Maintaining Buildings & Grounds
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PHOTO © JAREYNOLDS
Ensuring a healthy living and learning environment
for all students and staff at the college or
university level is a top priority for any administration.
A critical part of maintaining a healthy environment
is the implementation of a proper pest management program.
As higher education facilities cater to thousands or tens of
thousands of students in multiple settings, they face a unique
set of pest control challenges, which can be overwhelming
and particularly disastrous if infestations take hold. Pests
such as cockroaches and rodents can aggravate allergies and
asthma, contaminate food and surfaces, and can cause students
to fall ill. Bed bugs can become a housing emergency,
given how quickly and easily they spread from room to room.
Quite simply, pests in a school environment can become
a public health concern if left untreated, but having a prevention
and maintenance plan in place can better prepare
schools to avoid full-blown infestations or to act quickly
should they arise.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR CAMPUS: PEST HOTSPOTS
College and university campuses are an ideal habitat
for pests as they have an abundant supply of food, water
and shelter. Understanding which areas of a campus pose
risks — and why these areas are hotspots for pests — is
important to developing and implementing an integrated
pest management (IPM) program, an individualized pest
control program which focuses on eliminating sources of
food, water and shelter while limiting the use of products.
Dining Facilities — Most college campuses offer multiple dining
facilities, providing meals and snacks to students, staff and
visitors throughout the day. While foot traffic may vary for each
mealtime, each kitchen needs to be prepared for a high volume
of food coming in and going out. This constant flow of food and
people can create the perfect environment for pests to thrive.
Managers who oversee dining facilities, in particular, need
to take specific precautions to reduce pest problems. Employees
need to ensure food products are properly stored, food surfaces
and kitchen floors are sanitized appropriately, garbage is disposed
of regularly and dirty dishes are cleaned quickly. In terms
of facility maintenance, managers should be on the lookout for
leaking pipes and clogged drains, which can lead to standing
water and create the perfect breeding ground for pests.
Living Facilities and Residence Halls — College students are
known for living in a variety of housing situations — such as
on-campus and off-campus dormitories and apartments — often
with multiple roommates. Pests can find entry when dormitory
residents leave windows and doors open, and residents can
attract pests if they improperly dispose of food, leave garbage in
the room and dirty dishes in the sink.
In a dormitory or apartment environment, there is a regular
turnover of student residents. New students move in and
out each year or perhaps every semester, and many travel for
holidays and spring break — not to mention all the day-to-day activities of hosting friends for study groups or get-togethers. This
continual stream of traffic creates the perfect highway and environment
for bed bugs to enter and spread across properties. Another
common avenue is through previously infested secondhand furniture
and personal belongings.
Restrooms — Poorly maintained restrooms, no matter where on
campus they are located, are unsanitary. One of the largest problems in
restrooms is the risk for leaking pipes, clogged drains and standing water.
Residence hall shower rooms pose a unique risk as the large volume
of students using the showers on a daily basis can keep the room damp,
cause standing water and provide the perfect shelter for pests to thrive.
Classrooms and Common Areas — Classrooms and common
areas can pose less of a risk in terms of standing water, but the improper
cleaning of surfaces, irregular disposal of garbage and high
traffic volume of students can attract pests. Specifically, students
who snack in these locations may leave crumbs and spills, which
can lead to pest infestations.
Exterior Areas — While outside areas of campus are usually less
of a concern in terms of pest infestation, exterior waste-holding
sites, such as Dumpsters, can be big magnets for pests, including
rodents, flies and mosquitos. Not only does the storage or
improper disposal of garbage attract pests, improper irrigation
and cleanup can lead to standing water and mosquito breeding
sites. As these disposal areas are typically close to dining halls or
located in close proximity to buildings, adequate sealing of entryways,
including door thresholds, screens and windows in these
structures can help mitigate pest entry all together.
A school’s geographic location will influence the type of pest infestations
they are most at risk for, too. That said, there are several
pests that are common across the United States:
Cockroaches — Cockroaches pick up germs on the spines of
their legs as they crawl through decaying matter, which may be
transferred to humans through food contamination. This can lead
to the transmission of illnesses such as E. coli and Salmonella.
Cockroaches are also known to trigger asthma and allergies as
their droppings, saliva and shed skin contain protein allergens
known to exacerbate asthma and allergy symptoms.
Rodents — Rodents can spread dangerous diseases, contaminate food
and surfaces and can cause property damage. Rodents are linked to diseases such as plague, typhus, rat-bite fever and acute food poisoning.
Their bacteria-infested urine and fecal droppings, in addition to
the germs they pick up, can be transferred to food or surfaces, making
rodents a dangerous pest to find within a dining or living facility.
Rodents are also known to gnaw through walls and electrical
wiring, causing property damage and potentially triggering
electrical fires through wire damage.
Flies — Flies contaminate food and spread disease. They breed
quickly and are among the filthiest of all pest species, leaving
potentially hazardous germs everywhere they land. Controlling
a fly infestation can be difficult as every situation is unique and
there is no one size fits all fly control program.
Bed bugs — Bed bugs are one of the most widely known
hitchhiking pests. Many students, especially those that live off
campus, may arrive with secondhand furniture, namely sofas,
chairs, college dorm décor, suitcases and mattresses, and can
unknowingly bring bed bugs along.
According to the National Pest Management Association’s 2015
Bugs Without Borders survey, 46 percent of pest control professionals
reported treating for bed bugs in college residence halls and 43 percent
reported bed bug service in schools.
INTEGRATING AN IPM PROGRAM
Developing an Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
program is an essential component of any health and
safety program. Not only is IPM a method that focuses
on eliminating sources of food, water and shelter for
pests, it can result in high levels of pest control in a
proactive, sustainable manner. This can be especially
useful for schools that are required to limit product use.
An IPM program is a joint commitment between the
school and the professional pest control company to stop
pests before they invade. As the main focus of an IPM is
pest prevention, it is important for the pest management
professional to conduct a thorough inspection of the
campus and report all deficiencies to the contact person
at the school. They should also service the campus with
an ongoing preventative pest management program.
Together, the school and pest management professional
can identify causes of potential pest problems and
assess risks. Left unchecked, pests can enter structures in
many ways — through doors, windows, vents, plumbing,
cracks or holes in walls or floors, or via supplier deliveries.
There are three structural enhancements that can be
implemented to help mitigate pest access to a building.
- Door sweeps can be installed at the base of doors and
can help limit gaps to prevent pests from sneaking in
- Air curtains can be installed to create positive airflow
that will help keep flying pests out of the building.
- Weather-resistant sealants should be used to seal
cracks and crevices, helping to close up any entry
points that pests may find.
College campuses have a unique set of challenges,
including large-scale food service operations and heavy
foot traffic, which helps to provide the perfect home for
pests. Understanding these challenges can help administrators
protect the health and safety of all students
on campus. Taking the proper steps to ensure a joint
commitment between school officials and a pest professional
is essential as prevention through IPM is the best
way to eliminate potential pest problems.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of College Planning & Management.
Dr. Jim Fredericks is chief entomologist and vice president of technical and regulatory affairs for the National Pest Management Association, a nonprofit with more than 7,000 members. It was established in 1933 to support the pest-management industry’s commitment to the protection of public health, food and property. For more information, visit www.pestworld.org.
Cindy Mannes is the vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association.