Freezers

This image depicts a UC research laboratory.

What is the Research Freezer Program?

There are hundreds of freezers holding millions of dollars of mission critical research here at the University.  Freezer failures is one of the main reasons the University has sustained expensive research losses:

  • In one case, the local freezer alarm only rang inside the lab at a time when it was unoccupied
  • In another instance the stock thermostat on the outside of the freezer failed, giving a false sense that the temperature inside was "stable"

In order to prevent devastating losses in your area, each lab should evaluate its preventative measures and ensure lab staff is trained on the applicable procedures.  Enterprise Risk Management provides consultative support, funds to implement solutions that prevent losses and recurrence, as well as claims support in the event of a loss.  Please be advised that departments sustaining more than one loss may be responsible for the universities claim deductible of $100,000.  Below are some other recommendations to avoid additional freezer losses. 

 

Best Practices to Minimize Losses

Research losses are expensive and can be devastating to the researcher.  There are a number of ways to reduce the chances of a freezer loss occurring:

  1. Proper setup and preventative maintenance - Review freezer specifications (prior to purchase) with Engineering partners (see Facilities Management link to the right) to ensure the building has appropriate electrical requirements and again to ensure it is properly installed.  Designate personnel responsible for the preventative maintenance plan and documenting related activities, including:
    • cleaning and maintenance schedules
    • periodic testing of freezer alarms (re-booting the system, checking the battery, checking the sensors and checking the signal strength)
    • procedures and training for lab staff
    • inventory of samples and regular cleanouts
  2. Power and/or temperature alarms - Install adequate web-based alarm systems to trigger notifications in the event of a near miss or failure.  Set appropriate ranges on the alarm triggers so there is enough time to react before a loss occurs.  As demonstrated in the loss examples above, local alarms or standard thermometers alone may not be sufficient.
  3. Incident notification protocols - Develop a written action plan in the event of an alarm activation, even if outside of normal business hours or days where the university may be closed.  The action plan should include:
    • Primary and secondary emergency contacts and their up-to-date contact information. These contacts should have an operational understanding of the research requirements, freezer function/controls, alarm settings, preventative maintenance, etc. 
    • Alarm notifications delivered to current phone, text, AND email and include other key resources such as Facilities Management, Researcher, and Department Officials/Personnel, etc.
  4. Back-up power supplies/systems - Ensure freezers are tied in to generators or alternate power source in the event of an outage.  Be familiar with locations of backup freezers and/or dry ice storage locations in the event research needs to be moved in an extended outage.  It may also be prudent to:
    • Separate research into more than one freezer, whenever possible, in case of a single freezer failure.
    • Duplicate research samples wherever practical, and store duplicate samples in a separate freezer location.  Ideally the second location is on a separate power grid line.
  5. Report any changes - Any change affecting the operation of the research freezers should be reported to the designated contact immediately.  This could include:
    • Changes to emergency contact information
    • Knowledge of contractors working in vicinity
    • Notification of a scheduled power outage or maintenance
    • Changes to the operating characteristics (more noise than usual, compressor running continuously, temperature logs trending up or down, broken gaskets or seals, ice build-up, etc.)
Just 9 months after Tamara successfully advocated for freezer alarms, another incident occurred. 
"That lab does cancer tumors including brain so those samples are priceless. It could have gone horribly, but the alarm saved the entire contents of the freezer. No loss."  Read full article here.
Tamara Hagen, Senior Lab Associate, Hematology/Oncology

QUICK LINKS:

For FACILITIES SERVICE on Clifton Campus

  • Monday-Friday from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm
    Telephone:  513-558-2500
  • For EMERGENCY SERVICE on weekends, holidays, & after hours - 4:00 pm to 7:30 am
    Telephone:  513-556-1111
  • You may also submit a request online using the link below.

    link-for-online-service-request

TO DO:

  • Evaluate the lab's preventative measures.
  • Review the Best Practices to Minimize Losses.
  • Contact ERM for information regarding loss control resources.
  • Contact ERM immediately if a loss occurs.