Accidents happen in any facility, and the influx of researchers performing novel experiments can result in new risks. An animal facility should have a Contingency Plan, after a risk assessment of the facility, which addresses all the likely scenarios which can threaten human and animal health or the infrastructure itself. Copies of the Plan should be readily accessible, both in the facility and in the homes of key personnel. Special attention should be given to informing staff working at weekends or public holidays, because these people may not have received important information which was discussed on weekdays. They may also have less training than regular staff, and may be less capable of tackling situations which may be unforeseen but which are likely to occur sooner or later (Murphy's Law), at the most inconvenient time (Sod's Law).
A typical, but non-exhaustive, list of topics for which contingency measures should exist includes:
- Access to emergency services (police, fire, medical and veterinary help, security guards, personnel transport in cases of acute illness)
- Means of communication with staff members at all levels
- SOPs (see page 24) for acute illness, including
- serious haemorrhages
- allergic and anaphylactic reactions
- head injuries
- corrosive injuries
- and forms for reporting such injuries
- Firefighting, evacuation of personnel and animals
- Access to specialist services (e.g. ventilation system, plumbing, electrical installations, suppliers of equipment)
- Routines in cases of power failure, water leaks and (if applicable) natural disasters such as flooding
- Routines for emergency killing of animals
- Routines in cases of threats to the facility or personnel
New topics should be added every time an accident or near-accident occurs, if the situation is not already covered by the Contingency Plan and related SOPs.
More detailed advice is available in the ILAR Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals.
Disaster Planning and Response Resources - a list of links compiled by OLAW (Office of Laboratory Welfare, National Institutes of Health, USA)
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