Keep pests out of your empty school building this fall

So many schools across the U.S. have made the move to a fully virtual curriculum for the fall semester, leaving school buildings largely unoccupied for additional months after the summer break.

The extended break in foot traffic through schools presents pests, such as rats, with the opportunity to get into the building undetected. Facilities managers must ensure that an alteration in pest control strategies is made to keep the unwanted guests out of the school.

1. Changing seasons

My first apartment was a basement-level (or garden-level as my realtor put it) in Weehawken, Nj. From the street I lived on to the light rail train a short walk away, I would watch ferry boats float across the Hudson River before taking the train to work.

The water would be glimmering so beautifully, with the faint song the Disney cruise lines would play as it was leaving Manhattan. I felt like I lived in a quiet neighborhood outside the city, but quiet is relative and the pests that came into my apartment to escape the cold weather was just part of charm that comes with living in an urban area.

Luckily, my cat was able to take care of this problem for me. Facilities managers on the other hand, will need to be vigilant and create a plan for the inevitable.

Reduce the possible entryways that pests may use to get inside, including cracks and holes in the exterior of the building. Installing door sweeps and screening over vents and windows will provide extra protection from sneaky rodents.

2. Remove or secure food sources

Consider storing food in sealed containers and regularly cleaning kitchen or other eating areas will help to eliminate the potential for pests to come looking for it. Garbage both inside and outside may need to be monitored to be sure that rodents are not scavenging through it.

Food is often used to trap pests as well. When my roommate found that the cat wasn’t just swallowing dormice, and instead leaving some as gifts to us, we educated ourselves a little more and found the true classic favorite for mice isn’t cheese—it’s peanut butter.

When trapping rodents, it is important to consider that it is done in a strategic way that will not result in the opposite effect and attract more pests. I have seen well-intentioned individuals leave out hotdogs or cat food and find more of the pests they wanted away plus an additional raccoon or other critter tagging along with the rest.

In this case, it is advised to contact a licensed professional local to your area.

3. Regularly inspect the building

Create a checklist and communicate with your team to be sure that areas with the potential for infestation are clear from any signs of pests. Signs of unwanted pests include droppings, nests, and gnaw marks to name just a few.

Ensure that areas such as restrooms, gym showers, and kitchens stay dry. Standing water can serve as a potential breeding ground for pests.

Facilities managers heading into a unique school year with students missing from the building will need to create a plan to make sure that little crawling guests do not use this opportunity to get inside the school. A little sign here and there indicating pests have made their way in can quickly turn into a full-blown infestation.

The National Pest Management Association recommends working with a pest control professional to gain an advantage in pest management practices. Continue to monitor the building and follow pest control tips to keep your school safe from infestations.

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