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Office of Research

Planned Power Outage - Laboratory Requirements

A power failure in a building can result in hazardous conditions in laboratories.  Secure all experiments that are in progress.  Power outages can result in chemical fume hood or biosafety cabinet failure.  Room air pressures may be reduced in laboratories resulting in lack of adequate exhaust.  Pressure may buildup in equipment that relies on electronic control.  Control of chemical reactions that require cooling dependent on electrical power can fail.  A flammable atmosphere may accumulate in enclosed spaces if ventilation is not available.

In a brown-out or black-out condition, power failure may damage sensitive equipment or experiments. A brief period should not drastically affect the temperature in environmental rooms such as cold rooms. However, sensitive electronic equipment, instruments and computers should be shut down before a planned outage. Power surges caused by resuming power may damage equipment or create an unsafe condition. Please evaluate your laboratory for this situation.

Preparation for Planned Outages:

  • Ensure that all experiments, equipment, machinery or apparatus are stabilized or safe.
  • Make sure all chemicals are properly capped and placed into appropriate storage cabinets.
  • Check equipment on emergency power to ensure that it is running properly. Do not connect items not intended to be on emergency power during a disruption period.
  • Check chemical fume hoods. Stop any operations that may be emitting hazardous vapors. Cap all chemical containers that are safe to cap, and then close the chemical hood sashes. Leave the room and contact The Office of Research Safety (ORS) if you experience any symptoms due to exposure.
  • Turn off all lights and equipment that do not need power. This will reduce the risk of power surges and other unforeseen damage or injury that could result when the power comes on unexpectedly.
  • All electrical equipment is susceptible to serious damage due to power surges. Unplug all equipment not deemed critical.  Plug critical equipment in a designated emergency power outlet, if available.   
  • Check on incubators and verify that they are on emergency power or that the cell lines will be kept at the appropriate temperatures.
  • Check if your cold room is on emergency power. If not, move temperature sensitive materials or arrange for a dry ice delivery.
  • Shut down experiments that involve hazardous materials
  • Shut down equipment that automatically restarts when power is available
  • Place all freezers and ultra-low freezers containing sensitive material on emergency backup power supply, if available.
  • Turn off all gas cylinders at the tank valves. Note: If a low flow of an inert gas is being used to "blanket" a reactive compound or mixture, then the lab worker may want to leave the flow of gas on. This should be part of a pre-approved, written, posted standard operating procedure for this material or process.
    Check all cryogenic vacuum traps (Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide, and solvent). The evaporation of trapped materials may cause dangerous conditions. Check all containers of cryogenic liquids to ensure that they are vented to prevent the buildup of internal pressure. 
  • Check all pressure, temperature, air, or moisture sensitive materials and equipment. This includes vacuum work, distillations, glove boxes used for airless/moistureless reactions, and all reactions in progress. Terminate all reactions that are in progress, based on the known scope of the emergency. 
  • If experimental animals are in use, special precautions may need to be taken to secure those areas such as emergency power, alternative ventilation, etc.
  • Check all biological safety cabinets (BSCs). Suspend any work being done immediately. Seal and properly store all biological items. Disinfect the BSC surfaces and close the sash.

While the Power is Off

  • Do not conduct experiments or work with hazardous materials (biological, chemical or radiological) during power outages.
  • Do not use laboratory facilities during the shutdown or enter areas that have storage of material that require mechanical ventilation.
  • Avoid ignition sources such as Bunsen burners, candles, lighters, cigarettes, or strikers during power outages.
  • Check all BSCs to ensure proper function. If one is found to be not functioning properly, do not use it and contact the biological safety officer for assistance

When Normal Power is Restored

  • Reset or restart equipment. Ensure that equipment is returned to a safe operation mode.
  • Check chemical fume hoods for proper operation. If chemical hoods are not functioning, do not use hazardous chemicals.  Contact Facilities Management if your chemical hood is not operating properly. Do not use the hood until repairs/corrections have been made and verified.
  • Check cold/environmental room set points and if necessary have the controls reset.

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