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Disaster Proofing Your Knowledge House: Tips to prepare your in vivo research for the worst

We’ve all heard the famous Ben Franklin quote, “if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail,” and any researcher knows, he was right. Planning is an essential part of any study: you plan for resources, equipment needed, the number of animals (in the case of in vivo research), and the like. In the event of a disaster, such as a hurricane, having a well-thought-out plan will help you resume your research as quickly as possible. But what goes into this kind of disaster plan? Check out these tips from the scientists at JAX to help prepare your in vivo research for a disaster.

Disasters can be due to Mother Nature or human error. Neither cause takes into account ongoing research when they strike. And while meteorology, in the case of Mother Nature, has become sophisticated enough to predict the strength and possible travel routes, it’s still nearly impossible to predict any of the after-effects such as flooding and electrical outages. It’s easy to think that it won’t happen to you, but planning for an event like a hurricane will help you resume your research as quickly as possible.

The scientists at JAX have compiled these seven tips to help you and your research get prepared.

Plan, Plan, Plan

  • Anytime there’s a disaster, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with taking care of an animal facility or your research, in addition to yourself and loved ones. That’s why it is crucial to develop a plan with your team and institution that clearly outlines the personnel and resources allocated, as well as the appropriate measures that ensure the health and welfare of the staff and animals. Don’t forget to include details about any special circumstances or diets needed for any of the mice.
  • Know how to communicate with members of your team or organization once an emergency plan has been activated. Sometimes travel via car or public transport may be disrupted either during the hurricane or due to the aftermath. Follow your institution’s guidelines about travel during/and after a disaster.
  • Know how to communicate with members of your team or organization once an emergency plan has been activated. Sometimes travel via car or public transport may be disrupted either during the hurricane or due to the aftermath. Follow your institution’s guidelines about travel during/and after a disaster.
  • Know how to communicate with members of your team or organization once an emergency plan has been activated. Sometimes travel via car or public transport may be disrupted either during the hurricane or due to the aftermath. Follow your institution’s guidelines about travel during/and after a disaster.
  • Don’t forget about yourself! The same preparedness you need to do for your research animal facility or laboratory is the same as what you need to do for yourself and your loved ones. Make sure to have plenty of food, water, batteries, and other necessities. (Check out the recommendations from FEMA). Keep your inventory up to date.
  • Know which mice you have, including those on study, and their characteristics. For unique models, you may want to utilize products and services from JAX to help store that precious genetic material in the event that it was lost.
  • Make sure your data for your research is backed up to a place that will not be affected. If electronic devices are compromised during a storm, it’s best to have your data backed up to ensure continuity of your research. Follow your institution’s guidelines and practices to back-up your data appropriately.
  • While freezers may be on emergency power, there is still the possibility that they could fail. Any samples you have should be labeled appropriately and in a way that you could find them again if they were moved to another freezer. Having an up-to-date inventory of the freezer can also be helpful when determining which materials are in the freezer, especially if you have more than one freezer.
  • Utilize cryopreservation to store precious samples. As you know, developing a new model can take months and months to generate and then validate. Cryopreservation of either sperm or embryos enables you to dramatically reduce costs associated with mouse colony maintenance, particularly of low-use strains. Not only does it protect your valuable mouse strains against disease, breeding cessation and disasters, cryopreservation also protects your research by limiting genetic drift, preventing the spontaneous loss of phenotype, enables easy recovery of specific and opportunist pathogen-free mice (SOPF) (which means no quarantine required upon arrival), and makes it easier to share your strain with the scientific community.

At JAX, we are first and foremost scientists, and understand the details that go into planning and executing in vivo research. We are committed to providing peace of mind and ensuring researchers can reach their milestones, before and after a natural disaster. We offer services such as sperm cryopreservation that functions as a backup to your mouse models. Visit our disaster recovery page to learn more about the services provided by JAX to help with your disaster-mitigation planning.

Recommended Resources

Disaster Planning and Preparedness
Mouse Cryopreservation
Mouse Cryopreservation, Recovery and Strain Submission
JAX® Mice & Services