Playing Havoc

Are you prepared to handle the impact of severe weather conditions on the biological products in your workplace?

The tornadoes and hurricanes that accompany summer often bring unexpected changes to life science workplaces. Seasonal power failures and floods can play havoc with biological products under study or in production in laboratories and other facilities.

If your workplace encounters one of these weather disasters, do you know how to handle the biological products at your site?

Suggested Operating Procedures
Most biological products require specific storage conditions to maintain their safety, purity, and potency. Products requiring special treatment include:

  • bacterial and viral vaccines
  • allergenic extracts
  • plasma derivative,
  • other products requiring refrigeration or frozen storage, as well as products that can be stored at controlled room temperature

CBER offers the following recommendations for dealing with biological products in the event of a power failure:

  1. Vaccines Requiring Refrigeration or Frozen Storage

Most refrigerated vaccines are relatively stable at room temperature for limited periods of time, although certain vaccines are more temperature-sensitive. Products stored in a closed refrigerator (or freezer, if appropriate) during a power outage may maintain their potency unless the power outage is of such duration that the refrigerator's (or freezer's) internal temperature rises significantly. Most vaccine manufacturers have filed data with CBER to support the stability of their products at somewhat elevated temperatures and related duration of storage; they may consult with CBER concerning the impact of temperature/time duration on product stability.

    1. If the Power Goes Out

In the past, persons responsible for storing refrigerated or frozen biological products have taken the following actions to preserve cold storage conditions during a power outage:

      1. Note the time of the power outage and do not open freezers and refrigerators until power is restored. This will help conserve the cold mass of the products.
      2. Do not open units to check temperatures during a power outage, as many products will maintain their potency for a few days in a closed refrigerator.
      3. For vaccines requiring freezer storage, you may consider removing them from the freezer after one day (if the power outage continues) and packing them in dry ice. If, however, upon removal from the freezer, the vaccines are not cold to the touch, you may wish to consider not using them.
    1. When Power is Restored
      1. Record the temperature in the refrigerator or freezer as soon as possible after power is restored and before the temperature has begun to drop again. Continue to record temperature at periodic intervals until it reaches the temperature range indicated on the product labeling as appropriate for product storage.
      2. Record the duration of increased temperature exposure. For example, the temperature of the freezer was 0 degrees Fahrenheit at noon on day 1 when the power failed; 15 degrees Fahrenheit at 6 PM on day 2 when the power was restored; 10 degrees Fahrenheit at 10 PM on day 2; and 0 degrees Fahrenheit at 7 AM on day 3. This information about time/temperature duration can enable calculations to be made by the product manufacturer, in consultation with FDA as necessary, about the continued potency of the involved products.
    1. If a Flood is Expected

When a flood is anticipated, storage facilities have taken steps to raise stored products out of range of anticipated flood waters. For example,

      1. Elevate biological products stored on warehouse floors off the ground (e.g., on pallets). For those items on shelves, it may be important to securely anchor the shelves to keep products dry.
      2. For products stored in refrigerators at floor level, elevate refrigerators on wheels or platforms to the extent possible.
  1. Other Non-Blood Biologicals Requiring Refrigeration or Frozen Storage

The information above concerning the storage and recording of time/temperature conditions are applicable to other non-blood biologicals requiring refrigeration or frozen storage.

  1. Blood Products and Plasma Derivatives

Blood banks and plasma centers typically have back up generators and emergency procedures in place for storing products in the event of a power outage.

  • Blood establishments collecting and storing blood and blood components generally have written procedures in place to address emergency circumstances. Problems or issues affecting the blood supply should be brought to the attention of the FDA.


For health clinics, physician offices or in-home users that may not have emergency back up power, the following may be helpful:

  • There is some evidence that lyophilized coagulation products such as Factor VIII and Factor IX may be stored at room temperature for a fairly long period of time without loss of factor potency. If you are concerned about the exposure or efficacy of a particular product, please call the supplier or the manufacturers' customer service department.
  • Many immune globulin products are licensed for storage at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit, and some products may be stored at room temperature for all or part of the time before expiration. Because storage temperatures and times are specific to each product, you should follow the package insert recommendations for Immune Globulin Intravenous (IGIV), intramuscular IG (IG), and subcutaneous IG (IGSC) products. Products requiring lower temperatures can be stored on wet ice. All of these products should not be frozen. If you have any questions about the storage of these products, you should consult the package inserts.

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