Hurricanes, tornadoes, high winds, flooding and other natural disasters can threaten the safety of laboratory personnel and detrimentally effect research operations in campus laboratories. Laboratory preparedness plans should be developed prior to these disaster events to ensure the preservation of life and property. The information outlined below is specific to campus laboratories. For general emergency preparedness information please see: Alert Carolina.

Hurricanes

Although Chapel Hill is not directly adjacent to the coast, hurricanes have caused devastation in our area previously due to high winds and flooding. In order to properly plan a course of action in research laboratories, it is important to understand the difference between a hurricane watch and hurricane warning. Both will be announced with plenty of time to implement laboratory preparedness procedures before leaving the lab.

Hurricane Watch

A hurricane watch is issued when hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are possible within specified area (48 hours in advance of the anticipated on-set of tropical storm force winds).

Once a Hurricane Watch is issued:

  • Complete all running experiments and do not start any new experiments
  • Listen to radio and television alerts and check Alert Carolina for updates

Hurricane Warning

A hurricane warning is issued when hurricane conditions (sustained winds of 74 mph or higher) are expected somewhere within the specified area (36 hours in advance of the anticipated tropical storm force winds).

Once a Hurricane Warning is issued:

  • Move all chemicals to appropriate storage locations (cabinets and shelves away from windows)
  • Ensure gas cylinders are capped and secured
  • Close fume hood sashes completely
  • Unplug all non-essential equipment
  • Use surge protectors to protect sensitive equipment in the event of a power surge
  • Turn refrigerators and freezers to coldest settings
  • Ensure refrigerators/freezers containing critical temperature-sensitive research materials are plugged into red emergency power outlets
  • No hazardous materials, waste or equipment should be left on the lab floor
  • Take copies of lab notebooks
  • Close and lock all laboratory doors
  • Ensure emergency contact information is up to date and posted on outside of lab door
  • REMEMBER– personal safety is the number one priority; follow all evacuation commands and do not enter buildings until an all-clear is given.

Tornadoes

Tornadoes have occurred in our area and will not give as much warning or preparation time as for hurricanes. It is imperative that laboratory personnel are aware of tornado watches and warnings and follow the University’s emergency sirens and messages posted on Alert Carolina.

Tornado Watch

A tornado watch is issued when conditions are favorable for the development of tornadoes in and close to the watch area.

Once a tornado watch is issued:

  • Complete all running experiments and do not start any new experiments
  • Listen to radio and television alerts and check Alert Carolina for updates

Tornado Warning

A tornado warning is issued when a tornado is indicated by radar or sighted by spotters; people in affected areas should seek shelter immediately.

Once a tornado warning is issued:

  • Seek shelter immediately in an inner hallway or basement away from windows
  • Do not stay in the laboratory near glassware and hazardous materials
  • Close and lock all laboratory doors
  • If a tornado occurs and damage has been done in the building do not enter the lab space until it can be cleared by emergency response personnel