The coronavirus pandemic has affected every industry, including self-storage. Though most facilities remained open during the nationwide shutdown, many units have sat undisturbed for weeks and months. That isn’t uncommon in this industry, but with people staying home far more frequently, storage properties have been quieter, with less foot traffic than usual. And the pests are loving it!
Peaceful conditions under which enclosed areas are untouched for long periods can encourage infestations. So, while you’re busy cleaning and sanitizing your self-storage site to prevent COVID-19, you must also be diligent to discourage critters from getting too comfy.
Understanding Their Motivation
Cities everywhere have seen significant changes in human and, therefore, pest activity, with rodents among the most affected. Due to changes in our behavior, their usual food sources like restaurant dumpsters and garbage cans have been empty, forcing them to search for alternatives in residences, schools, cars and—you guessed it—self-storage units.
Any perishable items left unattended are treasure for these desperate vermin, and they’ll stop at nothing to gain entry. They can even chew through electrical wires, plastic and lead pipes! Many of their common places of refuge have been cut off, making dark, secluded storage units full of boxes and packing materials an ideal nesting place.
What You Need to Do
Self-storage operators must take the proper steps to identify and prevent pest infestations in this time. The first move is to partner with a licensed pest-control company and implement an integrated plan specific to your facility. By using a three-part practice consisting of inspection, identification and treatment, pest professionals will assess your property and pinpoint any problem areas, helping to protect employees, customers and tenant belongings from disease and damage.
In addition to working with a professional, follow these guidelines:
- Clear any vegetation that’s growing too close to buildings, as this can attract pests.
- Eliminate any areas of standing water on your property, as these provide ample breeding grounds for mosquitoes. They only need half an inch of water to reproduce!
- Exterior lighting fixtures are a beacon for pests, who are extremely attracted to mercury-vapor bulbs. When possible, swap them for a less-attractive option like low-sodium bulbs.
- Repair any cracks or holes in your buildings. Mice can fit through openings as small as a dime; rats can squeeze through one the size of a quarter!
- Pests love dampness, so make sure all gutters are clear of debris to prevent moisture buildup. Downspouts and splash blocks should be properly installed to direct water away from the foundation. Repair any leaky pipes and ensure bathrooms are well-ventilated.
- Pay close attention to any strange sounds coming from unit interiors, as they may be attributed to a family of rodents living inside.
- When possible, inspect inside your self-storage units for signs of infestation such as live or dead rodents, nests, gnaw marks, and tracks or rub marks.
- Clean high-traffic areas daily such as the office and lobby, hallways, and the restroom. You should already be doing this anyway to fight the virus, so it shouldn’t create much, if any, extra work.
- Wipe down countertops and sweep floors to remove crumbs and residue from spills.
- In the breakroom, ensure all food is stored in airtight containers. Keep it clean!
- Trash should be discarded in a sealed receptable and removed regularly.
If you think COVID-19 is your only virulent enemy right now, you’re mistaken. Pests will take advantage of every opportunity to burrow in and make a nice home. Following the above steps and working with a trained pest-control professional can ensure the safety of your self-storage employees and customers, saving you all from additional health risks and property damage.
Cindy Mannes is vice president of public affairs for the National Pest Management Association, a nonprofit established in 1933 to support the pest-management industry's commitment to the protection of public health, food and property. For more information, visit www.pestworld.org.