How to Get Building-Wide Cooperation Battling Roaches
If a building at your site is infested with cockroaches or other such pests, getting all residents to cooperate with your efforts to control the problem is essential to your building’s well-being. Cockroaches are among the most widespread and persistent of all pest problems. In fact, in a list of the most cited deficiencies in public housing, insect or roach infestations ranked 17 out of 25.
A roach infestation doesn’t always indicate untidiness or dirt. And due to where they hide and how they move, your residents can quickly become victims to their neighbors’ inaction. This is because roaches can travel between apartments, moving easily among floors and rooms through hollow walls, electrical and plumbing access holes, conduits, and garbage chutes. It takes only a handful of residents who are negligent in keeping their apartments clean to cause a building-wide infestation.
Because of this possibility, if you start getting complaints of roaches or other such pests, it’s important to act quickly and to communicate to your residents the steps that need to be taken. In addition to systematically enlisting every resident’s cooperation and insisting on servicing apartments at one appointed time, HUD and the Office of Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control recommend using integrated pest management (IPM) as a way to remove pests such as roaches. IPM is a method that focuses on knowing the pest in order to prevent pests from getting out of control. IPM is safer because it doesn’t use as many harmful pesticides as traditional pest control and because it places a greater importance on addressing the cause of the problem.
We’ll go over IPM methodology with respect to cockroaches and provide a Model Extermination Checklist and two Model Letters you can send to residents.
Prevention and Treatment
Cockroaches are strongly attracted to food and water. Although they can survive many days without food, they must have frequent access to water. Newly hatched cockroaches die in three days without water, and although adult cockroaches may live 20 to 30 days without it, during that time they are unable to reproduce. Because of the wide range of food available to cockroaches, they cannot be starved out of a building, but good sanitation and cleanliness may prevent cockroach populations from increasing.
Monitoring and establishing baselines. Book 7 of the Public and Indian Housing Maintenance Guidebooks covers cockroach control, and it recommends monitoring through the use of sticky traps to determine approximate insect numbers and to provide pre-treatment data for evaluation of the effectiveness of control measures. Numbering traps and analyzing their locations and captures, which should be indicated on room-diagram maps, helps identify cockroach living areas and needs for addition attention to sanitation measures, exclusion, or chemical treatment. HUD recommends additional follow-up monitoring with sticky traps placed strategically in rooms five to seven weeks after the first monitoring session to see if your cockroaches are still hatching.
Building maintenance and denying roaches access to buildings. You should pay attention to how roaches may enter a building. The PIH Maintenance Guidebook says good building maintenance is mandatory if cockroaches are to be denied access to dwellings. This requires eliminating holes and cracks used by cockroaches to gain entry into buildings through the following measures:
- Installation of tight-fitting windows, doors, screens, and door sweeps;
- Caulking of all exterior cracks and holes in foundations, walls, sills, floors, splashboards, and water, heating, and electrical-service chases;
- Repair of leaking plumbing fixtures and removal of other sources of moisture.
HUD’s maintenance guidebook also notes that you should inspect areas surrounding the building for conditions that attract or provide living areas for cockroaches. These can include stacks of firewood, dead tree stumps and branches, vines and other vegetation on or next to the building, piles of bricks, stones, wood, and leaf litter.
Once steps have been made to adequately seal and secure your building against cockroach entry, you can start familiarizing residents of upcoming professional pest control programs and the need for sanitation measures to keep cockroaches out of individual apartments. The following steps will help you prepare your residents for pest control.
Send explanatory letter. Residents can be apprehensive about the toxicity and odors caused by pesticides. To counter these concerns, have your commercial pest-control company draft a letter to the residents explaining the method of extermination being used. Your pest control company can adapt our Model Letter: Have Pest Control Company Communicate to Residents, for this purpose.
Slip the letter under residents’ doors or in their mailboxes three weeks before your professional exterminator starts applying pesticides. Post copies in the common areas. Make sure your residents know what they have to do to prepare for the exterminator and why these measures are essential.
Include pre-extermination checklist with letter. To get the most mileage out of the extermination program, and to maximize its effectiveness, send a checklist to your residents to help them organize and to remind them of the things they must do before the exterminator comes. You can adapt and use our Model Checklist: Give Residents a Pre-Extermination Checklist, for this purpose.
Send follow-up letter. Send a follow-up letter one week before extermination is scheduled to begin. Make sure residents understand that the pest-control treatment is effective only if all apartments are serviced. Encourage residents to call the management office if they have a problem with preparing. You can adapt and use our Model Letter: Send Follow-Up Letter to Residents, for this purpose.
Post reminder notice. The day before the pest-control program begins, post a notice in the elevator and the lobby reminding all residents of the program. You can post a sign that reads: “Notice to all residents: Tomorrow is the day on which pest control technicians will begin our clean-out treatment.”
Don’t give your residents the opportunity to forget about a service that’s a benefit—not only for you, but also for them.
Further reading: For more on IPM and how to make it part of a larger sustainability plan at your site, see Section 3 of the Insider’s new eBook, Sustainable Affordable Housing Management