We're used to hearing intercom messages in big box stores like Target and Costco as well as grocery stores. One thing you may not know is that there is a universal color-coded announcement system to alert store employees when something extremely serious is wrong.

There are seven, according to Common Cents Mom, and they're used so shoppers don't immediately panic.\


'Code Red' means there's a fire, and whether it's spreading rapidly or not, it's time to leave.


'Code Brown' means there is an active shooter in the store.  It could also refer to other violent acts in play that don't necessarily involve a gun, but the key word is 'violent' when it comes to code browns.  I'd get out fast IF you safely can.  No matter what, instructions will follow.  This is also a usable code if there is someone threatening violence outside the store.


'Code Green' is an active hostage situation, so again, use your best judgment, knowing full well that instructions will follow.


'Code Blue' means someone has called in a bomb threat. I don't know about you, but I don't care if they're usually fake. I'm leaving immediately, and chances are, that's what the instructions will tell all of us shoppers to do, too.


'Code Orange' is a chemical spill. This is different if you're in a hospital, according to The Province. There, it means mass casualties and unforeseen disasters outside the hospital.


'Code White' is an accident of some kind in the store that isn't a direct danger to shoppers.


'Code Black' means we have super severe weather outside, and they will most likely receive instructions not to leave. The store might also close immediately because of the impending weather, and try to get everyone out and home safely.

I researched these color codes after a friend of mine told me she heard a 'Code Adam' while shopping at a store in Rhode Island, and she only vaguely knew about color codes.

According to the National Association of Missing and Exploited Children, a 'Code Adam" means a lost child in the store.  It's named after Adam Walsh, the six-year-old son of America's Most Wanted host John Walsh, who was abducted at a Sears store in Florida back in 1981 and never seen again.

According to Common Cents Mom, these color-coded intercom messages mean the same thing around the country, so it's nice to know it's not just a New England thing.

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