GARAG Couriers Guide


This guide is offered to our first responders couriers to help them safely and legally package and deliver Lab specimens.

As training materials change over time, we urge our couriers to revisit the most current information available when shipping medical specimens. Material is available on

Specimen Integrity

Specimens must be packed and shipped properly for accurate testing, which helps ensure that patients receive optimal treatment. A specimen may not be viable for testing if it becomes too cold or too hot. It may be necessary to collect another specimen from the patient, which may delay treatment. People’s lives may depend on our work.

Our goal is to ensure that all specimens arrive at the testing facility:

  • At the correct temperature for testing
  • Intact in the container, without breakage or leakage
  • In the shortest possible time
  • In compliance with all applicable regulations

This guide has been prepared to help first responders couriers understand their role in accomplishing these goals. By following the guidelines for proper specimen packing, shipping, and documentation, couriers can comply with regulations and safely transport Laboratories specimens.

 Safety in the Laboratory

Couriers should always take special precautions in a laboratory:

  • Wear a mask and latex gloves in the laboratory. Cover any cuts or scrapes with a bandage.
  • Sanitize or wash hands before leaving each laboratory.
  • Open-toed shoes are not acceptable in the laboratory areas.
  • Do not put the box down in a spill (wet) area.
  • Do not touch any specimen bag or container that appears soiled. Ask a laboratory staff person to place the specimens in another bag for safe transportation.

Packaging Specimens

Medical samples being transported to testing laboratories must be maintained at an appropriate temperature based on the below categories: 

  • Refrigerate Specimen 
  • Ambient Specimen 
  • Frozen Specimen which needs special cooling using “dry ice”

Specimens must be separated by temperature, and each of these temperature bags must be packaged in a specific manner. All specimens must be shipped in separate coolers based on the temperature classification above.

Completing Laboratories Specimen Document

With our technology we try to digitize all documents however, please follow lab instructions in case manual paperwork is required.

General Instructions for Packing Specimens

  • Never overfill a cooler or compress the specimens. 
  • Count the number of bags always 
  • Do not leave a box containing specimens in an unlocked car. Always enter a facility carrying the box.

Packing Frozen, Refrigerated, and Ambient Specimens

  1. Always wear latex gloves and a mask while packing specimens. 
  2. Place a cold cool pack in the bottom of the cooler. The cool pack helps keep specimens from becoming too warm.
  3. Place three to four paper towels (for insulation) over the cool pack.
  4. Scan refrigerated specimens
  5. Locate the refrigerated specimens and count the bags. 
  6. Record the number of refrigerated bags on the Specimen Document if required

Pack Extra Cool Packs

Put at least three extra cold cool packs and a dozen paper towels in the cooler

Important: Refrigerated specimens cannot be shipped without a cold cool pack, so it is very important to have extras.

Leaks and Spills

To be safe, treat every spill as if it were infectious. If any specimen container in the laboratory appears to be leaking, do not touch it. Bring it to the attention of lab personnel for repackaging. Do this even if the leaking container is inside another bag.