The next time you find yourself in Walmart, you'll likely be listening to an eclectic mix of music over their public address system, however, if you hear a color-coded announcement, you may suddenly be in immediate danger.

Knowing what these colors mean can be extremely helpful and even potentially life-saving.

But first, why does Walmart use colors instead of just saying what's happening?

Simply put, this system is an easy way to alert employees to a specific situation without inciting panic among the possibly hundreds of shoppers inside. Workers can begin addressing the problem while those pushing shopping carts remain relatively calm.

Empty shopping cart - Photo by Bruno Kelzer on Unsplash
Empty shopping cart - Photo by Bruno Kelzer on Unsplash

Per numerous reports on social media, here are what the various color codes apparently mean.

Code Brown in Walmart

As it has been widely reported recently, a "code brown" means there is an act of violence happening inside the store. This could be an active shooter situation.

As defined by the Department of Homeland Security,

Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the shooting and mitigate harm to victims. Because active shooter situations are often over within 10 to 15 minutes, before law enforcement arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.

The DHS offers very helpful tips and information should you find yourself in an active shooter situation.

Code Blue

A "code blue" means the store has received a bomb threat.

Code Red

A "code red" indicates there is a fire in the store or there has been some type of explosion. Unless otherwise directed, you should quickly but calmly head toward the nearest exit.

Firefighter wearing a rolled hose

Code Black

A "code black" means there is an immediate threat of severe weather, primarily a tornado warning. And as this video shows, it does happen.

So how do you stay safe if you are in a large store or mall? Check the National Weather Service for helpful tips.

Code Green

A "code green" is very serious -- that declaration means there is an active hostage situation.

Police officers running
Thinkstock Images

I have also seen postings online that a code green could indicate a robbery is taking place.

Other color codes

A "code orange" is some type of chemical spill and a "code white" is an injury, accident, or possibly a situation where someone needs some type of help. In these situations, unless otherwise directed, it's best just to stay away from the impacted areas.

Code Adam

There is at least one emergency code that does not use a color and that is a "Code Adam."

The "Code Adam" alert was created by Walmart in 1994 and is a missing-child safety program that was named after 6-year-old Adam Walsh, the son of television personality John Walsh, who was abducted from a Sears store in 1994.

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