Communicating bed bug protocols to tenants. What works?
I recently picked up some bed bug supplies and received a package of free Government of Manitoba bed bug prevention hand outs. They were very colourful with cartoon bed bugs on mattresses and contained very little useful information. I was appalled at the lack of content and threw them away.
For my own apartment block I use many different methods. I use written material, I answer oral questions, and most recently I started putting bed bug protocols directly into the leases. These new tenants have also been thoroughly educated in bed bugs orally before they moved in. So what worked?
My new tenants tend to have better follow through with bed bug protocols. They call me when they have a purchased a used piece of furniture and i quickly heat it for them before they take it into the building. So far my newest tenants have not had bed bugs so I can not ascertain how well they will react when they do get bed bugs.
Some of my older tenants have reacted quite favourably to the written educational material I provided. In a couple of circumstances when they did spot bed bugs they immediately contacted me and asked for advice and then followed through on their responsibilities. Absolutely perfect. On the other hand I had a long time tenant recently contact me about bed bugs but only after he panicked and sprayed his mattress with DEET. I was furious. I don’t have any experience with how the bugs will behave with DEET but I am very apprehensive about the spread to neighbouring suites. I will be monitoring all these suites for the next few weeks which will be a good experiment. I asked this tenant why he did not heed the numerous bed bug educational papers under his door? The tenant stated that he did not read them…….sigh! I then spent considerable time educating this tenant orally about bed bugs and his cooperation was perfect thereafter.
In some ways I should not be surprised as I have found other instances (not bed bug related) where tenants did not read the material I provided. Why should bed bug material be different? As I thought about this dilemma I considered those colourful cartoon bed bug pamphlets the MB government produced. Could it be that these might be at least marginally helpful? If tenants do not read thoughtful material at least they could get a quick glance at obvious information and that would be superior to an unread thoughtful pamphlet.
In the end I suppose there is no silver bullet of bed bug communication. There are many different communication methods and each method has a role to play – even the pathetic cartoon pamphlets. Next time I will hand these out as well.
And sometimes I suppose even the best education will be ineffective. As the prison warden in the movie “Cool Hand Luke” stated “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach….Well he gets it (bed bugs).”