Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Research Units

These questions are being provided to research units to consider and address in advance of an emergency situation. Please review with your team and document the responses, as appropriate. Should you need support with addressing any of the items below, please reach out to research@nd.edu

General

  1. Do you have up-to-date contact information for all your group members (including home phone numbers, mobile telephone numbers, and home email addresses)? What about their emergency contacts? Designate points of contact so everyone receives timely information.
  2. Have you designated essential personnel? If you are unsure of who in your research project or unit is the designated emergency personnel, work with your department administrator or an equivalent administrator to identify such personnel. Document this in a shared Google Drive that is accessible to your direct supervisor and their administrator, if applicable.
  3. Do you or any of your staff have clinical responsibilities that could preclude your research duties during a pandemic or other emergency situation? Patient care responsibilities typically take priority in a pandemic event.
  4. Have you documented a list of critical operations that must be completed on a daily or routine basis to maintain the integrity of your key research initiatives? This should not be a list of every activity in your lab, but rather a list of critical functions necessary to ensure continuity and security of key research initiatives. 
  5. Do you have a plan to communicate with postdocs and students? Consider any functions they perform in your facility and develop a plan to communicate changes for their work within your unit. If communications involve students in the field, consider location and medium, as well as how potential changes and urgency levels may impact them.
  6. Have you determined the minimum number of staff necessary to complete critical operations (for example: one person working for four hours at least three days a week.)?  Ensure these staff are aware of their responsibilities and expectations and document this schedule in a shared folder or document. 
  7. Do you utilize students to support critical research operations? Consider that students could be asked to enact social distancing at an earlier stage in University response. Note that undergraduate and graduate students may be subject to different policies; check with either the Graduate School or Student Affairs for guidance.
  8. Should you cancel planned research-related travel such as to a conference, site visit, or other laboratory? Follow all current guidance on the relevant emergency website. 

Critical Research Facilities

  1. Should someone be ill or unable to get to campus, is your staff sufficiently cross-trained to complete critical laboratory operations? Ensure your laboratory or unit has a collaborative inbox set up so that people can contact your group if personal emails are not being checked due to illness, etc.
  2. If your research team is relatively small, have you planned for the impact of 100% absenteeism among your team? Consider this in the context of limited support due to increased absences among staff.
  3. How long will your inventory of existing consumable supplies last for critical operations in your lab? Be prepared to sustain research, but please do not hoard critical supplies like masks.
  4. If you have supply contractors who are not part of the University’s central supply chain, do you have alternate vendors that can deliver critical supplies? Ensure their contact details are documented and available to the full team.
  5. Does your lab have equipment that is essential to sustaining critical lab functions that is not backed up on emergency power? List the equipment currently on emergency power in your lab(s), and develop a plan to access emergency power for pieces critical to lab functions.
  6. Do you have a plan to save samples? If you are carrying out a long-term experiment and if it is feasible to freeze samples at specific steps, you might consider doing this more often as an emergency situation arises.
  7. Which non-critical equipment can be shut down for significant periods of time (one week or more)?
  8. If given a few days to prepare for the temporary suspension of normal operations for a period of several weeks, what steps are necessary to ensure continuity and security of your research?
  9. Do you supervise a core facility or other similar facility that provides research support to other investigators? If so, collaborate on a contingency plan. 

Network and Data

  1. Do you back up electronic data regularly? Or is your data portable and can it be accessed remotely by authorized personnel? Examples of such information include data analysis, literature reviews, writing proposals, reviews, or research papers, writing the background sections of theses, computational work, meetings, discussions, and more. Note Notre Dame’s guidance on use of Google Shared Drives. Ensure all files are stored here and relevant team members have access. Also ensure the Drives are accessible to your direct supervisor and their administrator, if applicable. Consider curate.nd.edu, as well, for major data sets.
  2. Are your passwords to shared systems securely stored and shared, should you not be able to work? Alternatively, can you identify key administrators who can act as a back up or access these systems should you become unavailable?
  3. Do you have a plan to prioritize work that can only be carried out in your research facility? Stockpiling results and data now that could be analyzed remotely in the future is a potential option that might create future flexibility. Consider electronic access to source materials, such as through the Library or other journals as well.
  4. Will access to data need special considerations, such as a VPN or other secure channel, or data that is HSI? Consider what you may or may not have access to, and for how long. 

