FORT MYERS, Fla. – Days after Hurricane Ira made landfall in Southwest Florida, pest management professionals are supporting one another and their communities in the aftermath of this devastating weather event.
PCT reached out to several pest management professionals to find out how they fared during Ira and learn about recovery plans (and PCT will be updating this article as we receive more reports).
One company with a large presence in Southwest Florida is Truly Nolen. Justin Bellet, COO, Truly Nolen, said the company is no stranger to responding to (and regrouping after) a hurricane, but Ira has been a different beast.
Roughly 24 hours after Ira made landfall in Southwest Florida, Bellet said Truly Nolen was still trying to account for all of its employees, a process that has been slowed by cell phone and Internet outages. “Almost every employee has had some type of catastrophic damage, either to their personal life or their home. Right now, it’s pretty bad.”
In the days leading up to the hurricane, Truly Nolen put into place its three-fold hurricane preparedness plan, which included (1) establishing lines of employee communication; (2) checklists to prepare employees, offices and other assets; and (3) providing employees with vehicle check lists. Bellet also said he had generators installed in four different strategic locations throughout Florida.
As to the next steps, that is simple. “Support your people and support your customers,” said Bellet, who added that the first thing he will be doing once roads open is providing employees with cash loans. “Our business is going to take a big hit, but you have to support your people through this. And then you have to show your community that you are there to support them.”
Bellet added that in the wake of prior hurricanes Truly Nolen has paid its employees to check in on customers and assist however they can within reason, and the company plans to do so with Ira.
Arrow Exterminators also has a large presence in Southwest Florida. Tommy Giardino, senior vice president of operations, Arrow Exterminators, said the company had no immediate reported injuries among its 700 employees in Florida. “That’s our number one priority – the safety of our employees,” he said. “We are seeing extensive damages with roofs, garage doors, fences. In Orange Park, we just had a massive oak tree fall and just miss one of our employee’s house.” Twenty-four hours after the storm Giardino said 42 of the company’s 45 Florida offices were closed.
Giardino said most of the offices were in pretty good shape structurally. “We’ve lost a lot of signs. We just put up a very expensive sign in Port Charlotte and it’s completely gone. But we can work through those things. So for us, overall, it could be way worse. I’m sure more news will come in, but as of now, no significant injuries, which is always our biggest concern.”
Similar to Truly Nolen, Arrow Exterminators began preparing for the possibility of a hurricane one week prior. Giardino credited Arrow’s fleet and risk management team for providing checklists for both service centers and for employees (for their homes).
Giardino said when Arrow service professionals make their way back to the community they will be checking in with customers and this might include expanding services beyond what they typically do. “We’ll go help people clear out their driveways as part of the service. Anything reasonable without putting our employees in danger or risk (e.g., where powerlines are down).”
When the hurricane and aftermath do subside, “With the humidity, the moisture, the insects, there will be higher pest pressure,” Giardino added.
|Expected Pest Issues
Editor’s note: Although pest management professionals have other issues to deal with now, there is and will be a need for pest management services. Daniel Dye, retired training coordinator for Florida Pest Control, Fla., shared early observations and what he expects to see.
With the rain, I’m already experiencing three species of roaches on and in the house (in Gainesville, Fla): Florida Wood Cockroach (Eurycotis floridana), Surinam Cockroach (Pycnoscelus surinamensis) and Smokybrown Cockroach (Periplaneta fuliginosa). I’m sure before it’s all over I’ll see one or two scorpions as well. Spiders aren’t usually a big problem here anytime, except for wolf spiders being forced up onto structures from the ground due to heavy rain.
Mosquitoes will be a problem. Day biters are already everywhere outside! Another issue will be snakes in areas because of flooding. Floating masses of red imported fire ants will be seen in floodwaters. Other species of ants will be forced up into structures too. Gallinipper mosquitoes (Psorophora ciliata) will become a problem after water drains down into smaller pools in fields and such. All in all, we can expect some insects that would normally stay outside to invade homes during and after the storm.