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July 12, 2017

Vaccines and Power Outages: Steps You Can Take to Monitor Temperature

Written by SmartSense | Pharmacy Safety

When storing vaccines in a pharmacy or hospital, a power outage is qualified as an emergency. Since maintaining their optimal temperatures is essential to preserving their integrity, safely monitoring vaccines during a power outage is, therefore, a top priority. And because power outages can be sudden or unpredictable, especially during severely stormy weather, it’s wise to have an emergency plan in place, especially one that includes continuous monitoring devices.

Monitoring Unit Temperature During a Power Outage

There’s one cardinal rule for power outages that should be affixed to every refrigeration unit:

During a power outage, never open the storage unit door until power is restored.”

It’s common sense. Opening the door releases cold air that may not be regenerated until power returns, putting the vaccines at risk of suboptimal temperatures indefinitely. Keeping the door closed conserves the cold mass of the vaccines.

power outages.png

Utilizing Temperature Monitoring Devices

If you can’t monitor the temperature inside the unit without opening the door, it’s best to wait until power is restored—which may be a problem depending on the length of the outage. That’s why automatic monitoring devices are especially valuable during outages.

When the power goes out, your continuous monitoring device is your most important asset. With an automatic device, you can monitor the temperature of the storage unit from the outside, without opening the door.  Our wireless sensors run on battery so they will continue to take temperature readings during a power outage. In addition, they feature store and forward technology for lossless monitoring. This means that our devices will store temperature readings and forward them to the cloud as soon as power and connectivity are restored.

Throughout the power outage, keep an eye on the temperature and if it exceeds the recommended range, follow your SOPs for out of range temperature excursions. If you’re unsure how long the power interruption will last, or you determine power won’t be restored in time to maintain proper temperatures inside the unit, implement your emergency vaccine storage, handling, and transport procedures.

If the outage continues indefinitely, consider transferring vaccines to an alternative storage facility with reliable power sources (i.e., hospital with generator power). If possible, transport the vaccine following proper cold chain procedures for storage and handling.

Once Power Is Restored, execute on the following.

  • Record the temperature in the unit as soon as possible.
  • Continue to monitor the temperatures until they reach the normal 2–8 degrees Celsius range in the refrigerator or -15 degrees C or less in the freezer.
  • If you’re concerned about the exposure or efficacy of any of your vaccine stock, don’t administer the vaccine until you’ve consulted your state or local health department.
  • Don’t discard any potentially exposed vaccines. Keep them separated from any new product you receive and continue to store at the proper temperature if possible.

For additional information about vaccine storage during a power outage, check out the CDC Vaccine Storage & Handling Toolkit.  

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