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The Exclusive Magazine for the Building Service Contracting Industry Since 1981
Tuesday, 22 April 2008 10:33

Fight Summer Pests with Stringent Sanitation Procedures

Written by  Patrick T. Copps, MS, BCE

During the peak months of summer, keeping a pest-free building can be challenging. Pests like rodents, cockroaches, ants and flies abound in warm weather and all are looking for food, water and a cool place to live.

Not only are pests annoying to occupants, but they can cause expensive property damage. Rodents have been known to burrow through walls and chew wiring, causing electrical fires. Many pest species carry disease-causing pathogens that can jeopardize the health and safety of your building’s occupants. Since pests can threaten the reputation of your facility as a clean, safe property, it is important to take proactive steps to stop them from staying the summer.

An integrated pest management program (IPM) is one of the best ways to keep summer pests at bay. As an environmentally friendly approach to pest control, IPM programs emphasize the reasons why pests infest your facility in the first place and use physical and mechanical, non-chemical solutions to prevent and manage pest problems. This proactive, ongoing approach helps reduce the need for pesticides and reactive treatments.

One of the most important components of an effective IPM is rigorous sanitation. A good sanitation program keeps your building sparkling clean and helps eliminate pests’ basic needs, including food, water and harborage sources (i.e. places for pests to hide). By reducing pests’ access to these resources, good sanitation makes your facility far less appealing.

While sanitation is important throughout the building, work with your pest management professional to concentrate your efforts in your facility’s pest “hot spots” or areas most likely to attract pests. Kitchens, vending and dining areas are especially vulnerable to infestations as they can offer food and water sources for pests. Other hot spots include storage areas, which can provide harborage amid boxes and cleaning supplies, floor sinks which can act as pest “watering holes” and waste disposal areas, which can provide food and even breeding sites for some pests.

Work with your pest management professional to incorporate the following sanitation tips into a program for your facility and help prevent pest activity:

• Clean up food and liquid spills immediately and thoroughly wash floors to remove any residues. In areas where organic debris can accumulate, such as in floor drains, consider using an organic “green” cleaner to eliminate all grease and grime.

• Pests only need a small amount of water to survive, so monitor for and eliminate standing water that can accumulate around your building on a regular basis. Inside your facility, pay special attention to leaky plumbing fixtures in bathrooms and work with a maintenance professional to make repairs as needed. On your building’s exterior, inspect for standing water around utility openings or hose bibs and in areas prone to collect water after rainstorms.

• Make sure utility and maintenance closets and storage areas stay dry. Store all items off the floor and on racks where possible. If perishable items are kept in storage areas, rotate them on a first-in, first-out (FIFO) schedule to prevent them from deteriorating and becoming prone to infestation.

• Use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filter vacuum to remove any debris from cracks and crevices in your building. Vacuuming can also remove any pests hiding in those cool, dark places. If possible, seal the cracks after the cleaning process.

• Remove trash daily—what is waste to us can be a good meal to a pest. Make sure all trash cans in and around the facility are lined and tightly covered when not in use. Place dumpsters as far from the building as possible and rotate and clean them regularly. Clean the outside of dumpsters and compactors at least weekly with an organic cleaner.

• Eliminate any evidence of food or water outside your facility that could encourage pests to come inside. Pick up any trash around your property and regularly wash surrounding sidewalks or parking lots to remove spilled food.

The best pest management programs are the result of a commitment to a partnership. Select a reputable pest management provider that is well-trained and versed in pest identification and behavior. Regularly communicate with your IPM contractor on sanitation and facility maintenance issues, and immediately report all pest sightings to your provider.

The proactive cooperation of your maintenance staff, as well as your building’s tenants, will ultimately determine the success of your efforts to prevent pests. Work with your pest management professional to educate your employees and occupants on the things they can do to support your sanitation program. Even small steps, like throwing trash away in the proper receptacles, can make a difference.

With a strong sanitation program and the cooperation of all stakeholders, you can help eliminate pest-friendly conditions in your building this summer and all year long.

Patrick Copps is technical services manager for Orkin’s Pacific Division. A board certified entomologist in urban and industrial entomology, Copps has more than 30 years experience in the industry. For more information, he can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit www.orkincommercial.com.

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