Doing The Safety Dance

Doing the Safety Dance - VAElynx's Guide to Containment Procedures.


Secure. Contain. Protect - motto of the SCP Foundation

One of these days, you find yourself with the idea for an article, be it a statue, a cat, a pair of dice, or perhaps the statue of a cat furry rolling dice, and with a clear, or perhaps not so clear idea of what's in store, you begin to hammer out a description. So far so good, right? Soon enough however, you are struck by the inevitable question: How does the Foundation keep the thing, and how is everyone else kept safe from its effect. In other words, it is time to write up the Special Containment Procedures.

Well, you are not alone. After my angry side scored a contumation victory against my lazy side1, I have decided to slap together a reasonably short guide that should serve as a passable handbook to writing containment procedures that don't make people cringe.

Why should I care, anyways?

The question of the importance of SCPs essentially splits two ways.

Out of the Foundation universe, containment procedures are much like salt. No one, perhaps except connoisseurs friggin' foodie hipsters goes to a restaurant because "Oh man, their salt is awesome." but by and large, messing it up gets your meal low points however amazing it might be otherwise.

Their existence, and the fact we are containing the thing in question instead of KILL IT WITH FIRE mentality (as exhibited by the GOC, for example), or throwing our hands up in the air and declaring "no can do" are central to the whole concept we're working around here.

You can either take it along the lines of this justification by Gears2, consider the O5 council to be the equivalent of pack rats, or scoff at the whole thing, but fact is that items which are entirely uncontained or explicitly neutralized generally have to be somewhat better written than average if they're to stay.

In-universe, the containment procedures are the one single most important part of every article, as they state what needs to be done to keep everyone safe, and along with the abridged description, provide a good starting point to thinking how to deal with a potential fubar, usually titled containment breach. You don't enter the vicinity of one without having read these, preferably several times. This in part explains the stance described above - containment procedures which appear hand-written by Dr. Wondertainment take the wrecking ball to the reader's suspension of disbelief before the rest of your article had a chance to make any impact.

What to do

  1. Contain: It was hinted at hamfistedly shouted above, but the Foundation will do everything they can to contain an item, for variable meanings of the word "contain". In the case of SCP-343, it means we know where he is, and he doesn't appear to go anywhere. In the case of SCP-610, it means we keep a perimeter we don't let the infestation out of, or civilians into.

    In general, declaring an SCP to be uncontainable is viewed as lack of imagination on the side of the author, and unless the rest is finger lickin' awesome, it'll get judged as such.
  2. Reread: More often than not, one begins to write an object from the top down in order, and even if you don't, you might get a clever idea about what to do with the object itself while writing n-th addendum. The result might well be a much more efficient method of containment becomes possible, or that the present means just plain stop working.
  3. Research: I like to say that writing is essentially someone with little idea of what he's talking about trying to persuade people who know even less. The bigger you make that knowledge gap, the easier it is. Seriously, be it suspension of disbelief in reader, to actually getting better ideas, reading about the topic you are about to write on is perhaps the best thing you can do. Wikipedia is your friend SO mother, father and aunt. The uncle is Google. Don't be afraid to ask the chat either - from cockroach reproduction to hacking, there's almost always someone who knows more than you on any given topic.
  4. Optimize: The Foundation's resources are large but not unlimited. Having containment procedures which are mostly reasonable in terms of what can be built, bought and done for a reasonable price is always a plus, and it further enhances the image of the Foundation as an effective and capable organization.
    1. As a rule of thumb for most common item types, imagine the smallest, simplest means possible (an appropriately sized safe for an item, a prison cell for a humanoid) , think of what could get wrong if we put them there, then expand upwards in terms of size, implements and methods used. In terms of materials used, steel and concrete are the baseline, and the rule applies doubly.

