It’s like the latest version of any personal electronic device. Everyone wants to have it but not everyone is 100 percent sure exactly how to use it to its fullest capability. That is essentially where many pest management professionals find themselves when it comes to remote monitoring technology.
The development of remote monitoring devices for rodents has been underway for several years and PMPs have been busy field testing and measuring its effectiveness under a variety of conditions.
The devices come in different designs and function differently. There are systems that provide an alert when a rodent is caught in a snap or multi-catch trap or when physical components are moved when the snap trap triggers. Other versions are triggered when a rodent or pest physically touches it or when a change in momentum occurs or an infrared beam of light is broken.
Various systems communicate the capture or activity data they gather to pest management professionals and clients via a Wi-Fi connection directly to a handheld device, or laptop or desktop computer. E-mail, text messages or push notifications are also among the features offered. Or, some systems require technicians to be on-site to download the data.
Regardless of the devices’ design or operating features the bottom line is that they share a common goal: to provide pest management professionals and their clients with information that will help them better design and deploy rodent management programs.
Clients and pest management professionals need to set realistic expectations when it comes to remote monitoring. PMPs also need to remember the fundamentals of their existing program.
“Remote monitoring on its own is not the silver bullet of rodent management,” says Shane McCoy, director of quality and technical training for Wil-Kil Pest Control in Menomonee Falls, Wis. “It is an early detection tool that can serve as a 24/7 watchdog in a facility serving as another set of eyes and ears.”
McCoy says technicians need to continue to be vigilant in their inspection and assessment practices, and regularly use pest trend data from remote monitors and other sources in their decision-making process.
With more frequent inspections and audits, zero tolerance, regular “swabathons” looking for harmful pathogens, and the threat of product recalls, QA and facility managers are looking to new technology for more options. They are also looking to demonstrate to third-party auditors and inspectors that remote monitoring technology is a tool that supports their facility’s food safety efforts.
“Auditors want proof of success when it comes to rodent management programs and to know the reasoning behind using remote monitoring,” says McCoy. “The data gleaned from remote monitoring can help us accomplish that.”
When it comes to audits, Dr. Mark Beavers, managing director – technical services, safety and health for Rollins, says some auditors may be uncomfortable with the technology but there is nothing in the major audit standards that says remote monitoring can’t be deployed.
“It comes down to the individual auditor and there is a learning curve taking place,” says Beavers.
How far are we from the tipping point where there is universal acceptance of remote monitoring?
“We are moving toward that point but aren’t quite there yet,” says Beavers. “A key thing to remember about remote monitoring is that the Food Safety Modernization Act is all about prevention and remote monitoring compliments a preventive IPM program.”
Making a Decision on Remote Monitoring
Before you include remote monitoring in a client’s rodent management proposal, pest management professionals should sit down with the client and ask the following questions:
• How are the facility’s current rodent management programs and audits performing?
• Where is the facility located and does the location influence the level of rodent pressure?
• How well are the facility’s sanitation, cleaning and cultural practices being performed?
• What does the historical rodent catch data say about the rodent pressure in the facility?
• What the types of food products are produced or stored at the facility? Sometimes types of foods and ingredients – grains for example – are more attractive to rodents.
• Is the facility’s structural condition and maintenance practices geared toward rodent exclusion?