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Fluctuating Temperatures: Simple BUT Costly Problems

Apr 23, 2013

For IT professionals, biopharmaceutical companies and food vendors, the need for temperature monitoring is typically triggered by two specific events.

  • CDC/FDA/ASHRAE Requirement (proactive): For many companies, adherence to these standards and specifications is critical to day-to-day operations. In these cases, temperature monitoring is a 'given' and a 'must'.
     
  • Failure of Equipment (responsive): Still, the need for temperature monitoring is often exposed through a (sometimes) costly failure. From AC fans to vaccine storages, rising or falling temperatures can compromise server racks and cause them to overheat, or deactivate the virus particles (thereby rendering the vaccine inactive). In either case, the consequences (like the temperatures) can escalate quickly.

It's a bitter truth; temperature monitoring can easily be forgotten, and the resulting consequences can be frustrating, costly, or both. In IT for example, server rooms are a temperature pain point. The effects of high temperatures/high humidity on server hardware are well documented by ASHRAE and should be accounted for regardless of rack size. It's not uncommon to field a request from a customer that has arrived at work on Monday, only to find a broken air conditioner and a sauna-like server closet within. Luckily, most of these calls are precautionary, and a disaster has yet to occur. Prevention begins with anticipation, and server rooms are no exception.


For biopharmaceuticals and vaccine storage, the disaster potential is much more obvious and immediate. One should never assume that the built-in thermometer on the refrigeration unit (that houses vaccines) is wholly accurate, and as research shows, temperatures fluctuate significantly within the actual unit. There are many different temperature points in these refrigeration units, and failure to incrementally monitor can result in vaccine inactivation or unwanted bacterial growth (due to rising temperatures).This primarily depends on the vaccine's proximity to the cooling coil, the structural walls, and a number of other variables. Also, a power outage can induce temperature variance into the unit, and if left exposed for a period of time, can also render the vaccine(s) inactive. For this reason, temperature sensors that operate via an independent battery are ideal.


In food storage, the absence of temperature monitoring can bring grim consequences as well. Guidelines for food storage temperatures are readily available on the USDA's website, but still, would-be customers typically lead with two responses. The first is a compliance issue, where customers will detail that they've failed a health inspection. The other is a cost issue, in which customers have discovered spoiled meat or contaminated food. In both cases, the idea of temperature monitoring had seemingly been ignored. Temperature monitoring for food safety is a minor consideration on the surface of things, but in truth, is an extremely important concept to confront before a disaster can occur. 

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