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Emergency Response Plan


Emergency Response Procedures for Biosafety Laboratories

Laboratory emergencies can include: fires, explosions (with or without an accompanying fire), medical emergencies, and a spill or a release of hazardous/infectious substances. When emergencies occur, it is critical that laboratory personnel react quickly to any situation by securing work areas, closing all doors, reporting the emergency immediately to 911 and providing situation information for emergency responders.


To assist emergency responders, laboratory personnel must provide them with an indication of how serious the event is. Basically, the responders need to know what occurred and how severe the event is.


Every emergency reported by laboratory personnel should include a description of the event, the laboratory level, and one of the following laboratory situation codes:


Code Green

The emergency involves no risk for emergency responders to laboratory chemicals or hazardous agents. The laboratory situation is normal. 


Code Yellow

The emergency involves a situation inside a laboratory area that involves a health or safety risk to emergency responders. However, the emergency is contained inside the laboratory area and does not present a hazard outside the laboratory containment area. Containment measures are operating normally. 


Code Red

The emergency is a health or safety risk to emergency responders and everyone in the building because the material is not contained by the building systems. Uncontrolled fires are a Code Red emergency in any event.

Following are examples of how incidents should be reported

Reporting party: "This is Jane Doe at B52 Boomer Hall. We have a person here with chest pains and we need an ambulance. This is a BSL-2 lab. This is a Code Green emergency.”

Reporting party: "This is John Doe at 747 Hanger Hall. We have had a small flask of an infectious agent shatter and cut one of our laboratory researchers. We have the bleeding stopped, but the researcher is still in the lab because of the spilled material. The agent is contained in the BSL-3 lab. Everyone else is out of the area. This is a Code Yellow emergency."

Reporting party: "This is Orville Wright at 1903 Flyer Hall. We have a fire in a Biological Safety Cabinet (BSC). Everyone has evacuated the room, but the fire is out of control. This is a Code Red emergency."  

When confronted with fire or other laboratory emergencies, laboratory personnel should follow the R.A.C.E. model:


  • Rescue those in immediate danger, without becoming a victim.
  • Alarm, activate the nearest pull station or call 911.
  • Contain the fire or incident by closing doors.
  • Extinguish the fire if you are trained and it is a small fire. Otherwise, evacuate the fire area.

Upon notification of a possible fire or other emergency in the building laboratory personnel will, if possible:


  • Immediately cease laboratory procedures and secure your work area and in all areas of the building.
  • All containers of infectious materials should be removed from Biosafety cabinets and placed into autoclaves, incubators, refrigerators, orfreezers as quickly as possible. Biosafety cabinets should remain on if they were operating at the time of the emergency.
  • Turn off all gas burners
  • Laboratory containment ventilation systems should be left on.
  • Leave the building as quickly as possible and assemble as a group in a safe area outside the building and stay together. DO NOT REENTER THE BUILDING FOR ANY REASON. Anyone missing should be noted and reported to the fire department incident commander immediately.

Laboratory personnel evacuated from the building in an emergency who may be contaminated with a chemical, infectious agent or radioactive material due to an exposure or release are to:


  • Prevent others from becoming exposed or contaminated.
  • Take self protective measures by removing contaminated clothing if possible.
  • Wait for emergency decontamination by the fire department.
  • Under no circumstances should emergency response personnel be exposed or contaminated without their knowledge.

Fire department personnel will not enter the building until there is some reliable information regarding the situation inside the building and the risk to fire personnel.


Principle Investigators or laboratory personnel having specific information on the situation inside the building (what occurred, what material is involved, where the situation is, when the incident occurred, and etc.) or missing people should report the information to the fire department incident commander at the command post. Any fire or police officer will be able to provide the location of the command post.  


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