Proposals and Awards

  1. Are you aware of all proposal or grant-related deadlines? Sponsor guidance should be followed. Contact the program officer for assistance if no information from the sponsor is available.
  2. Do you know who to contact if there are questions about the continued charging of personnel and non-personnel expenses to externally funded sponsored programs? NDR will assist those programs affected by seeking guidance from relevant funding agencies and consulting relevant University policies to determine how to proceed.

Animal and Biological Research

  1. Do your research animals or other biological specimens (including plants) require specialized food, water, treatment, and/or medication? If so, what volume of specialized inventory is present and is it sufficient for projected conditions?
  2. Do you work with animal species that are susceptible to pathogens of concern for pandemics (such as influenza)? If so, are extra precautions necessary to mitigate potential transmission of the related pandemic pathogen from personnel to research animals?
  3. Is your staff sufficiently cross-trained to complete critical animal support functions and operations currently performed by your lab personnel? Do they have access to the housing facility? Include any cross-trained personnel on the appropriate IACUC protocol.
  4. Have you considered the impact to animal models if there is a 40% absenteeism among your staff due to illness or other situations?
  5. Have you considered means to reduce the required husbandry for your animals in an emergency scenario, including decreasing animal census numbers, ceasing breeding activities, and eliminating exposure of animals to biological or chemical hazards?
  6. Have you identified a mechanism to identify and safeguard animal strains deemed to be most critical in periods when normal operations are not feasible?
  7. Do you supervise a breeding protocol and what are the impacts of a pandemic on maintaining this function?
  8. If necessary, do you have a plan for depopulating your animal colony? Prepare an estimate of the resources required to replace these animals.

Human Subject Research

  1. If you work with human study subjects or human patients as part of your research, have you considered that this research could be impacted or suspended due to fear and/or illness among the population?
  2. What are your plans to contact subjects prior to their scheduled visits during a public health crisis or other emergency scenario? 
  3. What are your plans to delay or modify the study with research subjects during a public health crisis or other emergency scenario?  
  4. If human subjects report to a designated facility for your research, have you identified an alternate site where the research can be accomplished? For example, a healthcare facility may be inaccessible for certain visitors or functions in a pandemic or other emergency scenario.
  5. Have you considered if it is possible to reduce the number of subjects/patients or the frequency of sessions with subjects/patients in the case of a pandemic or other emergency?
  6. Do you maintain up-to-date contact information for subjects/patients? Is this information remotely accessible in a secure location for authorized personnel?

Communications

  1. Do you have a plan in place for issuing essential information during an emergency? Are your mailing lists / email addresses appropriately documented and accessible? How do you determine what is essential information to distribute? For example, notice of cancellations, changes in opening hours, etc. are essential; promotion of news items, etc. is not.
  2. How will you manage your social media during an emergency? Ensure your accounts have back up administrators (preferably including one lead unit communicator, i.e. your College/School or lead unit's Communications Director) and the University’s social media manager. Understand the balance between posting essential information (i.e. cancellations, hours) vs. promotions. Be sensitive to tone, especially in the times of a deadly crisis. When in doubt, do not post.
  3. How do you plan to hold shipments, etc. from vendors that are not urgent (office supplies etc.)? Is there a back up shipping location? Can you delay the creation / ordering of these materials, especially those that are not considered essential (promotional or print items, for example)?

Recruiting/Hiring

  1. If your search is for a person who will fulfill an emergency continuity role, is there a plan, documentation, and a timeline to train them on critical needs?