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Temperature Monitoring System for Vaccine Storage

By Morgana Siggins

December 3, 2019


If you're reading this article, you probably realize how important it is to keep your storage of vaccines cold. If you've installed a climate control system, then you've taken a great first step.

However, it's best not to become complacent. You're still at risk of unforeseen problems that can compromise most or even your entire vaccine storage.

Vaccines, as you know, are fragile; easily damaged by temperature fluctuations or prolonged exposure to room temperatures. Monitoring your climate control system allows you to respond quickly at the first sign of a problem via predefined, custom temperature ranges.

TempDefender G2 RTU can monitor your vaccine storage units
The TempDefender G2 RTU can monitor your vaccine storage units, as well as smoke detectors, humidity sensors, floor water sensors, temperature sensors,door sensors, interior motion sensors, and more.


The Basics of a Temperature Monitoring System

Although temperature monitoring systems are not overly complex, they are a critical safeguard for vaccine cold storage.

Often, temperature monitoring is overlooked. People rely on the climate controls innate system to self-monitor temperatures. However, it's one of the key environmental alarms to monitor - especially if you have unmanned remote sites. From both spectrums of the temperature range, it's very important to monitor what conditions your revenue-generating equipment are operating under.

If your refrigeration system fails and you don't have adequate monitoring of the unit or temperature at storage, you would be unware of the damage and unable to prevent thermal shutdown and failure.

To properly monitor temperature, you need a monitoring system that measures temperature within a single degree against multiple thresholds levels. At least two are necessary to detect the "too low" and "too high" levels, but additional thresholds can make it easier to understand what's really happening at your sites.

For instance, it can be useful to have a "yellow alert" level so that you know the temperature is starting to rise. It's even more important, however, to have a "red alert" level to tell you the temperature has reached an absolutely critical point that requires immediate intervention to prevent thermal shutdown and expensive equipment damage.

But knowing the interior temperature at your vaccine refrigerator doesn't tell you everything. From the heat of the summer to the chill of the winter, it's also an excellent idea to monitor the exterior temperature as well. This way, you're able to assess the true danger of an HVAC or heater failure.

While any climate control fail is an urgent scenario, there's a difference between an air conditioner failure that occurs when the temperature outside is 50°F versus a failure when the outdoor temperature is 110°F.

In truth, a good temperature monitoring device will be capable of setting "virtual thresholds" for when your analog temperature reading crosses the levels you designate. For instance, you might set levels that indicate when temperature is "way too low", a "bit too low", "a bit too high", or "way too high".

Analogs are also able to track and measure the change in temperature over time. This allows you to know that the temperature is "dropping slowly" or "dropping way too fast".

Many companies have been known to lose collective millions of dollars in equipment and vaccine supply because they failed to monitor temperature adequately. In this game of temperature monitoring, more intelligence yields better financial results.

Keep in mind, however, that intelligence alone can't protect your vaccine storage. If you know everything but can do nothing, you're getting nowhere fast. Intelligence combined with the power to react is what yields success.

Imagine that the refrigeration system that keeps your vaccines cool has a backup power supply but your air conditioning doesn't. If the power fails, you'll be helpless to keep service online because, although your refrigeration system is still working, it might quickly reach the point of thermal shutdown without proper air-conditioning. Although your monitoring equipment will, in this case, faithfully report the rising temperature, you will be powerless to stop it without shutting down service.


The Importance of Monitoring your Vaccine Refrigerator Temperatures

According to the CDC guidelines for maintaining and managing the vaccine cold chain, proper temperature monitoring is an essential component of your vaccine management plan.

Thermometers inside your storage units must be read and temperatures documented at least twice a day. You must be informed and empowered to take immediate action when the storage unit temperature falls outside of the recommended range.

In the case of a power outage, it's also critical that the temperature is logged throughout the course of the outage to make sure that you will be able to know immediately if your vaccines have been compromised.

When you're storing vulnerable vaccinations, you need to know when the temperatures inside your storage units are out of tolerance.

It's also necessary that these temperatures be logged at regular intervals to comply with regulatory standards. To do this effectively, you must have a reliable monitoring system in place to provide you with the visibility you need.


Real World Scenario: Gaston County

The municipal county government of Gaston County operates on behalf of the nearly 200,000 residents in Southwest North Carolina.

Barry Styers is a maintenance technician for the Gaston County Public Works department, helping maintain the county's municipal facilities, supporting the public and the staff that work there. He uses remote monitoring equipment to ensure that multiple pieces of equipment are working in the county's jail, courthouse, and medical clinics.

In years past, Styers used an alarm remote that suffered from several hardware limitations. Initially it could only send alphanumeric pages to two different pagers. Gaston County had to work around this limit using a county paging system that would forward the incoming page to multiple technicians. The older alarm remote also required a battery that had to be replaced yearly. "We couldn't get those batteries anymore, so we decided it was time to get a better system," Styers says. "Now, I have DPS equipment."

