Friday, February 12, 2010

Training: the secret weapon for pest control in public housing

Does your company work in public housing?  If so, you know the overwhelming challenge of being in charge of protecting hundreds of low-income families from cockroaches, rodents and bed bugs.  It's not an easy job, and generally not one of the better paying gigs either.  But it's hard to think of a better place to make a difference in people's quality of life.

Nancy Crider entertains while training staff at residents at Lyerly housing in Houston, TXThis week I traveled to Houston, TX to conduct a training with staff and residents at Lyerly, a public housing facility for the elderly.  I was privileged to be able to do the training with Nancy Crider of the UT Center for Public Health, Roselia Guerrero of the Houston Health Department and Steve Toth of the Southern Region IPM Center in North Carolina.  The folks we trained were great, and despite some initial skepticism most seemed to enjoy learning about pests and IPM.  One of the nicest things about the training was having PMP Jesse Longoria and some of his employees from Apple Pest Control, Lyerly's pest management provider, sit in on most of the day-long class.  It was an excellent way to get PMP, management and residents on the same page with their pest control program.  I'm hoping we did some good.

Pointing out a frequently overlooked cockroach hiding spotI am especially hopeful because I believe that education is one of the most important, if underused, tactics in the PMP's toolkit.  You should have seen the wide eyes when we peeled back the gasket on a refrigerator door in a clean, unoccupied apartment, to reveal the dozens of nymphal German cockroaches waiting patiently for the next tenant to move in.  For the maintenance staff and the residents it was a teachable moment.  They learned how important it is to clean and treat around all potential harborages, and what is meant by a crack and crevice. I'm pretty sure the residents we taught this week have a better understanding of the importance of pest control and their roles in the IPM process.

There's a wonderful new video training resource for any pest control company who works in multifamily housing (It should be especially helpful for public housing accounts, where resident education is often a mandatory part of their tenant agreement). It's available free, online at the website for the Northeastern IPM Center's website for IPM in public housing.  Written by Allison Taisey at Cornell University, the video is called The Tenant's Role in IPM.  It's about 15 minutes long and includes actors posing as housing manager and tenant. Together they learn about cockroaches and bed bugs, and the tenant's role in IPM.

The resident's information page also has several good fact sheets on pests common in public housing that you can download and give to residents or management at housing facilities and apartments.  The video makes a great discussion starter to kick-start a training session with any of your multifamily housing clients. 

The next time you head out to your public housing account, don't forget to wear your educator's hat.  It could make a big difference in your effectiveness as a PMP.

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