Cleaning & Maintenance Management Online

Stop The Problem Before it Starts

March 7, 2012

The acronym IPM has become popular in recent years as interest in holistic pest control gains traction not only in schools and hospitals, but also in other types of places such as offices.

IPM stands for integrated pest management and is a process involving commonsense and sound solutions for treating and controlling pests.

The focus is upon finding the best treatment for a pest problem — not merely the simplest.

Pest professionals never employ a "one size fits all" method in IPM but, rather, utilize a three-part practice:

  1. Inspection
  2. Identification
  3. Treatment by a pest professional.
Treatment options in IPM can vary from sealing cracks to removing food and water sources to employing control products, when necessary.

Schools and hospitals face a unique challenge when implementing pest management programs.

There is a shared responsibility to protect the well-being of more sensitive populations — students and patients — from the serious health threats posed by the presence of pests.

Yet, to do so often requires more specialized, focused pest management plans. In working to protect these more sensitive populations, however, educational and health care decision makers must also ensure the effective protection of school and hospital staffs from these same threats.

In addition to schools and hospitals, the practice of IPM is also becoming increasingly common in office buildings, retailers, banks, manufacturing facilities, restaurants and similar establishments.

Besides a health hazard, the incidence of pests and rodents in a business can affect the way customers view the company.

IPM programs, as defined above, provide schools, hospitals and offices with a multitude of proactive and reactive measures to protect their buildings — and those who spend significant time in them — from the real threat of pests.

Pest Control: A Necessity

Pests can have harmful effects upon human health and property.

Although IPM programs evolved as means to lessen the use of traditional pest control products, those who implement them should remember that they''re not always a silver bullet for complete control of pests.

IPM methods can be extremely effective if implemented correctly, but users have to be willing to explore other treatments should IPM fail.

Below is a detailed overview of the risks associated with pests that can be commonly found in hospitals, schools and offices.

• Bedbugs

Bedbugs have made a serious comeback in the last decade.

A survey conducted by the National Pest Management Association (NPMA) and the University of Kentucky in July 2010 found that 95 percent of U.S. pest management professionals encountered a bedbug infestation in the past year.

Prior to 2000, only 25 percent of U.S. survey respondents encountered a bedbug infestation.

While bedbugs are not considered vectors of disease, their bites can leave itchy, red welts and their presence can cause anxiety and sleeplessness.

Because bedbugs and their eggs "hitchhike" in bags, shoes and on people, they can easily be brought into a school, hospital, office or any other environment where people gather and reside.

• Cockroaches

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) reported that one in five children in the U.S. have severe sensitivities to cockroach allergens, which increase the severity of asthma symptoms.

These allergens are most commonly introduced through cockroach saliva, droppings and the decomposing bodies of these pests.

Further, cockroaches spread nearly 33 different kinds of bacteria, six kinds of parasitic worms and at least seven other kinds of human pathogens.

As vectors for disease, cockroaches often carry bacteria such as Escherichia coli (E. coli) and Salmonella on their bodies, which can not only contaminate food and cooking equipment in a school, hospital or office kitchen, but also compromise the sterile environment of an operating room or a school health office.

• Rodents

Rodents can enter buildings through almost any opening or crack.

Once inside, rodents can cause severe damage, as they are able to chew through wallboards, cardboard, wood and plaster.

Notably, rodents can chew through electrical wiring, increasing the potential risk of fire.

Facility managers must inspect for rodent droppings, especially in undisturbed areas such as cafeteria pantries, under baseboards and along walls.

Rodent droppings most often cause allergic reactions in human beings, but can also cause disease, including the potentially deadly hantavirus, which causes headaches, fever, nausea, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

• Ants

Ants are social insects.

Therefore, spotting one ant signifies that many more may be close behind.

Ants are not simply unsightly — they can also be dangerous contaminants to food.

This demands that facility managers be proactive in preventing and treating ants in a school or hospital.

Considering that so many meals are served during a given day, in both schools and hospitals, food contamination is an issue that must be addressed when discussing public health and safety.

Implementing IPM

Choosing the right pest professional to assist with the creation of an IPM program is important to the program''s success.

It is important that pest control decision makers have a solid understanding of IPM and the significant risks associated with pests and rodents.

Websites such as www.WhatIsIPM.org and www.PestWorld.org offer additional information about IPM techniques and address pest-related topics.

When it comes to choosing a pest management company, decision makers should ask other businesses, schools or hospitals for recommendations.

When meeting a prospective pest professional, ask if they practice IPM as described in this article.

It is important to find a pest professional who exhibits good judgment and trustworthiness.

Lastly, as developing an IPM program can be costly, solicit bids from several pest management firms.

If a company offers a guarantee, know what is covered, how long it lasts and what must be done to keep it.

As choosing a pest management company is a health and safety decision, the value of the service should outweigh all other factors.

One of the keys to a successful integrated pest management program is the joint commitment of school or hospital leaders and business owners or managers and pest professionals in providing a pest-free environment.

A properly implemented IPM program is essential to providing a safe, healthy environment in schools, hospitals, offices and any other environment where children and adults of all ages gather and reside.


Missy Henriksen is the vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association (NPMA). The NPMA, a non-profit organization with more than 7,000 members, was established in 1933 to support the pest management industry''s commitment to the protection of public health, food and property.