Editor's note: This article was written by a Townsquare Media Northern New England contributor and may contain the individual's views, opinions, or personal experiences.

Whether you're shopping at a Market Basket in Maine, a Target in Massachusetts, or a Costco in New Hampshire, all big box stores have a color-coded announcement system and we should know what each of the seven colors means.

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

I mean, when we hear announcements over a store's intercom, they're geared toward employees to assist customers, registers, or clean up aisles. However, if you happen to hear a color-coded message, it's serious.


A '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 can safely.  No matter what, instructions will follow.  This is also a usable code if there is someone threatening violence right outside the store.


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


A '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.


If you hear 'Code Black', that 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 6-year-old son of the  "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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