materials to have on hand in case of an emergency that requires personnel to shelter in place.
In addition to laboratory safety issues, laboratory personnel should be familiar with what to do in an emergency. Topics may include
• evacuation procedures;
• emergency shutdown procedures—equipment shutdown and materials that should be stored safely;
• communications during an emergency—what to expect, where to call or look for information;
• how and when to use a fire extinguisher;
• security issues;
• protocol for absences due to travel restrictions or illness;
• safe practices for power outage;
• shelter in place;
• handling suspicious mail or phone calls;
• laboratory-specific protocols relating to emergency planning and response;
• handling violent behavior in the workplace;
• first-aid and CPR training, including automated external defibrillator training if available.
Periodic drills to assist in training and evaluation of the emergency plan are recommended as part of the training program.
In an emergency situation, even with good planning, a number of factors tend to create a chaotic environment. Emotions may run high, uncertainties may exist regarding how long the conditions will last, and the general routine of the laboratory environment is disrupted.
Decisions need to be made, priorities set, and plans put in motion. Having a clear succession of leadership and priorities ahead of time can help provide clarity to the situation.
3.C.1 Decision Makers, with Succession
Determine who will provide leadership for the institution, department, group, or laboratory. Make a list of individuals authorized to make decisions, including financial commitments. Assume that there will be absences and include a succession. Keep in mind that in an emergency situation, the most practical leadership succession does not always follow the organizational chart. Ensure that the people on that list know their designation and understand their responsibilities.
3.C.2 Laboratory Priorities
In the event of a reduction of staff, a limited amount of freezer space for sample storage, or other circumstances that place limitations on laboratory operations, experiments may need to be suspended or laboratory materials allowed to deteriorate. Consider laboratory priorities ahead of time, to reduce the decision-making burden during an emergency. Examples of priorities include securing pathogenic microbe libraries; securing toxic, flammable, or unstable compounds; and securing compounds that could be precursors to pharmaceuticals.
Review the operations and materials in the laboratory and formulate a hierarchy. Although each laboratory has unique needs, the following is one example:
• Priority 1: Protect human life.
• Priority 2: Protect research animals:
ο Grant-funded research animals,
ο Thesis-related research animals,
ο Other research animals.
• Priority 3: Protect property and the environment:
ο Mission-critical property,
ο High-value equipment,
ο Difficult to replace materials.
• Priority 4: Maintain integrity of research:
ο Grant-funded research,
ο Thesis-related research,
ο Other research.
3.C.3 Essential Personnel
In an emergency, there may be a facility closure and/or travel bans in place that would restrict personnel in their ability to report to work. If the laboratory must remain at least partially operational and personnel must report to work, it is important that these individuals be recognized as “essential personnel.” There are human resources and payroll issues that may factor into this designation, as well as institutional policies.
In an emergency, the duties and responsibilities of the individuals reporting to work may be different than their responsibilities under normal conditions. Ensure that personnel understand and accept these responsibilities.
When there is a travel ban due to a state of emergency, those who must travel by car will need documentation from the institution stating that they are