Your Editorial about preparing for natural disasters (“State of readiness” Nature 442,847–488; 2006 provides some good advice. As someone whose lab was out of commission for two years after the Northridge earthquake of 1994, I would like to suggest some more precautions, and lessons learned, that might be helpful to other readers.
First and most important, have at least two sets of all important data, one kept in the lab and the other at the home of the project director. It is best to have both electronic and paper copies of all important data. All expensive equipment should be kept off the floor, if possible, to avoid ground-water damage and should be covered with plastic sheeting when not in use to avoid damage from water coming through the ceiling. Expensive equipment should be secured so that it will not fall off counters — but security devices should be easily removable in case items have to be moved quickly. Finally, chemicals should be stored where they can not easily be jostled to the floor, using cabinet locks and shelf lips. These few tips could help save your lab in the event of a disaster.