Posts Tagged ‘Autism Tissue Samples’

Tragic Example of Equipment Failure

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

No Single Point of FailureIn our framework for disaster risk, we place equipment failure in the “high frequency/low severity” category, an example of “everyday” disasters.  But the consequences of everyday disasters can be devastating, even when the source of the failure is trivial. A tragic example of equipment failure occurred when a freezer malfunction damaged one-third of the world’s largest collection of autism brain samples. The loss could set back brain research by decades. The collection was critical to the research of the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center.

The Boston Globe reports that the freezer, which was located in the McLean Psychiatric Hospital, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, shut down in late May. The damage was not detected in a timely manner. The freezer is protected by two separate alarm systems and as an additional precaution, staff checked the external thermostat twice daily to verify that the brain tissue samples were stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius. But while the thermostat registered minus-79 degrees, a safe range to store the brain samples, the actual temperature was 7 degrees. The freezer area is securely locked and monitored by surveillance cameras. An internal investigation into the incident is underway.

This tragic loss, despite the multiple layers of protection in place, should prompt all of us to stop and think: can you identify the equipment critical to your small business operations? What measures have you put in place to protect it?