Berkeley Lab

Timely Topics

COVID-19 visualization courtesy CDC

Coping with COVID-19

During the pandemic, please visit often for the latest information. And remember, always contains the latest information on the extent to which the Lab is open.

Photo of helicopter with water bucket attacking wildlands fire

Wildlands Fire: Are You At Risk?* Are You Ready?

LBNL Fire Marshal Todd LaBerge, PE, and Senior Fire Protection Engineer Nick Bartlett, PE, of the Lab’s Protective Services Department offered seminar on wildlands fire in summer 2018; video is available.

Northern California’s fire season, traditionally at its worst in summer through fall, has lengthened and worsened and is really best thought of as a year-round danger now. We must remain aware of fire safety, and report any fires or smokes that we see, at any time of year.

Prepare to Protect and Survive

If you live in a vulnerable area, clear defensible space and remove light fuels.

Cal Fire’s Ready, Set Go program is an excellent resource, as is the National Fire Protection Associations Firewise USA. The University of California has peer-reviewed advice on how to prepare your home and landscape for greater fire safety.

See also the Association of Bay Area Governments website and the Diablo FireSafe Council.

* “Are you at risk” is a trick question . . .
The LBNL site is in a vulnerable area (in 1923, a conflagration moved down what was then an empty hillside where the Lab now stands, and was stopped just short of the campus — not by the puny hand of man so much as by the Diablo winds’ giving way to onshore flow). Many of us also commute through areas that can be affected by wildfires. When fire danger reaches red-flag levels, “hot work” is likely to be suspended, and other bulletins will be issued and precautions put in place as appropriate.

Those who lived and worked in these hills in 1991 — or 1970 — need little reminder…

Earthquakes: Not If — When

California Earthquake Alliance logoThe Bay Area in general is seismically active… and the Hayward Fault, capable of producing strong quakes, runs between LBNL and the adjacent University of California campus.

If you feel an earthquake — take it from those who have been through them: even a medium-sized quake leaves no doubt what is happening — don’t wait for announcements or instructions: drop, cover and hold on. In a major quake, the shaking might last for as long as a few minutes.

Then, when the shaking stops, evacuate to an assembly area (if onsite) or other place of safety.

To learn more about how to prepare before, survive during, and recover after an earthquake (or other disaster) please visit our Emergency Preparedness page.

Preparedness: The First Step Toward Survival

Please take a moment to view this LBNL video about what to expect and how to prepare, and how to respond to a real earthquake.

Further information on earthquake and other emergency preparedness is available on our website.

Electrical Safety: Don’t Take — Or Be — The Path of Least Resistance

Prevention of electrical-work injuries is a top priority here at LBNL. Cultivate these six habits to keep yourself and those around you safe.

  1. If you are not a Qualified Electrical Worker, do not perform electrical work.
  2. If equipment appears to be unsafe or you are not sure whether it is safe, don’t use it. Report unsafe equipment to your supervisor.
  3. Plan your work. Identify the hazards and ensure the controls are in place.
  4. Take care of each other. Help your co-workers identify and correct unsafe behavior or conditions.
  5. For Qualified Electrical Workers, practice Lockout/Tagout and Test Before Touch.
  6. For Qualified Electrical Workers, determine approach boundaries and control access to the area to prevent exposure of other people to electrical hazards.

To help both Qualified Electrical Workers and their customers, LBNL has an Electrical Safety website. If in doubt about the risks of the work you have in mind and whether a Qualified Electrical Worker must perform it, consult your division’s Electrical Safety Advocates. In ATAP, the Electrical Safety Advocate is, x6098.

Mountain Lion on the Prowl

Picture of a mountain lion It’s a fact, not a scare story nor an urban-wildlands-interface legend, that at least one mountain lion (cougar) prowls these hills and sometimes hunts on the Lab site.

Here is information on how to minimize the chance of encountering the big cat and what to do if it happens anyway.

Awarding a Special Spot to Safety

LBNL’s Spot Award program now has a safety-specific spinoff with its own separate funding, as well as a “Hero Cards” program. If a colleague has done something outstanding and special to make our workplace safer, this is a great way to recognize and reward it.

NEVs: NEVer Offsite

The Laboratory’s fleet of GEMs and Club Cars — classified as “Neighborhood Electric Vehicles” — are restricted to onsite use only.

A Segue into Segways and Hoverboards
“Nonconventional vehicles” such as Segways or hoverboards are generally forbidden for use onsite or when traveling on public roads for work purposes. Exceptions must come from the Lab Director. Due to fire hazard of units with substandard or defective batteries, charging of hoverboards at LBNL is also prohibited.

Two is a Magic Number: “Working Alone” Policy

People at the Laboratory (direct employees or otherwise) are not allowed to work alone in certain situations. These situations are when, despite proper mitigations, the hazards of their work could incapacitate them to such a degree that they cannot self-rescue or activate emergency services. The policy is not meant to refer to ordinary activities similar to those commonly performed by the general public. If in doubt, ask your Work Planning and Control work authorization leads the Working Alone Frequently Asked Questions.

We’re Growing! That’s The Good News — And The Bad News

In many parts of Berkeley Lab, narrowed lanes, a variety of work vehicles, and construction workers on foot all mean that we should keep our heads up and our speed down when driving past construction areas. “Old Town” (the area just uphill from the Advanced Light Source) is similarly encumbered. From this temporary inconvenience will come a stronger LBNL with more and better space where we can do great science safely.

Bicycle Safety

Helmeted bicyclist illustrates set-up and hand signal for a safe left turn on a city street
Courtesy Bike East Bay
The Laboratory and adjacent city are rewarding but challenging places for getting around on two wheels. There are resources for learning how to increase your safety and enjoyment. For instance, Bike East Bay presents “Urban Cycling 101” and other online courses, as well as in-person courses with practical sessions.

Skills + Maintenance + Protective Gear + Alertness = Safety

•  Watch your speed when descending our steep hills. (For cars and bikes alike the new speed limit is 15 mph — or lower where posted — across the Lab site.)
•  Check your bicycle’s brakes and general mechanical condition before riding.
•  Always wear a helmet (unconditionally required when riding on LBNL premises and a good idea regardless).

Useful information and links are also available at