By Hope Bowman
As a facility manager, you’re probably aware that pests can be a big problem. With the ability to spread dangerous diseases, start fires by damaging electrical wires, or simply annoy occupants and potentially hurt your hard-earned reputation, pests are best kept outside.
The best way to minimize pest activity within your facility is by working with a pest management provider to establish an integrated pest management (IPM) program. An IPM program focuses on exclusion and prevention strategies to keep pests out, using chemical options only as a last resort. Each program is tailored to the specific needs and challenges of your facilities, so no two will look exactly alike.
There are four main methods of control in an IPM program:
Every IPM plan should include integrated methods emphasizing non-chemical treatments, regular and ongoing inspections, and pest population tracking to analyze the program’s performance over time.
Many pest management providers offer IPM programs, and it can sometimes be difficult to discern which is best. Choosing a new pest management provider can seem like a daunting task. But whether you’re switching from one provider to another or making the decision to start outsourcing pest control, it’s easier to break it down into a few key considerations.
While it might sound simple, asking your peers is a good starting point when looking for a new pest management provider. Speak with them about the successes and failures that they’ve noticed with their provider, then use that information to begin weeding out the companies that will not be a good fit for your organization. There might even be a preferred vendor if your facilities are part of a larger network.
Once you’ve narrowed the list down, you can begin to reach out with more specifics about your facilities and see how well each provider can meet your needs.
Whether you’re looking for a facility-wide IPM program or a little help with a few flies buzzing around indoors, it’s best to determine your needs before reaching out to a pest management provider. When creating specific goals, start with the needs that you feel aren’t currently being met, and make sure to include any pest issues that you deal with the most.
Finding a licensed pest professional to partner with is critical. Once you do, they will work with you and your staff to establish a customized IPM program that is best for your facility infrastructure. An IPM program is recommended in most cases, as it is a proactive and cost-effective approach to pest management. Ask your current and prospective pest management providers about IPM to see if their solutions would be a strong fi t for you. If any are unsure about the meaning of IPM or do not utilize it, it’s probably a good idea to look elsewhere.
Before you put any money on the table, inquire about the possibility of an inspection. Many pest management providers will offer a free inspection and assessment. It’s important to have a professional come out to your facility to identify potential hot spots and offer recommendations, so that it will be easier to make an informed decision.
The initial inspection is key to establishing a strong IPM program. Customization is a foundational part of any plan, and it will give the pest management provider a chance to determine which products and services they offer that might work best for your facility.
Getting staff and occupants on board with your IPM program is critical to its success. The stronger the partnership is between you, staff, occupants, and your pest management provider, the better. Make it clear to all involved that open communication facilitates faster resolutions to pest issues.
Pest management providers should help with this process, too. They know the importance of getting the entire team on board, which is why most are willing to offer training sessions and provide handouts to help educate on the problem areas around your facility and the action steps that should be taken in the case of a pest sighting.
Sanitation and detailed reporting are both necessary parts of an IPM program, and your staff will be the ones most likely to spot a problem first. If trained well, they’ll know how to appropriately escalate potential problems so that you can kick pests out as quickly as possible so that they feel like their voice has been heard. Thus, make sure to inquire about training programs and educational programs when speaking with a potential pest management provider – it will pay off.
Simply put, pest thresholds are the amount of a certain pest that a facility can realistically handle. For instance, some facilities might have extensive food areas or cafes and therefore have a zero-tolerance policy for rodents. Any rodent sighing would put them above their desired threshold and require swift action.
These thresholds exist because a variety of factors might make some facilities more or less prone to pests. The factors include the age of the building, proximity to wooded areas, amount of daily foot traffic, and much more. It is nearly impossible to keep all pests out, so establishing thresholds can help to determine if a problem is routine or more serious.
Thresholds serve as goals for your facility to work to achieve, so after an inspection talk to the pest management provider about their thoughts on what is realistic. Then, they can begin working on a timetable to encourage steady improvements. It may be possible to create a pest-free facility over time by continuing to improve your IPM program, but it’s most important to determine what works best for you.
There’s practically no such thing as too much documentation when it comes to pest management. Talk to the different pest management providers and see what types of documentation they record on a regular basis.
Factors such as pest sightings, product applications, activity trends and hot spots around the facility should all be recorded. Every pest problem should come with a written solution. When the time comes that you need to show progress, keeping these types of documentation on hand will make it easy.
If your facility is frequently audited, then a pest management provider that helps update these documents regularly should be near the top of your list. That way, you can be audit-ready at a moment’s notice.
Ask pest management providers about the amount of time that their technicians spend in training, as well as the types of certification that they possess. It’s also a good idea to check on certification from the appropriate agencies in your area. This can be the difference between getting a true professional who knows the habits and attractants of each pest and a chemical-happy amateur.
If you’re ever in doubt about a current or prospective pest management provider, consider the following questions:
With any pest management provider, the emphasis must be on creating an effective partnership. Discuss the roles you, your employees, and your occupants will play, and then work with your provider to establish open channels of communication between all involved. Once that’s established, commit to the partnership and contact your provider regularly. Keeping them abreast of things that you’re noticing in your facility might even help you prevent pest problems before they begin.
Hope Bowman is a technical specialist and Board Certified entomologist with Western Pest Services, a New Jersey-based pest management company serving businesses and homeowners in major Northeastern U.S. markets.
Originally featured in IFMA’s FMJ Magazine.