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HOLLAND, Mich. (WOOD) - Hope College has invested in a specialized room to take care of bed bug infestations.
The custom-built, 12-by-12-foot heating chamber was completed earlier in February, according to the college, and is specifically designed to kill bed bugs.
"When we are dealing with this particular insect, it becomes more personal. They spend a lot of their time near where people are at rest: A couch, a chair, a bed. That's not a place where we want to be using pesticides if we can help it," explained Jefry Budd of Shoreline Services, the company contracted to operate the heating chamber.
And it has another advantage over traditional pesticides: The heat treatment can kill bed bugs in nooks and crannies difficult for pesticides to reach.
"We want to make sure that we have the right temperature back in the cracks and crevices of whatever it is that they're trying to heat up. The only other way that we could do that is to get pesticides all over this furniture," said Budd.
The room is sealed and then heated to more than 118 degrees for at least an hour and a half, killing live bed bugs and eggs on everything inside.
"Very hot, obviously. We use a laser temp sensor," explained Budd.
Tucked away in the basement of a residence hall, the room can be directly accessed via an exterior door, so the chance of bed bugs infesting the hall is minimal.
Hope College Director of Residential Life John Jobson said the room was built after several isolated bed bug incidents, though he said the college doesn't currently have any infestations, and bed bugs have affected less than 1% of dorm room beds this year.
Previously, the College responded to bed bugs by bringing in cleaners.
"The protocol is that the students are relocated to a clean space, and then we go in and treat the room, and once it's clean, we confirm that it's clean by possibly using a bed bug detection dog," explained Jobson.
Casey Rutledge was among a group of students whose rooms were infested with bed bugs.
"It's just really hard to sleep at night. You would think that anything or like an itch on your body, 'Oh great, that's a bed bug,'" said Rutledge.
Rutledge said that during the infestation, 13 students had to move into a different residence hall while their regular rooms were cleaned.
"We were there a total of 10 or 11 days. The first time it was three or four. The next time it was like a week after the second time that it happened," said Rutledge.
And, he said, everything he owned had to be cleaned.
"We had to take out all of our clothes in our room and our closet, any cloth material, and put it in bags and they would run it to the dry cleaners. And then they had to take our laptops," said Rutledge. "Wasn't fun."
Jobson said the main advantage of the room is speed.
"If they are going to be a reality, what are the ways that we can respond to it that is least disruptive to the students," said Jobson. "They are really here to be students first, and whatever we can do to minimize the disruption of things like bed bugs, we're willing to go and do that."
That is something student Zach Zandbergen, whose room was once infested, is grateful for.
"Having to kind of switch around your schedule to accommodate the bed bugs. It was a pain," said Zandbergen. "It's just good to know that they're doing something back into the normal groove of things."
Hope College officials say that as far as they know, the heating chamber is unique among colleges.
Seven other West Michigan campuses agreed on two things when reacting to bed bugs reports: They would help students find alternative housing, whether that's a clean dorm room or a hotel room. Another similarity is the student does not incur a separate fee for campuses dealing with the issue.
How other area colleges react to confirmed bed bug reports:
Grand Valley State University
"If a student in a residence hall reports a bed bug issue, they continue to live in their unit to prevent the possible spread of bed bugs to other areas. Students are given a checklist of things to do before an exterminator comes, including removing all clothing and bedding to be washed in hot water before returning to the room, disposal of the mattress, moving furniture away from walls, etc. An exterminator comes in, does an inspection, and completes the treatment for the entire room or apartment. It is safe to return to the room within hours after the spraying. A follow-up appointment usually follows in around a week.
"The university does not fine or charge students for the treatment of bed bugs in on-campus housing."
- Nate Hoekstra, GVSU spokesperson
Western Michigan University
- We have a regularly contracted pest control company that is as part of its contract, obligated to inspect all living spaces prior to students moving in. That inspection includes the use of specially trained dogs that are used for such inspections twice each year when the rooms are unoccupied at room turnover time.
- As part of routine training, hall staff members are educated about
- the issue (what they are, what to look for, how bedbugs enter personal spaces and how to report them).
"The proactive routine inspections have been in place for several years. The contract with the vendor is considered part of the annual cost of our residence hall operations."
- Cheryl Roland, WMU spokesperson
Ferris State University
"When bedbugs are suspected in a room, the resident informs the hall staff that they think that they have bedbugs. The hall staff contacts the custodial supervisor in Physical Plant to determine if the bug is in fact a bedbug.
"If the bug is determined to be a bedbug, and not a batbug, Housing and Residence Life works with the resident to immediately launder all of their belongings, throw away their mattress, possibly call in the exterminator, and work to contain the bugs in the original location.
"The student is not charged for this process."
- Sandy Gholston, FSU spokesperson
Aquinas College refused to point to a specific bed bug campus plan. Spokesperson Mary Harmon explained the campus protocol along the guidelines of any other public health outbreak. She stated the area would be cleaned, and the college would follow recommendations of industry experts.
A Calvin College spokesperson explained they have a relationship with a local exterminator who the campus relies first on training its residence staff.
- Students must leave all clothing inside room. If they take clothes out they have to carry them out in a plastic bag and immediately wash them in hot water.
- Students are put in a quarantine apartment or hotel room.
- The room is closed off and a vendor comes in for a consultation to determine if there truly are bed bugs. CU acts on anything that remotely looks like a bed bug.
- If found, the room is closed off. A vendor comes in and uses a heater to heat the entire room up to 180 degrees to kill any bugs and eggs. This process will last for 24 hours straight.
- Then the room is cleaned spotlessly. Any fabric furniture from the room is thrown away as a precaution, the vacuum is thrown away, also. This is not necessary, but as an extra precaution CU does this.
- Cost is paid for by an emergency deferred maintenance account – we don't believe the students should have to pay for this.
- Students are then moved back into their room and the quarantine room goes through the same process.
Students are interviewed to determine where the bed bugs may have come from. If any, they have come from students returning from mission trips overseas.
The Davenport facilities director explained one of the perks on campus is that dorm rooms are single occupancy. He said that made it easier to contain a bed bug infestation. He said help from a pest control company is available 24/7, and that they use an organic pesticide to treat any infestations.
A college spokesperson said the campus first calls in bed bug-sniffing dogs, like the kind 24 Hour News 8 featured earlier this week. An exterminator on campus uses heat treatment, similar to what's used at Hope College.
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