What not to do, asides from going against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

  1. Misclassify: Object Classes guide is your friend. Remember - Keter doesn't mean universally deadly - SCP-871 probably hasn't killed anyone, yet it fully deserves the classification, while SCP-517 has reliably killed anyone exposed to its effect, yet it is Safe as we can avoid it happening. Be wary that the classification of many older articles doesn't reflect present usage - this is perhaps the one single area where your reasoning might be better than a precedent.
    1. Special mention - SCPs claiming to be Keter due to potential harm if they fall into the wrong hands. Please don't do that.
  2. Redact/expunge things in the containment procedures: This will make people eat you alive. Think about it in-universe - if you don't have enough clearance to read the containment procedures, (which are absolutely essential for you to not be a liability while working with the object) why the hell are you reading its file in the first place? The only object I know that makes this work is SCP-835, but even that is because for one, it's awesome otherwise, and two, the expunged data were released anyways.
    1. Special mention - Dr.Nobo██: Many new authors kinda want to do a shout-out to their site persona (Believe me, I was there.) and include something like "Requisitioning SCP-blah for testing or use requires written approval of Researcher Eisenberg." However, perhaps due to seeing a negative reaction to such a blatant self-insert elsewhere3 , it is tempting to go for the "logical fix-up", and take out the black pen, resulting in "… requires written approval of Researcher █████████". Better, right? Right?
      Unfortunately, what the above means is that, in a very Catch-22 way, using the object requires permission from someone whose name you aren't cleared to know. Bonus points if it's also in the nameless soldier's office.
  3. Use massive containment facilities: Under Slovak law, an acceptable apartment is one with ~12 square meters of residential area for first inhabitant, plus 6 per each further person. If your SCP fits into a safe, and doesn't emit unblockable rays of doom, or something worse, there's no reason to keep it in a room that'd fit an average family. An appropriately located safe is often a good choice.
    1. Special mention - Reaching for the sky: Unless the object does emit some sort of unblockable radiation in which case it does make sense to suspend it in mid-air in a large enclosure (though potentially an outside one), or you are attempting to contain a giant, there's no reason why the ceiling should be over, say, three metres. Especially blatant with cube-shaped rooms - these shout that the author was too lazy to figure dimensions out properly.
  4. Use obvious bullshit science as a part of the procedures: From pure titanium, "refined, impenetrable metal" to tying things down with carbon fibre, when this sort of thing gets written, electronic paper cries nine-volt tears. Especially charming when joined with #3 to produce massive, structurally unsound halls that look like Doom levels or spherical containment rooms made how. Nonsense like this breaks the reader's suspension of disbelief, and more often than not, it is an excuse for lazy, boring and cliched procedure design - this is really super hard and this is really super resistant to acid slime are material classes belonging to old-school platformer games, not sci-fi. On the other side, using realistic materials and believable processes helps the hook to sink in and as a bonus, if it doesn't quite work due to real life limitations, it can be actually scary.

