By Nancy M. Troyano Ph.D., BCE
June marks the beginning of the Atlantic Hurricane season. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season recorded 13 hurricanes, the second highest number on record. In addition to causing structural damage, hurricanes and the conditions that follow can create safety hazards and situations that are conducive to pest infestations for facilities.
Facility management teams can be prepared for clean up and recovery efforts and prevent potential pest control issues with the following tips:
Mosquitoes thrive in warm, damp environments making them highly active in the weeks following a hurricane. Not only are mosquitoes annoying, but they also can spread harmful diseases such as West Nile virus and Zika virus. To protect oneself from mosquitos during storm cleanup efforts, always remember to: Defend. Dress. Drain.
Defend. Always wear insect repellent during cleanup efforts. Use an EPA approved insect repellent according to label directions. To be most effective, repellents should contain at least DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. If possible, avoid peak mosquito hours as they are most active in the hours from dusk to dawn, and take extra precautions if outside at this time.
Install or repair screens as a second defense mechanism. Screens can keep mosquitoes and other pests from invading facilities. Be sure that the mesh is small enough to keep insects out. Repair holes that may have been caused by flying debris or replace damaged screens altogether.
Dress. Wear long sleeves, long pants, and socks when near water or heavily wooded areas especially during peak mosquito activity hours from dusk to dawn. Spray insect repellent on bare skin as well as on clothing to ensure proper protection.
Drain. Drain any standing water and clean out gutters and drains to ensure they are free- flowing. Repair any roof damage that could lead to interior water damage or leaks. Remove items that collect water. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as a tablespoon of water so draining all forms of standing water is imperative to mosquito control.
General Pest Tips
Many pests, including snakes, fire ant colonies, and rodents, can be present in flood waters. Fire ants can actually float across flood waters by linking their bodies together in a raft formation to relocate and find new land. If fire ants or other pests are spotted in flood waters, do not enter the water or attempt to treat it with pesticides as this can further contaminate the flood waters.
Fallen trees, displaced shrubs, and other debris piles in close proximity to buildings also offer the perfect harborage for pests fleeing from weather. The closer these items are to the building the more likely pests are to use them as a roadway to access the interior building. After a storm, remove scattered debris as far away from the building as possible. A minimum distance of 25 feet is recommended to keep pests from entering the building.
Rodents, wildlife, and insects can also enter a facility through vents, pipes, HVAC, and other utility openings. Ensure all vent covers are in place and that there is no danger or cracks around utility lines that would allow pests into a building. Removing debris and repairing any structural damage as soon as possible can help prevent pest infestations during hurricane recovery. Holes, gaps, and weakened structures can provide additional opportunities for pests to enter a building. Rodents can fit through holes as small as one-quarter inch, so it’s extremely important to conduct a thorough inspection of the building.
Being proactive and creating a crisis communication plan prior to experiencing any type of natural disaster is an essential part of protecting employees, customers, and the overall structure of the business. In addition to mosquito defense and the general pest tips, facility management teams can use the below checklist to begin shaping an action plan to better protect the facility against weather-influenced pest infestations.
Dr. Troyano is entomologist/director of operations, education and training at Rentokil North America, a global pest control company. She received her Ph.D. in Entomology from Virginia Tech, with research primarily focused on virus transmission by mosquitoes. She is also a Board Certified Entomologist, skilled in medical, veterinary and urban entomology. Troyano joined Rentokil North America in 2009, and is responsible for leading and supporting education and training for all lines of pest business and at all levels of the operation, which includes over 4,500 pest technicians and managers. Additionally, Nancy provides ongoing technical support to field operations and acts as a subject matter expert for vector management programs.
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