Preparing for Holiday Operations

Preparing Labs for Decreased Activity and Holiday Break

All research personnel should be trained on and prepared for properly and safely shutting down research operations in case of emergency or on short notice. In the event of an emergency closure, see guidelines here.

However, with the holiday season coming up, you should also prepare your lab for reduced operations and decreased personnel. Elements of your plan should include:

  • Confirming a critical contact list
  • Ensuring essential equipment is on emergency power and has adequate supplies to run through any absence
  • Securing physical research materials and backing up critical research data
  • Reviewing your emergency response plan

Contact Lists/Emergency Contacts

Review your lab’s contact list, including off-campus phone numbers where people can be reached, and make sure it is up to date.

Include any administrators, building managers, animal care staff, or other contacts that are generally needed for your research operations, but be aware that these personnel may also be on holiday. If anyone outside of your lab is critical to your operations, reach out in advance to confirm that they are available when you need them.

Consider adding personnel from other labs if this is a shared space where communication may be valuable.

Include other important campus phone numbers, such as

Public Safety - 410-706-6882 for non-emergencies or Safewalk/SafeRide, or 911 for emergencies

Facilities and Operations- 410-706-7570

Environmental Health and Safety (EHS)- 410-706-7055

University of Maryland Campus Health (UMCH, formerly UM Immediate Care, UMIC)- 667-214-2233 new phone number

UMB Hotline (for reporting events you have experienced, witnessed, or suspect someone has done that are contrary to our Code of Ethics, Core Values, Policies or Procedures, or violated a law.)- 866-594-5220 

Print out the contact list to post in your space. Consider sending it to all lab members (and administrators) remotely so everyone can access it off-campus.

Ensure that your lab door sign is up to date with current off-campus phone numbers.

Label all large pieces of equipment with the name of your lab and emergency contact numbers in case of power failure or other emergency.


Review all lab equipment to determine if they can be turned off or unplugged, or if they must remain in operation for the duration of the holiday.

Turn off non-critical equipment. Shut down and unplug any sensitive electronic equipment.

If equipment is critical and must remain in operation:

Is it plugged into an emergency power receptacle (red outlets)? NOTE: Do NOT use extension cords to plug large pieces of equipment (freezers, incubators, biosafety cabinets, ultracentrifuges) into red outlets.

Does it require any consumable material that must be filled prior to or during the holiday break, such as water baths, incubator water trays, CO2 tanks, or liquid nitrogen tanks? Arrange for these consumable materials ahead of the holiday break, especially if this is a shared resource that may be needed by other labs.

Consider installing remote alarms that will notify you if a freezer temperature rises above a safe setpoint.

Secure all compressed gas cylinders (empty, full, and in use). Check levels and determine if you will need to replace tanks before or over the holiday.

Walk through the lab and make sure all vacuum lines are shut and all gas valves are closed.

Check that all refrigerator, freezer, and incubator doors are tightly closed


During holidays, you may have difficulty sourcing even commonly used research materials. Recognize that deliveries may be impacted during the holidays, with possible shipping delays and difficulty for couriers to get into certain areas of buildings. If you are expecting an important shipment, track it and ensure that someone from your lab is on site to receive the shipment when it arrives. Avoid ordering sensitive materials or those that must be kept frozen if possible over the holidays, in case there is no one available to receive, unpack, and store it.

Review what materials are critical and order ahead of time.

Be familiar with your building’s loading dock in case your package is delivered there.

Physical Materials

Secure all controlled, regulated, or hazardous materials as appropriate.

Review cell culture stocks; make sure backup stocks are frozen for long term storage in freezers or liquid nitrogen tanks on emergency power.

Ensure all items are labeled appropriately, so as to be clear for any non-research personnel who may need to enter your space over the break.

Request waste pickup for full containers of hazardous chemicals, radioactive materials, and biohazards prior to the break. Consider requesting pickup even if they are not full, if long term storage in the lab could cause a hazard or smell.

Though not a lab space, review any breakrooms or lunchroom areas. Remove all perishable or open food items to avoid attracting vermin and creating a smelly situation.

Research Data

Back up critical research data, ideally in a way that they can be accessed remotely.

Secure lab notebooks and other data.

Take laptops and personnel electronics home.

Log out of any computer screens that may contain sensitive patient or research information.

Scheduling/Working alone

It is important to communicate as a lab about holiday schedules to ensure that any critical work is being carried out, while equipment and research materials are being maintained as needed. If anyone needs to come in to work alone, be aware that the building may be sparsely occupied. Ideally, you should plan to work with another person (AKA the buddy system) but if that isn’t possible, you should let someone else in your lab know when you will be working alone over the break.

Don’t forget that UMB Police offers the Safe Walk/Safe Ride program as a public service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

Emergency Response plans

All lab members should have the lab contact list, be aware of what to do in case of emergency (fire, biohazard spill, chemical spill), know how to report an injury, and be signed up for UMB Alerts. If anyone comes in over the break and recognizes a hazardous situation, stop and contact Campus Police.