Did you know that when a Code Red is called at BWH, the Boston Fire Department, along with members of BWH Engineering, Security and Environmental Affairs, responds to the location of the alarm to investigate? Code Red is the term used to designate a fire or fire-related emergency at BWH. All employees have the authority to initiate a Code Red if smoke or a fire is discovered.

Each month, BWH and Boston Fire respond to an average of 20 to 30 Code Red fire alarms at the hospital, said Dennis Tremblay, assistant director of Environmental Affairs. Code Red should be initiated in the event of an unstable and/or potentially threatening situation, such as an odor of smoke.

There are two different phases of a Code Red. Phase 1 is initiated by the discovery of a potential fire condition, such as the activation of a smoke detector or smoke odor. Phase 2 indicates that there is an actual fire, smoke or other hazardous condition in the hospital that warrants disruption of routine operations.

Power interruptions or damaged fire alarm devices can sometimes trigger false alarms, but Tremblay stressed that no matter the reason for an alarm being activated (including during drills), all Code Red alerts are to be treated as if there was an actual fire.

Operators in the control room, located in the Tower, keep an eye on flat-screen TVs displaying dashboards that allow them to monitor temperature, air quality, the status of air handlers, fire alarms and other functions around the hospital 24/7. Icons on the screen blink to signify alarms—some routine and others that require follow-up. A hot water pump not working or a high temperature in a room, for example, could trigger an alarm.

In the event of a fire, use the procedures below, which follow the A.R.C.E. Plan (Alarm, Rescue, Contain, Evacuate). This information is also included on the red emergency card with your ID badge.

ALARM: Call out “Code Red” and room location. Next, dial the stat code line extension 2-6555, say “Code Red” and make sure to include location information and nature of fire.

RESCUE: If it is safe to do so, help anyone who is in immediate danger.

CONTAIN: Close all other doors in the area to contain the fire and smoke.

EVACUATE: Follow your department’s specific evacuation policy. Move patients and staff to safe zones when directed to do so by Boston Fire.

Staff should wait until the Code Red clears before they return to a department/unit where an alarm was activated.

Tremblay says all staff should be aware of where the nearest fire alarm is located in their department/unit. In addition, make sure telephones in the area have stickers on them with important emergency phone numbers, including the stat code line, 617-732-6555, and 911. To request a sticker for a phone, call the BWH Help Desk at 617-732-5927.