In order to improve patient safety and reduce errors, North Carolina hospitals are increasingly adopting “plain language” wording for emergency announcements, according to an article recently published in the Charlotte Observer. Until now, many hospitals have relied on a system of color coding that differs from facility to facility, causing confusion for healthcare workers who travel between locations.

For instance, “Code Orange” might refer to an air quality issue at one hospital and a hazardous materials spill at another. A utility disruption might be known as either “Code Black” or “Code Brown,” depending on the location.

A task force created by the North Carolina Hospital Association and the North Carolina Hospital Emergency Management Council formed to review best practices across the country has been pushing for a change. According to the article, under recently issued new guidelines, “hospitals are advised to announce the type of emergency—security alert, medical alert or facility alert—followed by an explanation of the emergency, such as a missing child, and a description or location.”

Although there is no new standard regarding exact wording, “it should be understandable and leave no doubt about the action required,” the Observer reports. Widely recognized color codes, such as Code Red and Code Blue, signaling a patient in immediate distress, and Code Pink, notifying of a child abduction, are permitted to remain in use.

Changing over to the new guidelines is voluntary, but the association reportedly hopes to encourage hospitals to switch by the end of 2016.