    Consider how much less interesting would SCP-106 be if the building it is in was simply encased in diamond reinforced tungsten titanium ███████, sealing it safely and permanently inside.
    1. Abuse of scientific termitology foquently revolts in dimmages: Seriously. Make sure it's spelled right, and make sure you are using the terms sensibly. Expressions like "large quantities of electricity", "doctoral supplies", "borderline sociological tendencies" or "amounts of temperature" will, even if understood as intended, convey that the author has no clue about the topic whatsoever. Consider reading our Technical Words page - it's helpful, and a work in progress that you too can make better.
    2. Metric: Despite a large part of the in-universe SCP Foundation (as well as OOC one) operating in the USA, it is an international organisation, and it has standardised onto metric measurements, as implied need to convert produces a safety risk. Confusing metric and imperial measurements is hard to spot as it's often less than an order of magnitude error, and what's worse, such errors get more likely during critical, stressful situations as people during these tend to revert into learned behaviour patterns. When such a mistake happens at NASA, we get Mars Polar Lander fiasco. If it were to happen in the Foundation, the world might die.
  5. Thoughtless design of procedures: It's tempting to demonstrate the innate danger of your item by having it breach containment and kill lots of people, perhaps even regularly. What results however, is that a random Ivan Readerskyj-Kommentarov will read through your piece, scratch his head, and go "Why the hell don't they contain it by doing [REDACTED]?", which is very embarrassing if true. Remember that the Foundation is staffed with brilliant researchers, and ruthless calculators, who have at least as much information as Ivan above, and as such are expected to be one step ahead. While the thought of the world being in control of incompetents is scary indeed, the SCP Foundation can't really compete with newspaper articles on that field.
    1. SCP Foundation is not a hotel: There is absolutely no reason your SCP should wander the halls of Site-██, or worse, get recruited as the Foundation's personal X-man. This is a really old and annoying relic of silly times far past. Good examples are SCP-103 whose initial release likely cost a number of civilians their lives, and SCP-1316, which shows precisely what might happen when you drop your guard and, let a cute little kitten wander the halls of your facility unrestricted. For the same reason, if you are to allow an object in a containment cell of a sapient SCP, consider potential risk of abuse, or self-harm. A knife is not an acceptable item for a contained entity, no matter how much it professes love for playing Five Finger Fillet. That said, what constitutes an abusable item or feature often depends on the nature of its powers - ex. providing writing implements to SCP-637 would probably lead to a containment breach.
    2. SCP Foundation is not Starbucks, either: And Foundation staff aren't litigious customers. As such, warnings explicitly forbidding activities no marginally sane person would attempt, such as testing obviously dangerous or harmful objects on anyone but requisitioned D-Class personnel, entering enclosures of harmful organisms and the like are worse than useless. Not only do they waste time of the Foundation staff reading the document in-universe, but the implication that such incidents actually occur often enough for there to be an explicit warning makes the Foundation look like staffed with eight year olds instead of world-class professionals. The exception would be emphasis on preventing easy, but costly mistakes, such as accidentally using aluminium foil instead of tinfoil where the distinction is crucial - use common sense as a guide.
    3. Do not overspecify: If an object needs to be in a crate, don't define it as an oak crate of two inch wall thickness. Asides from blowing the procedures out of proportion, and being a boring read, this is actually a pathway to an in-universe disaster. Consider it from the perspective of a level-0 security worker. You have to perform maintenance on n-th SCP that day, with a list of containment procedures that's a page long, most of it empty fluff. You have a busy day… you might decide to cut a few corners.. perhaps use a walnut crate when oaken ones aren't available. But then… right. Nothing will happen, because the entry had nothing to do with what is necessary for containment. So, next day, you to do it again, because meeting all the asinine requirements is such a chore, right? Right, except the one time you use a martensitic rather than austenitic steel vessel to transport that living ice the eggheads brought from Antarctica. And then carelessly bump it onto the floor. Say hello to containment breach, and goodbye to your legs.
  6. Inappropriate use of staff: Similar to science fail pissing off scientists, the failure to sensibly use staff will grate on anyone who ever managed anything greater than a pet rock shelf. There's no reason to equip D-class personnel with weapons unless during controlled testing. That's what the security guards are for. You don't have them wandering around the facility nicking things and causing containment breaches either. That's also what security guards are there for, in this case, preventing any such. On the other end, having level 4 personnel perform tasks that the aforementioned D-class could handle (such as whistling a melody) to stress the importance of such a crisis makes as much sense as the CEO of American Water Works coming to dig the shit out of your blocked drainpipe. Once again, if you are unsure, talk to someone in the know, such as E4D/Echo/EchoFourDelta. While not ideal, this page is the accepted canon, and it helps to understand who should be doing what.
    1. While the D-class are disposable, they don't grow on trees: Their wholesale slaughter as a part of the procedures needs a very good reason. Consider SCP-1158 - it'd prefer to hunt people , but we feed it sheep because it is a good enough alternative.
    2. Please, no redshirts: There are others more experienced on this topic, but the Mobile Task Forces are composed of highly trained professionals, equipped and able to quickly adapt to a new situation. Even in the case of a containment breach, or an unexpected turn of events during recovery, it's unlikely a group of them will get outright slaughtered. SCP-1105 Recovery Log is a good example of how such an operation might look. Also, last time I looked, Darwin Awards weren't sold in the horror section either, and as such I suspect most people view morons dying due to their stupidity as somewhat amusing rather than scary.
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