Services & Maintenance: Under Pressure

Having maintenance staff regularly inspect rooftops and other building areas for the presence of birds can prevent these animals from making a facility home. (Photo: Bird-B-Gone, Inc.)

By Meredith Walako
Published in the July 2012 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Do birds really cause substantial problems or damage to facilities? The answer is yes—and even more than some facility managers (fms) might think. Birds are a common pest that can wreak havoc in commercial settings, especially if the problem is left unattended. The most common problems associated with birds at a facility include:

  • liability/slip and fall risks;
  • corrosion of building materials;
  • clogged gutters;
  • health issues;
  • health code violations;
  • costs of removing bird droppings;
  • negative image of the facility/organization; and
  • product contamination.

The key to deterring birds successfully lies in gathering information about the problem. Being aware of contributing factors helps fms and their maintenance crews to achieve positive results the first time around. Effectively navigating a pest bird issue from the start will help fms save time and money in the long run.

Fms should first establish whether or not their maintenance crews have the ability, resources, and time to handle the bird problem in-house. A realistic look at the situation can mean the difference between wasted resources and successful bird exclusion. And this can be determined by noting a few important factors. Where are the birds congregating? Are they nesting? What kinds of birds are they? If unsure of the type of bird, staff should note whether it’s larger or smaller than a pigeon.

Busting Bed Bugs, Not Budgets

By William McCaffrey

Two things hold true for facility managers (fms) when dealing with bed bugs—they don’t want them in their facility and they don’t want to pay a lot to get rid of bed bugs if they are present in a building. Considering the fact that one bed bug can start a building wide infestation, and within 10 weeks that infestation can verge on tens of thousands, it is important to catch an infestation early.

Catching the problem sooner rather than later eases the burden on an fm’s budget, because combating the infestation early reduces the resources needed to control the bed bugs. This can be done first and foremost through training. An action plan for staff and occupants should include: information on bed bug biology; what to look for and the protocol for inspections; who is responsible to take action if bed bugs are found; and what the treatment protocols are. Fms want to avoid panic, and having a detailed bed bug action plan full of specific steps and protocols will help accomplish this.

Fms may work with a variety of internal customers, from nursing home staff to college dorm residents, and these people are going to be on the front line and the first defense. That is why it is so important to be as specific and detailed as possible in creating and disseminating an education and training plan—and then tweaking it to the specific situation. For instance, an action plan for nursing homes may include training for nursing staff members so they do not dismiss a rash as “just a rash,” but rather possible bed bug bites. Meanwhile, in a college dorm, an action plan may include advising residents who notice blood spots on their sheets (and who may have otherwise dismissed this as a result of scratching themselves in the night) that these may indicate the presence of bed bugs.

A great way to offer training to a wide audience is through a blog or website that staff, students, or residents can visit. Content can include photos of bed bugs and signs of infestation, along with protocol and action plans. Along with websites there are also universities, like Virginia Tech, that have specific information developed for the public to use. These materials can be printed and distributed as a training tool as well.

Education and training will encourage calls to be made to facilities management hotlines, which can result in early treatment and can cost much less than dealing with a full blown infestation.

Aside from developing a plan, fms can introduce inexpensive processes and devices that aid in making an action plan successful. One such device is called a Climb Up Insect Interceptor. This is a circular device coated with talc powder that fits under the legs of a bed or other piece of furniture; it catches bed bugs as they gravitate toward the furniture. These are particularly useful in residential facilities like dorm rooms, group homes, homeless shelters, and nursing homes. They are inexpensive and provide staff something to inspect.

Another more costly device is the Night Watch Monitor. This device mimics a human body by releasing carbon dioxide, heat, and a lure that attracts bed bugs. It is a more cumbersome product and requires more attention than the Climb Up product, but it is very useful in situations where a more aggressive approach is needed.

Another popular inspection tool that can be set up on a quarterly schedule or used to verify suspected infestation is the bed bug dog, or K9. Implementing a K9 program has positive and negative considerations. A K9 inspection can be extremely accurate for early detection—identifying low levels of live bugs. The downside is that the dog is only as good as its handler. Also, if the dog is not in top form while performing an inspection, fms may not benefit from accurate or effective results.

