Effective immediately, “Code Grey” replaces the notice of “Service Disruption” on Saskatoon Health Region’s list of Emergency Preparedness Codes.

“Code Grey has always existed but until now we called it a service disruption and it was rarely announced like the other codes are,” says Christa Sather, Emergency Preparedness Planner in Risk Management. “However, just over a year ago we had a major Information Technology (IT) network and telephone outage that affected the whole Region. We realized then that service disruptions needed to be a code.”

A Code Grey applies to any unplanned loss or outage of infrastructure services, including IT, network, phone, power, heat, and water.

A Code Grey applies to any unplanned loss or outage of infrastructure services, including IT, network, phone, power, heat, and water.

Transforming service disruptions into a code is important because it sets into action a series of processes that units have to plan for to ensure staff and patient safety in the event of a loss of service. It also prepares everyone for unplanned events.

“Codes are recognized and listened to,” says Karen Newman, Site Leader for Saskatoon City Hospital and co-author of the new code. “Whenever a code is called, everyone pauses, listens, and if necessary, set in motion all the things that need to happen if the code affects their area. This could mean securing people and equipment, ensuring backup systems are functioning normally or even evacuation.”

A Code Grey can be called by anyone for any unplanned loss or outage of infrastructure services. Those services include  IT, network, phone, power, heat, water, and the like.

“We always encourage staff to call a code by dialling 3-2-1 if they feel at the time it is necessary. It is far better to err on the side of caution than to ignore something that could get much worse,” says Sather. “We always have a meeting to debrief after a code so, no matter what, we learn from the experience.”

The launch of Code Grey is the first of a series of code changes that will take place over the coming months.

Every department has its own Emergency Preparedness Plan binder. Make sure you know were yours is and what you need to do before a Code is called.

Every department has its own Emergency Preparedness Plan binder. Make sure you know were yours is and what you need to do before a code is called.

“The work on Code Grey is only one part of a larger review of all existing codes,” says Sather. “We are reviewing, and if needed, reworking the codes to streamline them so they are easy to understand and everyone can react to them with the appropriate level of attention.”

Staff emergency stickers, found on the back of identification tags, which identify codes will remain the same until the code review is complete. “We’ll have a come-and-get-your-new-sticker day when we’re done,” Newman joked with a laugh.

If staff have questions about the codes, they are encouraged to check out the Emergency Preparedness site on the Region’s intranet (InfoNet).