Preparing for an Emergency

In preparing for laboratory emergencies, it is necessary to consider the type of work conducted in the laboratory and the most likely accidents that may occur. Laboratory personnel must know the appropriate emergency response procedures, the location and use of any emergency equipment, emergency contact information, and any necessary follow-up procedures. The required elements of emergency preparedness for laboratories are listed below:

• Along with the information provided in this manual, the Supplemental Laboratory Safety Plan must provide laboratory specific emergency response information. A template for completion of this plan is available on the EHS website.
• SDS for all chemicals in the laboratory must be readily available so that laboratory and emergency response personnel have immediate access to chemical specific emergency information.
• Emergency contact information must be clearly posted on the laboratory entrance sign.
• Emergency showers and eyewashes must be flushed every two weeks by the departments and tested by EHS routinely so that they are operational in the event of an exposure.
• Spill supplies must be appropriately stocked and easily accessible.
• A first aid kit containing basic supplies must be stocked and easily accessible.
• Personnel should be familiar with the building evacuation plan and their laboratories evacuation route.

For additional information, please reference the EHS Emergency Preparedness Program guides on the EHS website. It is also recommended that laboratory personnel receive Fire Extinguisher Training (offered by EHS) first aid training, cardiopulmonary resuscitation training, and participate in fire, earthquake, and severe weather drills conducted by the university

A utility failure is any disruption in the services necessary for the safe and proper operation of a building, including; electricity, water, heating, ventilation, air conditioning, telephone, internet, and water utilities. A utility failure may be wide-spread or limited to a specific building or area within a building. Power and utility outages may be advertised and scheduled in advance to perform preventative maintenance. In the event of a utility failure laboratory ventilation and equipment may not function properly, laboratory classes and laboratory research activities may not be held whenever a power outage or major utility failure occurs.

Many life safety systems (i.e., fire suppression and alarm systems, security systems, and emergency lighting) are dependent upon the proper operation of utilities to function. Utility outages demand that all activities within the affected spaces be suspended until utilities are restored. Many university buildings are equipped with an emergency generator; however, emergency generators are designed to supply power to critical building systems, not to serve as an alternative source of energy to support normal operations. Despite the apparent normal operating condition, all buildings under emergency generator power should be evacuated unless extenuating circumstances exist, such as: severe weather, violence on campus, downed power lines adjacent to or blocking building exits, a hazardous materials spill, or other condition which makes it unsafe to exit the building.

The following procedures must be followed whenever a critical (i.e. power, water, or heating, ventilation and air conditioning) utility failure occurs:

  • Report the utility failure to Facilities Management Customer Service (703) 993-2525
  • Discontinue all non-essential work until utilities are restored
  • Evacuate the building if safe to do so and do not return until the building is deemed safe for re-occupancy


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