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How We Prepare for the Unexpected and How Your Lab Can Help


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As many of you are keenly aware, we experienced a damaging windstorm in early March that caused frequent and, in some cases, prolonged power outages that affected buildings across campus for several hours.

Our animal care and use team works in close partnership with U-M’s Division of Public Safety & Security (DPSS), as well as plant and facility operations, to prepare a multitude of emergency plans, should they be needed. While we always plan for the unexpected, every emergency is unpredictable, and March’s windstorm was no exception.

Here are a few important reminders should a major event such as this happen again:

  • If a major power outage affects the DTE feed to the University, as was the case during the windstorm, even locations covered by a generator may take longer than usual to come back on.
  • In the rare instance that the entire system breaks down, our campus Power Plant will restore power to high-priority (e.g., patient) facilities first, before animal housing facilities. Power to all other campus buildings will then be systematically restored in a way that does not overload or compromise the feed to high-priority facilities.
  • Emergency and generator-backed systems don’t always include the entire facility/plant system (such as HVAC or steam operations).

When our campus experiences a major service disruption, members of the animal care and use team physically travel to every building where animals are housed to check the status of the building’s power, ventilation, heating and cooling, and even water flow to ensure the health and well-being of all animals.

Having a plan in place that protects all animals involved in research, testing, and teaching here at the University is a shared responsibility. That’s why we strongly recommend that your lab also make its own emergency preparedness plan and revisit it on a semi-annual basis. If you care for your own research animals, you are required to have your own Continuity of Operations Plan (or “COOP”).

Consider the following when drafting or revising your plan:

  • Determine who should be the main point of contact for your lab
  • Identify at least two other individuals with knowledge of your lab and its preparedness plan(s) who could fill-in in case of emergency
  • Evaluate how, and to what extent, your animals and lab would be impacted by a major service disruption
  • Think about how you would respond if your lab lost power during a procedure – would you have the necessary tools (flashlights, etc.) nearby? Would you be prepared to prevent unnecessary pain and distress in the animal(s) undergoing a procedure? Would you have the resources available to humanely euthanize if no other options were available?   

Remember, projects involving animals often occur around the clock, 365 days a year; planning for the unexpected ensures that we are always prepared, and that we maintain the highest animal welfare standards at all times and in all circumstances.

For more information on how to create a COOP, or to download a template to start your planning, visit the DPSS Emergency Management website. (The editable template can be downloaded as a Word document from the left sidebar). requires Level-1 U-M login credentials

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