Unexpected events can be devastating to an institution’s animal program and research, and may take weeks, months or even years to recover. Crises may come in many forms: disease outbreaks in animal colonies, critical equipment failures, natural disasters, laboratory break-ins, threats and intimidation aimed at researchers or institutions, etc. Each of these unexpected events is unique, but the basic components of “being prepared” for crises are the same for each.
Strong institutional preparedness helps to mitigate the effects of unexpected crises. But it also, importantly, provides an opportunity to build positive relationships: a good institutional preparedness program proactively engages members of the institution and members of the local community through effective communication, planning, and positive relationships.
Maintaining a high quality animal care and use program, good relationships within the institution and the community, and an effective education program can help to prevent and alleviate many crisis situations and significantly reduce the need for long term damage control."
- ARENA/OLAW IACUC Guidebook (see p.74)
OLAW's Disaster Planning and Response Resources assist PHS awardee institutions with animal care & use programs in planning and responding to natural and other disasters.The ARENA/OLAW Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee Guidebook; see section B.6.a, describes the 4 key elements of institutional preparedness:
- An animal program of impeccable integrity;
- A security program based on risk assessment;
- An integrated communication plan with descriptions of research projects in lay terminology, spokespersons, and a telephone tree
- An internal and external community outreach program that includes legislators and funding agencies.
NIH shares the concerns of institutions and investigators about the threats and intimidation they may face. These four key elements of institutional preparedness are especially important when individual researchers are subjected to harassment and threats by animal rights extremists. Find out How NIH Can Help if you face a crisis.
While these refer to institutional preparedness, investigators should be aware of their institution’s crisis management plan and participate in its constant evaluation and improvement. Cooperation between investigators and institutions to improve the atmosphere for safe, productive, and effective animal research and welfare should be highly valued and encouraged.
Free “Be Prepared” poster (PDF - 210 KB)