Chennai

A grim reality of reopening schools, offices

Illustration: Sebastian Francis  

Recently, KR Balamurali and his team were inspecting a sprawling office premises, trying to identify where a foul stench was coming from. His team had cleaned every nook and cranny of the floor whose doors had stayed shut for months together.

“We launched a search and opened the AC ducts and other hideouts, expecting to find a dead rodent in a decomposed state but could not locate anything. We followed the smell and what that led us to was what we had least expected. The dead rodent was trapped inside a chair handle,” says Balamurali of HVL Pest Services.

With educational institutions and offices opening up, the service of pest control and cleaning and disinfection companies are in demand.

Families that moved out of the city last year to work from their hometown, are returning to their locked houses that have been taken over by unwelcome visitors. These freeloaders invariably damage cushion chairs. Fungi and molds would have taken over kitchen and bathroom.

Controlling rodent infestation is top of the agenda for most buildings.

A hotel management institute at CIT Nagar, opening after close to a year, was shocked to learn that rats had chewed the cables in its computer room, and its store room was a big mess.

To prevent further rat and mice infestation, the institute hired the services of a pest management company that visits its campus twice a month for an intensive clean-up.

Pest management companies say the problem was prevalent at residential areas last year when there was complete lockdown. With restaurants empty where these pests used to find food, rats were scurrying to residential areas, including homes and even cars.

Balamurali says most establishments do take up minimum cleaning of their premises but not many invest in preventive maintenance where work is intensive involving machinery.

S. Premkumar of Unique Pest Management says they have attended to a number of complaints where homes and institutions were infected with termites.

“An international school has engaged our service as their cupboards were badly attacked by termites,” says Premkumar.

He says unoccupied buildings, abandoned during the coronavirus shutdowns, give fungi a great place to grow.

At an educational institute in Adyar, we found hundreds of burrows dug by rodents, he says.

Another lockdown effect: automobile service stations complaining of rodents nibbling away wires of parked vehicles.

“If your car has not been started for a long time then such damages do happen. During the first lockdown, when many were home-bound, many parked cars were in the company of rats and mice causing massive damage to wires in the vehicles,” says Affunissa Chaudhary of Motorheads.

The most challenging part was that the rodents had chewed parts that we could not easily access, she says.

“We need to inspect every corner, especially the AC filter as rats would have gone in and there might be remains of it, so you cannot take a chance to inhale that air,” says Affunissa.

As preventive measures to eliminate conditions that may attract rodents, buildings are asked to remove debris and keep garbage in tightly covered bins. “Entry points should be closed with white cement or with a steel net. And, shrubs and trees must be a little away from the peripheral wall,” says Premkumar.


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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 7:40:29 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/a-grim-reality-of-reopening-schools-offices/article36674376.ece

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