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When Might Laboratories Need Disaster Recovery Services?

Laboratories are more susceptible than most to so-called ‘catastrophic events’ – years of research could literally go up in smoke and the whole recovery process could take a lot longer without effective plans in place.

Arena Instrumentation provide disaster recovery services for universities, medical facilities, research labs and businesses in the scientific sector. Here we outline some of the key worst-case scenarios which should be planned for.

Fire – In recent years, fires in UK universities have caused extensive damage to laboratories and equipment. In 2019, a fire at a red brick university took hold in the science department and it took several hours to extinguish. Damage was also caused by the water required to extinguish the flames.

Earlier this year, a blaze in a lab at a northern university resulted in extensive damage after an item of electrical equipment overheated.

Disaster recovery services – From Arena Instrumentation

Flooding – Flash floods can pose a problem, particularly if the lab is located on ground or sub-level floors; there is also the potential danger of burst pipes.  Water can damage equipment, research results and, in extreme cases, pose a threat to staff.

Sometimes the hazards can be more indirect, as water can act as a carrier to hazardous substances. The National Institute of Biological Standards and Control, operated by the UK medicines regulator, was recently investigated due to a flood at an animal facility containing Covid-infected marmosets.


Power Outages – UK Power Networks’ latest figures show that customers were without electricity (on average) for less than half an hour in 2019-20, which is a much lower figure than a decade before that. However, even temporary power outages in laboratories can have serious consequences.

Chemical fume hoods and safety cabinets can fail, room air pressures can be reduced (affecting the HVAC systems), and chemical reactions which require cooling powered by electricity can also fail; and there’s also the problem of what happens to individual experiments which are in progress when the power is lost. Sometimes back-up systems, such as on-site generators, can fail as well.


Data Loss – This can be caused by operator error or a co-ordinated cyber-attack; either way, the effects can be extremely damaging. Results can be compromised or lost completely and, in the case of commercial laboratories, there is the risk of reputational damage if the loss ever becomes public knowledge.


Leaks and Spillages – Chemical spills can affect staff, equipment and their buildings, and the wider environment. Sometimes human error is to blame; on other occasions it may be an unforeseen chemical reaction.

During the pandemic, the scientific community was under pressure to understand more about the COVID-19 virus and the Health and Safety Executive was aware of almost 50 ‘dangerous incidents’ at laboratories handling the virus. Many of these incidents were leaks and spillages of virus-laden fluids.


Minimising the Risk

Laboratory owners and operators should always prepare for the worst-case scenarios. This includes:

  • Keeping a full, up-to-date inventory of everything kept on site and where it is located.
  • Dates of purchase of all the equipment and any warranties which are still in force.
  • Keeping more than one copy of any information or results (this includes hard copies as well as anything stored remotely, such as cloud copies). Photographic evidence would also help.
  • A contact list of numbers of members of staff and who to call first in case of an emergency. This would help the emergency services establish that everyone is safe following the incident.
  • A list of the most critical functions of the lab; this would identify the most immediate priorities in the immediate aftermath of the incident.


Disaster Recovery Services from Arena Instrumentation

Another way of minimising the effect of any ‘catastrophic event’ is to contact experts such as Arena Instrumentation. We can offer a full range of disaster recovery services for educational, research and commercial laboratories.

By creating a bespoke restoration process tailored towards each project/client we ensure that all areas are covered. To ensure nothing is missed, we inventory equipment detailing how it has been affected by the ‘event’, how it should be restored and where it should be relocated, providing that it is not beyond economic repair. We work with relevant stakeholders to agree this process and determine if equipment can be recommissioned elsewhere in a nearby lab.

It is important during this process to identify which instruments are priority, to ensure the labs can continue functioning quickly. We engage with end users, principal investigators, and scientists to determine which items are critical and unique, and which have service contracts or are under warranty. This allows us to make sure that equipment is managed correctly, and the lab is back up and running as soon as possible.

During the relocation process, the damaged lab may require decontamination, along with equipment that has been in the lab. We provide consultancy and support to restoration companies, for specialist items, to assist with this. We also liaise with equipment manufacturers and service providers to make certain that items are safe, meet specification and are recommissioned correctly.

If your existing premises have been rendered unusable, either in the short or the long term, then our lab relocation services can come into play. Because of our breadth of knowledge and wide skill set, we can ensure your move is completed swiftly and safely without the need for many third parties, such as OEMs, which can delay the whole process.

Arena Instrumentation helped to relocate a damaged department at a red brick university into a new facility on campus, which involved moving over 3000 pieces of equipment, as well as the staff, over a three-week period. This ensured the University’s world-leading research into antibiotic resistance and infectious diseases remained largely unaffected.

If you would like to know more about our disaster recovery services, follow this link and fill in the form on the left-hand-side of the page or call us on 0151 355 1314.