If you have turned on the news, read the newspaper or if you are truly brave, checked your 401(k), you are fully aware of the economic challenges facing the U.S. and Canada.
Foreclosures continue to increase.
Unemployment continues to rise.
Consumer confidence is at an all-time low.
Suffice to say, our economic issues are real and have led to dramatic cuts in many budgets.
When budgets are decreased due to the economy, facility management often bears the brunt of many cost-cutting measures.
And these cuts go far beyond beautification programs and landscaping.
Facility managers are asked to do far more with far less, making their job much more difficult and demanding.
This is especially true when considering pest prevention and management.
Why pest prevention must be sustained
There is no facility management issue that is so immensely vital yet so often overlooked by those making yearly budgeting decisions as pest prevention and management.
When searching for areas in which to "save," pest control emerges as a likely candidate for budgetary reductions, and even elimination, for commercial properties.
Questions and comments such as the following will be made at budget meetings across the nation in 2009:
At first, these all may seem like reasonable arguments, especially when considering your yearly budget.
For so many, pests and rodents are viewed as simply a "nuisance" — something to be dealt with seasonally.
However, as facility managers, when reflecting upon your own experience and your past work with professional pest management services, you know that pests and rodents can pose serious health threats and risks for property damage.
Consider these statistics:
According to the National Pest Management Association (NPMA), stinging insects send over 500,000 people to the emergency room every year.
Rodents bring other pests, such as fleas, mites and ticks indoors, which can quickly spread throughout commercial properties. Moreover, rodents can contaminate food sources with their feces, which can spread Salmonella and hantavirus.
According to the NPMA, termites cause $5 billion in property damage every year.
Recent medical studies have shown that cockroaches carry over 33 kinds of bacteria and their allergens can trigger asthma attacks.
These statistics provide a strong rebuttal to any argument to reduce and/or cut pest management services.
Although the current economic conditions may lull decision makers into viewing pest management services as "expendable" for cost-saving measures, it is important for facility managers to not only be well-versed in the threats posed by pests and rodents but also to be able to articulate how important pest prevention and control is to the overall maintenance of properties.
Pest prevention and management should not be viewed as unrelated to the overall safety and cleanliness of a property, but rather as a key entity to achieving such.
Just as sanitation services cannot be scaled back due to economic pressure, nor should pest management services.
Investing in a partnership with a pest professional is key
Inherent in providing proper pest management for commercial properties is the understanding that cooperation between facility managers and pest professionals can be critically important.
For facility managers, it can be quite beneficial to work with a pest professional as it is their expertise and can allow for more efficient inspections, more skilled pest identifications and ultimately more effective treatments of pest problems.
This collaboration — between facility managers offering their extensive knowledge of the property and pest professionals offering their extensive knowledge of prevention and treatment — is a strong relationship in which to consistently invest, especially when protecting health and property are key considerations.
The majority of commercial properties have a long-standing relationship with a pest management firm.
However, if you do not, selecting a pest professional is an important decision, and one that cannot be made on price alone — even when the economy faces such challenges.
The recommendations provided below can help facility managers to make a decision that best serves their commercial property.
To better understand the risks associated with pests and the need for pest management, two web resources, sponsored by the National Pest Management Association, can elaborate upon this article.
PestWorld.org is a comprehensive site, addressing all pest-related areas. It provides pest fact sheets, public service announcements and a zip code locator to find local pest professionals.
WhatisIPM.org offers information on ways to protect both health and property from pests through integrated pest management techniques, a newer but extremely effective method of pest control.
It is always helpful to contact other facility managers and/or commercial property managers for recommendations of pest management firms they have previously used.
"Word of mouth" references are likely honest evaluations and ones consumers can believe.
Regardless of the situation, do not rush a decision.
You are paying for professional knowledge — hire a firm whose judgment can be trusted.
Buy value, not price
If a sizable amount of money is involved in partnering with a pest management firm, feel free to solicit bids from several additional firms.
If a guarantee is given, always know what it covers, how long it lasts and what must be done to keep it in force.
Keep in mind that choosing a pest professional is a health and safety decision — the value of the service should outweigh all other factors.
A final note
It is imperative to derive a simple message from the above analysis: The economy cannot dictate decisions regarding public health and property.
Yes, our current economy is uncertain.
Yet, when seeking areas in which to demonstrate frugality, pest prevention and management simply cannot be one.
The health threats and property damage associated with the presence of pests makes such a decision straightforward, especially when considering that facility managers have the ultimate responsibility of protecting those places where we live much of our lives away from the comforts of home.
In the same way that homeowners must protect their private property from pest infestations, facility managers must protect public spaces from the same.
Further, it should be noted that any cost-saving efforts related to pest management certainly increase the possibility of severe infestations within commercial properties.
Although preventative maintenance and regular interaction with a pest professional may seem like an area in which to scale back, it is critical to view such a decision in light of "What if…?"
Frequently, corporate entities fail to realize the cost commonly associated with treating major pest infestations and only come to learn of such when in the midst of a significant pest problem.
The price of treating such an infestation will typically exceed the cost of maintaining an ongoing relationship with a pest management firm and remaining actively engaged in pest prevention.
Ultimately, making the investment — even during an economic downturn — in maintaining a professional pest management program is often far more cost-efficient in the long-term than not.
Further, making a public commitment to pest prevention — even when facing economic constraints — can demonstrate to those you serve in your commercial properties that their health and safety is of the utmost importance to you as a facility manager.
And in any economy, such peace of mind is often priceless.
With three decades of industry experience, Greg Baumann, who is currently senior scientist and vice president of technical affairs for the National Pest Management Association, previously owned Pro-Tech Pest Management and worked for Hershey Foods Corporation. Mr. Baumann is a veteran industry spokesperson and has provided expert commentary for CNBC, ABC News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today, addressing residential and commercial pest management.