Developing and implementing an action plan that incorporates education, training, inspections, and follow up will increase an fm’s chances of finding bed bugs and controlling them. Until a silver bullet is found to treat bed bugs inexpensively, catching them early through education and early intervention remains key.

McCaffrey has been a licensed pest control operator by the State of Pennsylvania for the past 18 years, and he manages pest control and support services for NHS Human Services in the facilities department. NHS is a mental health agency treating all aspects of mental health in 680 locations across seven states.

Choosing An Appropriate Approach

Bird deterrent products are designed for specific species and situations. And if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Very often, fms will choose a bird control product only to be disappointed with the results. Birds are smart, adaptable creatures. Crows and other bird species have been shown to be problem solvers, and if they can outsmart a system to return to a desired roosting or nesting site, they will.

If fms have encountered this challenge, or if they decide a pest bird problem cannot be solved with in-house expertise only, they can call a company that specializes in bird control issues. Based on the specific factors of the problem, experts at these companies help advise on the best product to use and can also provide advice on the installation.

If it is determined that the job in question is too large or complex to be solved with in-house staff performing the installation, a bird control professional can help with that aspect as well. If an fm has an existing working relationship with a pest control company, he or she may want to find out if that company is trained in bird control.

If a pest bird issue is caught early on there is good chance that, with the advice of a bird control company, an effective product can be chosen and installed by in-house staff. In the bird control industry these problems are referred to as “low pressure.”

An example of a low pressure bird problem would be the sudden appearance of a few birds sitting on a parapet wall. They haven’t been at the building long, and there is no evidence of nesting. In this type of situation, it’s likely that an in-house maintenance crew would be able to deter the birds effectively.

Products such as spikes, gels, and slopes can be purchased and easily installed with the advice from a bird control specialist. This can help fms save money on the outsourcing of cleanup and installation efforts.

As with many facility management issues, being proactive about a bird problem is less expensive than waiting until the problem spreads. In low pressure situations, the birds aren’t attached to the space, and getting them to leave is fairly easy. If birds get the message that the area is not safe in the first place, fms can avoid permanent habitation. Finding a safe, undisturbed area to build a nest takes time. The longer birds are allowed to inhabit a space, the more adamant they will be about remaining there.

Meanwhile, “high pressure” bird problems often involve nesting. An example of a high pressure problem would be birds nesting in the rafters of a building’s interior.

The products that will work to prevent birds from landing or roosting at a facility will often fail at getting birds to leave nesting sites. For instance, bird sound deterrents are often marketed as a good solution for large spaces, but these are generally ineffective where birds have already been nesting. This approach just isn’t enough to get the birds to leave their nesting sites. This can be an ideal time for fms to seek outside help.

When birds are nesting or the problem is long-term or recurring, the best option may be to install bird netting. It may seem impractical to some fms, but netting is regularly chosen to solve pest bird problems that are present in air hangars, storage facilities, sports arenas, warehouses, food production sites, rooftops, and bridges.

This netting is an effective and practical solution for high pressure bird problems. Instead of treating every possible landing spot around a facility with products like spikes or gels, the netting provides a permanent solution for keeping birds out, though the installation can be complicated. Fms can seek out experts if they need assistance.

Drawing On All Resources

Fms can solve a pest bird problem with efficiency by analyzing the situation and taking a realistic look at the capabilities of their in-house staff. Meanwhile, bird control specialists can evaluate a site to help fms effectively complete the job in a timely manner. This also eliminates the trial and error aspect of bird control that in-house staff may encounter.

If it is determined that outside assistance is required, fms can confer with a bird control company that has extensive knowledge in commercial and industrial bird control for guidance. In either case, taking the time to gather information about the specific problem will save time and money.

Walako works in marketing and public relations for Bird-B-Gone, Inc., located in Mission Viejo, CA. Walako has been with the company since 2001 and has seen the bird control industry evolve over the past 11 years.