The ability of emergency responders to rapidly attend to an injured or incapacitated individual is critical to ensuring that the individual receives essential medical attention as quickly as possible. Any delays in the response could have serious consequences depending on the nature of the medical emergency. Due to the inherent safety and security complexities associated with high containment labs, accessing and retrieving an individual from such a lab has unique challenges, particularly for emergency responders not routinely accustomed to entering such spaces.
To ensure emergency responders reporting to an incident in a high-containment laboratory on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus are able to successfully enter into the lab and rapidly retrieve injured personnel, the Biosafety Office at the Department of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) organized and hosted a series of multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional training drills with UNC Police, Chapel Hill Fire Department (CHFD) and Orange County Emergency Medical Services (EMS). In total, 18 drills over a two-week period were performed in a clean high-containment lab and simulated an unresponsive individual in the lab. Emergency responders in the drills were required to make decisions and take appropriate actions as if it was a real emergency, testing their personnel, equipment, communications systems and procedures as outlined in their respective emergency plans and protocols. Participants in the drills were expected to experience the same problems and stresses of a real event.
Overall, the assessment of responders’ performance against exercise objectives and direct feedback from the responders indicated that the drills were a resounding success. Serving to build upon the annual in-class training received by UNC Police and CHFD, the drills helped enhance the comfort, confidence and efficiency of responders in entering high-containment labs, which is critical to ensuring the best possible outcome for an emergency response to a high containment lab.
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- Trained 9,171 healthcare workers, facilities services employees, researchers and childcare providers in bloodborne pathogens annual requirement through online and in-class sessions.
- Trained 1,080 researchers in basic principles of conducting research at BSL-2, such as proper technique and waste handling, and trained 168 researchers in enhanced BSL-2 procedures.
- Trained 682 researchers and other campus personnel in proper requirements for shipping with dry ice.
- Trained 527 campus researchers, staff and administrators about federal and international shipping and import regulations through online and in-class sessions.
- Trained 331 researchers and other campus personnel on essential awareness and biological safety in BSL-3 laboratories.
- Trained 291 researchers and staff members on proper use of autoclaves through online training.
- Conducted 242 online trainings in DCM Orientation, DCM BSL-2 and Zoonotic/Lab Animal Allergy for DCM employees.
- Trained 230 researchers on policies about Dual Use Research of Concern through online training.
- Trained 151 researchers in identifying and registering projects meeting NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules.
- Trained 22 Facilities Services employees on how to respond to potentially infectious sewage spills.
- Investigated 43 incidents of laboratory spills, accidents and procedural problem involving potentially infectious materials with no laboratory-acquired infections resulting from accidents.
- Submitted 26 registration updates to the CDC in reference to laboratory operation changes.
- Certified 481 campus biological safety cabinets ensuring safety of product, personnel and environmental protection.
- Reviewed 23 I-129 visa applications.
- Reviewed and approved 543 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule F (Biological Hazards).
- Reviewed and approved 315 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule G (Recombinant or Synthetic DNA).
- Reviewed and approved 438 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule H (Transgenic Animals/Plants).
- Reviewed and approved 273 Laboratory Safety Plans’ Schedule I (Shipping).
- Reviewed 802 IACUC Protocols.
- Updated biological hazard registration form (Schedule F) to include BSL-1 agents and identify potential high-risk activities with any biological agents.
- Updated HasMIS database to capture information regarding location and usage of autoclaves across campus.
- Instituted new process for registration and approvals of recombinant DNA research relating to pending IACUC protocols to streamline the approval process.
- Incorporated the use of tamper-proof box seals to minimize laboratory down time associated with annual verifications of select agent freezer inventories.
- Updated Laboratory Safety Plans (LSPs) to clearly identify when recombinant DNA research protocols (Schedule Gs) have expired, including instituting an email notification system alerting PIs to protocols that will be expiring shortly.