One wet brown mice Emerging among the black garbage bags on the damp wet area with dark eyes

Contributed by Orkin, LLC

Natural disasters are devastating on many levels. With the recent hurricanes and wildfires across the U.S., all eyes turned to disaster preparedness. But, one aspect that should not be overlooked is the threat that lurks once a natural disaster passes: pests.

Facilitated by numerous conducive conditions left behind by natural disasters, pests are quick to encroach on damaged establishments. While this is time of recovery, be aware that conditions are potentially hazardous and follow these few tips.

 • Do not enter standing water. You never know what is below the surface, such as sharp objects, that could cause an injury.

 • Before looking for pests, know your surroundings, watch for debris and evaluate for structural integrity before entering any structure.

 • Avoid areas that you feel have unsafe conditions. If you feel unsafe, leave the area or structure.

 • If you must walk around debris or move it, first prod the area with a long object. Do not use your feet or hands.

 • Trash and debris from repairs will pile up and await removal in various areas, providing an ideal habitat for pests, so keep debris piles as far away as possible from the structure.

After a storm, pests seek out safer, drier areas, just as people do. Any place considered “higher ground” could be a haven for pests. This includes spaces in and around the property. Here are a few pests to watch out for, and tips on how to avoid them:

 • Ants – Ants can transport their entire colonies when displaced. Carpenter ants are known to inhabit wet or rotting wood and fire ants can form floating colonies by grouping together in a raft-like ball for survival in flooding conditions.

 • Cockroaches – Roaches are attracted to the trash and debris left behind after a disaster, especially if there are rotten food sources. They are also expert hiders and can often be found in warm, dark areas.

 • Mosquitoes – Able to thrive in standing water, mosquitoes only need a few inches of it to breed. In addition to irritating the people they bite, mosquitoes can spread harmful diseases like Zika and West Nile viruses.

 • Rodents – Always in search for higher ground, rodents can enter the property and cause major damage. These pests can exacerbate damage to a building and are even known to start fires by chewing on electrical wires.

Post-Disaster Concerns
Disasters can significantly change the habitats for all living things, which in turn, can increase pest issues, particularly with rodents and flies. As flood waters recede and debris piles up, sanitation and exclusion issues will make pest problems especially challenging. Additionally, treatment products including traps and bait stations may have been displaced or damaged, further adding to the challenge.

However, by keeping in mind the basic IPM techniques of assessing, implementing and monitoring, many situations can be kept in check. Many conditions will be constantly changing, so be sure to be aware and check all your surroundings. Be flexible and remember that changing conditions may require thinking “outside the box” to adapt to shifting pressures.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when addressing post-disaster conditions:
 • Wear the appropriate PPE for the situation including heavy duty work gloves for protection.
 • Always check with appropriate authorities regarding the safety of an area.
 • Where and when possible, address sanitation issues. Remember to store food in airtight containers and trash in sealed bins.
 • Pay attention when working around debris or damaged structures. Do not attempt to move heavy objects.
 • Any gutters on the property will have likely been flooded with debris and should be inspected, cleaned and repaired.

Tim Husen is Technical Services Manager for Orkin. A board-certified entomologist specializing in urban entomology, he has more than a decade of experience in the industry.