Protect People, Not Pests

— By Dr. Nancy Troyano —

Storm recovery tips to keep people safe and prevent pest infestations.


As a result of several consecutive storm seasons tracking above-average activity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has redefined the qualifications for an “average” hurricane season, increasing the overall storm count. The current 2021 storm season is no exception as it’s tracking to be another busy season.

Dr. Nancy Troyano, Rentokil

The high winds, heavy rain and flooding that often result from hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe storms can cause extreme structural damage, create safety hazards and leave behind an environment conducive to pest infestations.

Retail stores and restaurants can be prepared for cleanup and recovery efforts and prevent potential pest control issues with the following tips:

Mosquito Defense

Mosquitoes thrive in warm, damp environments making them highly active in the weeks following a severe storm or hurricane. Not only are mosquitoes annoying, but they also can spread harmful diseases such as West Nile virus and Zika virus. To protect oneself from mosquitos during storm cleanup efforts, always remember to defend, dress, drain.


Always wear insect repellent during cleanup efforts. Use an EPA approved insect repellent according to label directions. To be most effective, repellents should contain at least DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus. If possible, avoid peak mosquito hours as they are most active in the hours from dusk to dawn, and take extra precautions if outside at this time.

Install or repair screens as a second defense mechanism. Screens can keep mosquitoes and other pests from invading facilities. Be sure that the mesh is small enough to keep insects out. Repair holes that may have been caused by flying debris or replace damaged screens altogether.


Wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when near water or heavily wooded areas especially during peak mosquito activity hours from dusk to dawn. Spray insect repellent on bare skin as well as on clothing to ensure proper protection.


Drain any standing water and clean out gutters and drains to ensure they are free  flowing. Repair any roof damage that could lead to interior water damage or leaks. Remove items that collect water such as old equipment, decorative items such as fountains and birdbaths, tarps, flower pots or trash. Mosquitoes can breed in as little as a tablespoon of water so draining all forms of standing water is imperative to mosquito control.

General Pest Tips

Many pests including snakes, fire ant colonies and rodents can be present in flood waters. Fire ants can actually float across flood waters by linking their bodies together in a raft formation to relocate and find new land. If fire ants or other pests are spotted in flood waters, do not enter the water or attempt to treat it with pesticides as this can further contaminate the flood waters.

Fallen trees, displaced shrubs and other debris piles in close proximity to buildings also offer the perfect harborage for pests fleeing from weather. The closer these items are to the building the more likely pests are to use them as a roadway to access the interior building. After a storm, remove scattered debris as far away from the building as possible. A minimum distance of 25 feet is recommended to keep pests from entering the building.

Rodents, wildlife and insects can also enter a facility through vents, pipes, HVAC and other utility openings. Ensure all vent covers are in place and that there is no danger or cracks around utility lines that would allow pests in. Removing debris and repairing any structural damage as soon as possible can help prevent pest infestations during storm recovery. Holes, gaps and weakened structures can provide additional opportunities for pests to enter a building. Rodents can fit through holes as small as ¼ a inch so it’s extremely important to conduct a thorough inspection of the building.

Being proactive and creating a crisis communication plan prior to experiencing any type of natural disaster is an essential part of protecting employees, customers and the overall structure of the business. In addition to mosquito defense and the general pest tips, facility managers can use this checklist to begin shaping an action plan to better protect the facility against weather-influenced pest infestations.

Extreme weather and pest risk assessment checklist

Structural and grounds action points

  • Door sweeps in place on exterior doors
  • Windows are screened
  • Window and door frames are intact
  • Holes, gaps, or cracks on the exterior are repaired or sealed with material that prevents pest entry
  • Rooftop and any gutters/downspouts are free of debris
  • Gaps around HVAC or other equipment line entry points are sealed
  • Signs are in place to encourage employees to keep doors closed
  • Trees and shrubs are trimmed at least 18 inches from buildings
  • Standing water is removed or containers and areas that allow the development of standing water are covered or repaired
  • Old equipment or debris is removed or stored at least 25 feet from buildings

Operational and planning action points

  • A contracted pest management provider is in place or a pest management expert is on staff
  • There is a contact appointed to monitor weather event preparedness
  • A phone tree or contact plan is in place for weather emergencies
  • A post-weather event assessment and action plan has been documented and all parties informed of their roles




— Dr. Nancy Troyano is a Board Certified Entomologist and director of operations, education and training, with Rentokil North America. For more information on general pest control tips as well as emergency preparedness tips, visit





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