Plain-Language Emergency Alerts


The Texas Hospital Association, through its Board of Trustees, has endorsed a voluntary adoption of plain-language alerts for use inside all Texas hospitals to:

  • Promote the safety of patients, visitors, physicians and hospital staff;
  • Reduce errors;
  • Increase transparency of communications and safety protocols;
  • Align with national safety recommendations; and
  • Reduce confusion for staff or physicians who work in more than one facility.

The decision to support the voluntary adoption of standardized, plain-language alerts follows an extensive vetting of THA member hospitals. As a member-driven initiative, the plain-language alert project was launched when several member hospitals inquired into the use of a uniform alert system beginning in 2013. THA’s Hospital Physician Executive Committee reviewed the issue in 2014, and a full member survey was completed in 2015 to analyze the extent of current code variation and to gauge member interest in a uniform system. Following the survey, THA staff convened a workgroup of members to review the issue and make recommendations.

Download the Whitepaper

Plain-Language Emergency Alerts Whitepaper

Please complete the form below to access the plain-language alerts whitepaper “Stop Speaking in Code: Using Plain Language Alerts to Improve Communication in the Hospital in an Emergency.”

THA’s voluntary standardized, plain-language emergency code project is a tremendous resource for all THA-member hospitals. I’ve seen firsthand the confusion that can arise from the use of color codes to announce an emergency within the hospital. Different hospitals use different colors to describe the same emergency. This variation easily creates confusion among physicians who may practice in multiple hospitals, the visiting public and employees who may have worked in other hospitals or health systems. Using plain language is the most effective way to communicate clear information and instructions when an emergency occurs and time is of the essence.

Brad Holland, FACHE, CEO, Cedar Park Regional Medical Center


Facility Alert

EventRecommended Plain Language
Bed Capacity“Facility Alert + Bed Capacity + Descriptor (location)”
Emergency Plan Activation“Facility Alert + Emergency Plan Activation + Descriptor (location)”
Fire Alarm Activation“Facility Alert + Fire Alarm Activation + Descriptor (location)”
Hazardous Spill“Facility Alert + Hazardous Spill + Descriptor (location)”

Medical Alert

EventRecommended Plain Language
Medical AlertCode Blue

Security Alert

EventRecommended Plain Language
Armed Violent Intruder/Active Shooter/Hostage“Security Alert + Descriptor (threat/location)”
Civil Disturbance“Security Alert + Descriptor (threat/location)”
Combative Patient/Person“Security Alert + Security Assistance Requested + (location)”
Lockdown“Security Alert + Descriptor (threat/location) + Instructions”
Missing Person“Security Alert + Descriptor”
Suspicious Package“Security Alert + Descriptor (threat/location)”

Weather Alerts

EventRecommended Plain Language
Severe Weather“Weather Alert + Descriptor (threat/location) + Instructions”


The Plain-Language Emergency Alerts were developed by a workgroup of THA-member hospitals and health care systems, listed below:

Baptist Health/Emerus
Baylor Scott & White Health
Cedar Park Regional Medical Center
CHI St. Joseph Health
CHI St. Luke’s Health Memorial
Children’s Health
Childress Regional Medical Center
CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System
Del Sol Medical Center
ETMC Athens
Frio Regional Hospital
Harris Health
Hendrick Medical Center
Hopkins County Memorial Hospital
JPS Health Network
Lake Pointe Medical Center – Tenet
McAllen Medical Center
Medical Center Health System
Methodist Healthcare System
Midland Memorial Hospital
Moore County Hospital District
Muenster Memorial Hospital
Northwest Texas Healthcare System
Seton Family of Hospitals
St. Luke’s The Woodlands Hospital
Swisher Memorial Healthcare System
Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Health Resources
The Hospitals of Providence Memorial Campus – Tenet
Trinity Mother Frances Hospitals & Clinics
University Medical Center
Yoakum Community Hospital