Earth. Wind. Fire. Water. These classical elements can cause major destruction to laboratories all over the world. So, it’s wise to have a business continuity plan in place to prevent or offset the devastation that can result from them. Even if your business is in the lab.
Whether it is a massive fire, a hurricane that causes extreme flooding, a tornado that tears through buildings, or an earthquake that crumbles an infrastructure – research laboratories are at risk.
Natural disasters can cause real disruption to lab operations. Extended loss of electrical power and damaged freezers can destroy biological material or render samples useless. This means years of research lost.
In the event of an emergency, it is important to have an extensive business continuity plan in place to reduce downtime, minimize financial loss, and preserve research assets.
What is a Business Continuity Plan?
A business continuity plan is a proactive approach to protect your lab from natural disasters. It outlines preventative measures and defines procedures for your lab in case of a potential threat. Here are FIVE ELEMENTS to include.
1. Identify key personnel and outside resources in your business continuity plan
Do not develop a plan on your own. Create a team and assign one person as the lead. Identify all personnel (PI, researchers, lab staff) and record their contact information. Then create a list of the ones you would call on first in a time of crisis. And don’t forget to provide training, so everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency.
Also provide a list of vendors with numbers for key contacts you can call 24-hours a day.
2. Mitigate risk in your business continuity plan
The value of separating some of your research material at an offsite location can’t be overstated. In case of natural disaster, it’s smart to move research material to a different location.
3. Account for loss of power in your business continuity plan
Make sure you have backup plans in place for power outages. Even a minor disruption can cause damage to equipment and ruin research material. And longer-term outages can cause significant and issues with temperature-sensitive material. Any variation can result in loss of a sample.
Have generators on hand to protect freezers and refrigerators in the event of a power outage. Last, make sure you understand the backup system for your facilities.
4. Make record of inventory equipment and research material in your business continuity plan
Documentation is crucial. Create a list of lab equipment and chemicals and make note of backup units. And be diligent about maintaining an inventory of temperature-sensitive material.
5. Include recovery tactics in your business continuity plan
In getting your organization up and running again, assess if buildings were severely damaged. Can you move equipment and materials back? If not, do you have another location that could house them? How will you move this material to a new location?
It’s wise to have an expert in lab transport available if materials need to be moved to a new building or location. You might even make this information one of the first things you define in your business continuity plan.