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Environmentally Responsible Pest Management

February 1, 2005
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Practical preventive steps to reduce pesticide use in healthcare facilities by Eric Eicher
BY ERIC EICHER Environmentally responsible pest management
Safer and more targeted ways than wholesale spraying are available
Residents and their families won't tolerate the sight of a four- (or six- or eight-) legged critter scurrying across the floor. But the excessive use of pesticides is equally undesirable and potentially harmful to human health. A growing number of firms now offer reduced pesticide use alternatives to pest prevention. They feature a multipronged approach that includes inspection, physical removal of pests, monitoring, minor structural repairs as necessary, further prevention with reduced pesticide use alternatives, and follow-up. These tactics are, for example, part of my company's EcoSensitive« Pest Prevention program, an environmentally responsible program to eliminate pests.

The use of technology such as bar code monitoring can also play an important role in this type of program. Bar code devices are being used by the more progressive firms to track pesticide placement and use. The technology allows both clients and technicians to track their specific recommendations and degree of compliance with them, analyze pest activity (including seasonal trends), and make any necessary program adjustments. A key advantage of this technology is that the precise area of a pest problem is pinpointed for corrective action, eliminating overuse of pesticides.

In my company's program, each monitoring device or bait station installed at a site is outfitted with a bar code. A handheld device loaded with special software is used both as a scanner and a computer to record important information. First, a service specialist scans the bar code using a laser at one end of the device (similar to the scanner at a grocery store checkout). This bar code contains data about the monitoring unit's location in the facility. Then, using the unit's keypad, the specialist is prompted to enter specific information about the scanned unit or station, such as structural and sanitation issues, service times, pest activity, and actions taken. Once the specialist has finished the service, the data are uploaded to a secure server via the Internet. Information is then made available to appropriate parties for review.

Further Eco-Friendly Steps
Aside from taking advantage of technologic innovations, long-term care facilities can take several commonsense steps to help make pest management safer, as well as more effective:

  • Keep food and garbage containers closed. Don't leave food out or allow clutter to accumulate, even in out-of-the-way places.
  • Keep all spaces clean. That goes not only for residents' living quarters and rest rooms but also for break rooms, food service areas, and other common areas. At mealtime, make sure everyone watches out for crumbs and spills. Keep a special lookout in rooms of new residents for pests that might have been brought in with their belongings.
  • Regularly mop hard-surface floors and wash countertops.
  • Have maintenance caulk cracks and other crevices where pests can enter. Windowsills should be checked regularly and caulked at the first sign of a gap.
  • Trim exterior plants to keep them away from your facility. Not only can foliage touching the building allow pests entry through near-by cracks or crevices, but it traps moisture close to the structure, which also attracts these unwanted guests.
  • Regularly tend to lawns and landscaping. Mowing the grass on a regular basis will deter insects from setting up residence on the lawn. Also, have groundskeepers mow grass or fields in a circular motion from the inside (nearest the building) outward. Mowing from the outside inward can push any existing rodent populations toward a building, rather than away.
  • Remove any pooling or standing water. This may require ensuring that automatic sprinkler systems are not overwatering, as well as providing sufficient runoff drainage and removing any vegetation that requires excessive irrigation. Gutters should be cleaned regularly to eliminate the buildup of organic debris and standing water.
  • Be sure that all doors are self-closing, where possible, and that they are structurally sound. Seal gaps with door sweeps so you cannot see light through any gaps between the door and frame.
  • Do not point lighting at doors or position it directly above entryways. All exterior lighting, including parking lot lights, should employ sodium-vapor bulbs (yellow lights), which attract fewer insects than the standard incandescent type. Shelter the bulbs with covers, canopies, or lampshades.
  • Keep outdoor trash receptacles closed, clean them regularly, and situate them as far away from the facility as possible. Don't forget to also clean the receptacles' pads.

Conclusion
An environmentally responsible approach provides long-term care facilities with a pest-free environment while reducing the need for potentially harmful pesticides. By using this advanced form of pest management combined with the latest technology and some commonsense tips, you can be confident that the overall safety of the residents in your facility will be enhanced.


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