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How to Prepare for a Power Failure in a Lab

Learn what to do before, during, and after a power failure in a lab.

1. Before the power fails

  • Designate an emergency contact person for your lab. This person should be available for contact 24 hours a day.
  • Equip your emergency/spill kit with a battery powered flashlight.
  • Do not leave open chemicals in the fume hood when the fume hood is unattended. Always safely store chemicals after use.
  • Put essential equipment on emergency power circuits. These circuits have red cover plates and are powered by an emergency generator at each lab building.
    • Install appropriately-sized surge protection devices for all sensitive or expensive electronics.
    • Consult with Facilities Management, (858) 534-2930, if you need to install an uninterruptible power source (ups) or other backup electrical systems or equipment.
  • Make a list of equipment that must be reset, reprogrammed, restarted, or recalibrated once power returns.
    • Post the list in a conspicuous place.
    • Program equipment that operates unattended to shut down safely during a power failure and not restart automatically when power returns.
  • Identify an emergency source of dry ice, if you have items that must be kept cold.
    • Note: Refrigerators and freezers will maintain their temperature for several hours if they are not opened.
    • Do not use dry ice in walk-in refrigerators or other confined areas.

2. While the power is off

  • Shut down experiments that involve hazardous materials.
    • Make sure experiments are stable and won't create uncontrolled hazards.
  • Check fume hoods and biosafety cabinets and take the following precautions, if applicable:
    • Stop any operations that may be emitting hazardous vapors, fumes, or infectious agents.
    • Securely cap any open containers.
    • Close fume hood and biosafety cabinet sashes.
  • Check equipment on emergency power to ensure it's running properly.
    • Note: It may take 20 to 30 seconds for emergency power to activate after a power failure.
  • Reduce electrical use and risk of power surges by:
    • Disconnecting from emergency outlets equipment that runs unattended, and
    • Turning off unnecessary lights and equipment.
  • Transfer vulnerable items from cold rooms and refrigerators that have lost power to equipment served by emergency power.

3. When the power returns

  • Check equipment.
    • Reset and restart equipment.
      • If building systems, including fume hoods, fail to restart or operate correctly, contact Facilities Management Customer Relations Service Referral Desk, (858) 534-2930.
      • If non-building equipment fails to restart or operate correctly, contact the manufacturer or service provider.
    • Confirm air flow in your fume hood is restored.
    • Recalibrate and reprogram equipment as necessary.
  • Keep doors closed on refrigerators and freezers that failed until they have been repaired and returned to safe working temperature.
    • Note: Some refrigerators and freezers require a manual restart.
  • If system or equipment failures create hazardous conditions, immediately notify:
Contact an EH&S Research Assistance Program specialist.