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5.3.1 Laboratory Emergency Shutdown Procedures

Each laboratory facility should develop a non-fire emergency plan or incorporate non-fire emergencies into a master emergency response plan. Employees must be trained on the contents of the plan and how to respond in a non-fire emergency. Cornell EHS has devised a set of simple steps for the shutdown of labs in non-fire emergency situations. These and other steps, based on the requirements of the facility, should be included in the emergency response plan of each unit or facility. This list is by no means complete, but it gives laboratory personnel simple steps to ensure a safe lab shutdown. 

  • Close fume hood sashes. 
  • Be certain that the caps are on all bottles of chemicals. 
  • Turn off all non-essential electrical devices. Leave refrigerators and freezers on and make sure the doors are closed. Check the disconnects of large LASERs, radio frequency generators, etc. It may be necessary to check to ensure that essential equipment is plugged in to the power receptacles supplied by the emergency generator (usually orange or red). 
  • Turn off all gas cylinders at the tank valves. Note: If a low flow of an inert gas is being used to "blanket" a reactive compound or mixture, then the lab worker may want to leave the flow of gas on. This should be part of a pre-approved, written, posted standard operating procedure for this material or process. 
  • Check all cryogenic vacuum traps (Nitrogen, Carbon dioxide, and solvent). The evaporation of trapped materials may cause dangerous conditions. Check all containers of cryogenic liquids to ensure that they are vented to prevent the buildup of internal pressure. 
  • Check all pressure, temperature, air, or moisture sensitive materials and equipment. This includes vacuum work, distillations, glove boxes used for airless/moistureless reactions, and all reactions in progress. Terminate all reactions that are in progress, based on the known scope of the emergency. 
  • If experimental animals are in use, special precautions may need to be taken to secure those areas such as emergency power, alternative ventilation, etc. 
  • All non-essential staff/students must leave the building. Depending on the nature of the emergency, some staff may need to stay behind to facilitate the start-up of essential equipment once the lab is reopened. 
  • It is important to remember that some equipment does not shut down automatically – such as large cryogenic magnets, sources of radioactivity, and other pieces of equipment. Be sure to check any special operating procedures for your equipment before an emergency occurs.