Laboratories: Preparedness Planning, Continuity of Operations Planning, and Disaster Response Lessons Learned

You may recall my blog post "Evacuation of a Health Care Facility: When Disaster Strikes" that shared some great articles from The Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response—Technical Resources, Assistance Center, and Information Exchange (ASPR-TRACIE) newsletter. After that blog posting, I had the opportunity to speak with Shayne Brannman, Director of ASPR-TRACIE, and her team regarding clinical laboratories and how they plan for and respond to disasters. It was an exciting discussion of the unique challenges facing laboratories, their staffs, facilities, resources, and interdependencies. The ASPR-TRACIE team researched and prepared the following collection of resources and articles related to mitigating loss/continuity of operations in laboratories, including articles discussing loss during a disaster. The team members conducted research on laboratory continuity of operations plans (COOPs) and templates, which are provided in the first section of this document (see the ASPR TRACIE COOP Topic Collection). The second section includes general laboratory preparedness and recovery resources. And the third section focuses on articles discussing lessons learned from clinical laboratories following a disaster.

Many thanks to the ASPR-TRACIE team for identifying and collecting these great resources so that I can share them with you. Pass along the information you find useful so that we can spread the word about laboratory preparedness and resilience.

Be sure to check out the ASPR-TRACIE website for a wealth of information and resources—you’ll be glad you did.

Laboratory COOP Templates and Resources

This document provides planning, response, and recovery actions for labs that have flooded.

This presentation was given at the Association of Public Health Laboratories 2006 Annual Meeting. Although outdated and specific to state public health laboratories, it provides key concepts and considerations related to continuity of operations planning that may be adapted for current use.

This document provides an overview of key continuity of operations issues faced by the laboratory community. It is designed to aid principal investigators in considering the additional protection and steps that should be taken to protect laboratory personnel and the other functions being conducted. Although many of the elements are common to academic teaching and support departments, some are highly specific to laboratories, and their successful preparedness requires specialized emergency resources and planning.

Additional Resources–General Laboratory Preparedness Resources

  • AABB (2008). Disaster Operations Handbook: Coordinating the Nation's Blood Supply During Disasters and Biological Events. (Version 2).

This handbook was created to help blood centers, hospital blood banks, and transfusion services plan for naturally and human-caused disasters that can affect the blood supply. It can help the appropriate officials determine the medical need for blood, effectively transport it from one facility to another, and communicate internally and externally about the status of the blood supply.

This planning template provides laboratory emergency preparedness guidelines for planning, response, and recovery phases. It includes sections on developing an emergency operations plan, understanding important lab and hospital functions during an emergency, functions that affect lab operations during an emergency, roles/responsibilities, and implementing the plan. There are also a few sample checklists, templates, and exercise forms available as appendices.

Chapter 3 on Emergency Planning includes information on consequences of different types of emergencies on laboratory operations. It discusses preplanning, leadership and priorities, essential personnel, communications, evacuations, shelter in place, loss of power, building closure, and fire loss.

This page includes an overview of what a laboratory plan should include along with templates and checklists for hurricane and fire safety.

Laboratory Disaster Response Lessons Learned

Chapter 6 of this document focuses on response and recovery planning. Laboratories are mentioned in a few areas of this section to include case studies on laboratory resilience assessments, essential functions, and short- and long-term expectations.

This article provides case studies of disasters and how they have affected clinical labs. It outlines some of the guidelines available to help with plan development and response lessons learned.

This article discusses the key indicators that change during extreme circumstances that could help laboratories maintain standards when responding to a disaster. It includes a case study of laboratories during and after an earthquake.

Pat Hlavka

Pat Hlavka is a Safety Coordinator in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN. She received a B.S. degree in Chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and an M.S. degree in Safety from the University of Wisconsin-Stout. She is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) and a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers. Pat worked as a safety professional in the industrial setting (IBM and Benchmark Electronics) for over 15 years. Since joining the Mayo Clinic in 2008, her responsibilities have focused on laboratory safety including the safety audit program, developing and maintaining documentation, training, communications, awareness, incident investigation, laboratory safety committees, and emergency management.