients and visitors.

One hospital's decision to do away with the coded alerts may have minimized chaos and saved lives when a shooting took place in January, according to Boston Magazine

On January 20, 55-year-old Stephen Pasceri walked into Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston and demanded to see cardiac surgeon Michael Davidson. Pasceri shot and killed Davidson, then turned the gun on himself.

In emergencies, most hospitals "call a code" that can mean anything from a patient going into cardiac arrest to a lost child on the hospital campus.

The problem is that only hospital staff and employees know what the codes mean. With an active shooter in the hospital, everyone--including the thousands of patients and visitors who come through the facility's doors each day--must be warned. 

"It really does not make sense to call a code," Robert Chicarello, director of security at the hospital, told Boston Magazine. "It needs to be plain English so untrained visitors, patients, anybody who is in the building, can hear it and know what's happening."

He and hospital administrators did an extensive reworking of their emergency plan in the wake of the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech University, which claimed more than 30 lives. After the Boston shooting, Partners HealthCare, the company that owns BWH, instituted the plain English announcement protocol across all of its hospitals, the article notes. 

To learn more:
- here's the article

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