Monitoring temperature allows Styers and other technicians to respond early, at the first sign of a temperature out of the standard vaccination storage range. "I haven't had any trouble with DPS RTUs. It's working really well," Styers adds.

Now, Styers has more flexible alarm notification options. "I get email on most alarms," he says. With email, Styers doesn't have to carry around a separate pager or decipher alphanumeric messages. When he receives an alarm, the email alert contains all the necessary detail.

Even so, having the ability to send a page remains valuable. "Some of the people at the Health Department still have pagers, and for a few of the alarms, we just send them an alphanumeric page." DPS equipment units give Barry Styers and Gaston County the versatility to automatically send the right alarm messages to the right people at the right time.


Top 5 Things You Need to Know when it comes to Remote Monitoring Your Vaccine Storage

To be able to prevent all of the frustration that comes with your refrigeration system going down and spoiling the vaccines in your storage, you must keep the following 5 key factors in mind.

  1. It's simply not enough to just install your refrigeration system and leave it be - you must be monitoring your storage facility.

    If left unmonitored, you're exposing yourself to one of the biggest headaches: unforeseen outages. If your refrigeration system goes down and you have no idea, your vaccines will slowly spoil until they're no longer usable. With a simple monitoring system, you get advance notice of all issues and have the ability to save your supply from compromise.

  2. Any random temperature sensor won't do the job.

    You need advanced analog sensors, instead of the more basic discrete sensors. Analog sensors give you an accurate reading of the precise temperature in the room, whereas discrete sensors just tell you if the temperature has passed a certain point or not.

  3. The support needs to be capable of alerting multiple people in multiple ways.

    What good is an alert if it's never seen by any of your employees? It's critical to have a device that is capable of at least two alert methods - email, text messages, or pager alerts for example - and an escalation list that allows the alert to be sent to additional people in case the first person alerted is too busy or distracted to notice. This escalation list can mean the difference between your vaccines going to waste and saving the supply.

  4. The monitoring system must be durable and reliable.

    Cheap plastic housing for devices that lack industrial durability just won't cut it - you need industrial grade durability on ultra-stable platforms for the best performance and durability. What good is your monitoring system if it's not durable enough to perform?

  5. Lastly, you need the quality support and assistance to make sure your monitoring system is running at its peak 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Accept nothing less than the optimum 24x7 tech support. It's crucial to have support readily available, that way you're never in the dark about the optimization of your vaccine storage.


The Right Equipment to Monitor the Temperature at Your Storage

Could you estimate how much money is invested in vaccines researches? How much is your vaccine storage worth to your company?

These questions might be difficult to answer, but monitoring your storage doesn't have to be.

Don't wait until the day you have to trash vaccines - the TempDefender is the cost-effective way to stay proactive in your monitoring.

The TempDefender keeps tabs on all the environmental levels that affect servers, phone closets, data centers, and even your vaccine storage. This small RTU device alerts you of changing conditions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, either to your cell or SNMP manager.

The 8 discrete alarms on the back panel of this RTU monitor your dry contacts, such as motion sensors, UPS, smoke detectors, flood sensors, AC and room entry. The 4 D-Wire sensor inputs on the back panel allow you to monitor up to 32 analog sensors, giving you the analog capacity to keep on top of environmental conditions at your site.

With the SMS and email notification options on the TempDefender, you will know right away when something has changed in your refrigeration system. You'll be notified immediately in the case of a power failure. With the automated reporting features accessible within the TempDefender's intuitive built-in web interface, it's easy to log temperature at regular set times, as well as run reports of your daily, weekly, or monthly temperature trends.

In a nutshell, the following points are the key advantages of the TempDefender RTU.

  • PnP (plug and play) - you can start monitoring in minutes.

  • SNMPv3 compatible - send traps to your SNMP manager.

  • Receive 24x7 email notifications when environmentals cross your custom thresholds.

  • 8 discrete alarm points

  • 4 D-Wire sensor inputs - each D-Wire sensor port supports multiple "daisy-chained" sensors, with a max. of 32 sensors per unit.

  • 32 ping targets

  • Telco-grade casing for enhanced durability

  • Built-in web interface to monitor for many PC on the network

  • Log sensor data with graphing for trend analysis


Get a Reliable Monitoring Solution to Protect your Vaccine Supply

Deploying the TempDefender means that you can have complete, 24x7 visibility of your vaccine storage units.

You can't afford to leave your extremely sensitive vaccines unmonitored and vulnerable. Keep regulators, your boss, your customers, and your technicians happy and your equipment functioning properly by investing in a reliable monitoring solution for your vaccine storage.

Give us a call today and talk to our experts - we'll be happy to help you achieve the perfect-fit solution for your scenario.

Morgana Siggins

Morgana Siggins

Morgana Siggins is a marketing writer, content creator, and documentation specialist at DPS Telecom. She has created over 200 blog articles and videos sharing her years of experience in the remote monitoring industry.