Ministries Can Be Held Responsible for Injuries and Expenses Related to Pest Infestation
Bedbugs, bats, lice, and other pests are unwelcome visitors at any ministry. If a guest comes into contact with a pest at your facility and their interaction with the pest results in injury, disease, or financial damage, your ministry could potentially be liable for the injury or expense that’s incurred.
To keep guests safe, to minimize the chance of spreading the infestation, and to reduce the ministry’s potential liability, your facility manager, custodial staff, child care workers, and others should familiarize themselves with signs of a pest infestation.This is particularly true if you operate a camp, shelter, child care ministry, or a residential ministry facility. Also, be on the lookout for signs of bedbugs and disease-carrying pests, such as bats, rodents, and raccoons. Your child care workers should also be able to identify the signs of a child who has head lice.Training your workers to spot pest-related infestations is the first step.
What to look for:
Here’s some information and links to resources that you can share with ministry workers to help them know what to look for:
Signs of a bedbug infestation, include:
- Spotting (pencil-point size dark spots) found on mattresses, mattress pads, bed linens, or bed skirts.
- The presence of live or dead bugs (or bug exoskeletons) located in beds, bedding, or in sleeping areas.
- Bedbug bites (typically a line of 3 or 4 raised/itchy bumps on the lower arm or leg) on individuals who are staying on the premises.
- A sweet, musty odor in sleeping areas.
Signs that an individual has head lice include:
- Itching or scratching of the head, neck, or scalp.
- Red sores on the person’s head, neck, or scalp.
- The presence of live lice or lice eggs (nits) on the person’s head.
Bats, rodents and other pests:
Indications that bats, rodents, or other similar pests have taken up residence within your facility include:
- The presence of animal droppings.
- Damage to interior or exterior walls, floors, soffits, or other areas.
- Noise coming from walls, attics, or floors.
- Sighting pests on, in, or near residential structures.
What to do:
When an infestation occurs, ministry leaders and staff should know how to respond. Consider taking the following steps:
If a bedbug infestation is suspected, prevent the transfer of bedding or personal belongings from any potentially infested area to other areas of your facility. You’ll also want to immediately contact an experienced pest extermination firm to confirm whether bedbugs are present, to assess the extent of the infestation and to effectively treat the affected areas. To the extent possible, prevent guests from moving belongings out of the affected area until the scope of the infestation is confirmed. Send decontamination information home with all guests who may have had their belongings infested. You may want to contact prior guests who may have been affected, as well, to inform them of the infestation so that they can consider taking remedial action.
If a child in your care is found to be infected with lice, it’s best to isolate the child from other children and to contact the child’s parents about the lice. Depending on the situation (church nursery versus summer camp), the head lice should be treated either at home by his or her parents, or by a camp nurse, or other child care worker. A variety of effective head lice treatment products are available for purchase at pharmacies. Contact with other children should be limited until the lice and attached eggs have been effectively treated and removed.
Bats, rodents and other pests:
Take steps to limit the exposure of guests to the animal. Keep individuals away from the affected area until the pests have been removed. Warn guests to never approach or make contact with wild animal or pests. If children have been in the area of a pest that could be a rabies carrier, ask each child whether they’ve touched or come into contact with the pest.
Depending on the type of pest discovered, it may be possible for custodial staff to remove them. If the infestation is especially severe, involves a larger animal, or the possibility of rabies is present, it may be necessary to suspend operations and bring in an exterminator. Ask a trustworthy pest control specialist or medical professional for guidance.
Contacting affected guests
If a pest infestation is discovered at your facility, and if the pest is one that can either transmit disease (such as bats) or can inadvertently be taken back with the guest (such as bedbugs or lice), it’s best to contact the family of guests who may have been effected by the infestation.
Contact individuals (or parents/guardians) that have been in a pest-infested area. If the infestation involved potentially disease-carrying pests, have parents confirm that their child did not come into contact with the pest. Prompt notification allows those who have been exposed to seek medical attention immediately if needed, and may help them and others to ward off serious medical issues.
If bedbugs are discovered on your property, contact the families of those who have recently been at your facility as well as the families of current guests. If head lice is discovered, let the families of other children who may have been exposed know about the situation so that they can check their children for signs of lice. Again, it’s a good idea to provide decontamination information to all guests who may have been affected.
Keeping Pests Away
While it may be difficult to keep pests out of ministry facilities, routine upkeep and careful planning can help minimize the likelihood of infestations and limit their severity.
Regularly inspect all areas of your property, including bedding and sleeping areas for telltale signs of parasites, and attics, crawl spaces, and storage areas for signs of animal infestation. Ministries should train employees and volunteers to recognize signs of pest-related infestation and report them immediately to ministry leaders.
Liability and Insurance
Pest infestations can result in lawsuits. While working to prevent an infestation from occurring is the best policy, insurance can provide an extra layer of protection. Brotherhood Mutual offers a series of coverages, including Infestation Liability Coverage, designed to protect ministries against infestation liability claims.
The following websites are helpful starting points for educating ministry employees, volunteers, and other staff members on how to protect your ministry and those it serves:
- How to Find Bed Bugs
- Recognizing Rodent Infestations
- Home to Work Protocol (How to Avoid Spreading Bed Bugs)
- Treating Head Lice
- Attic Pest Removal: How to Get Rid of Overhead Guests
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Bed Bugs: Get Them Out and Keep Them Out
- Center for Disease Control - Bed Bugs
- Center for Disease Control - Lice
- Center for Disease Control - Alphabetical Index of Parasitic Diseases