In the coming days, weeks and months our schools will be re-opening. Quite how this is going to happen is still unknown, one thing this is for certain is that we will need to prioritise the mental wellbeing of both the pupils and the parents. But why and how should I or Combat Pest Control (CPC) care or have any form of wisdom in the area of psychological wellbeing we do after all deal with rats, mice and bedbugs.. but for us the two are closely linked.
Firstly our company visions indicates that we ‘support our injured service personnel’, this has taken many forms over the last four and a half years but has ultimately seen us lead the way in many aspects of mental fitness. Those that have been injured in service have been a huge inspiration to myself and the lessons identified have been huge.
Personally I often speak to businesses, charities and organisations about the impact supportive working environments can have on our mental health and how the development of good mental fitness is key in optimising our wellbeing.
I was recently invited to speak at the Kings College London veteran Mental Health conference, I have appeared in GQ magazine, I recorded the audio files for the MODs HeadFIT project and our Podcast ‘Declassified’ has just been shortlisted in the prestigious ‘2020 British Podcast Awards’ for ‘Best Interview’ and ‘Best Wellbeing’ podcasts.
We have also wrote and spoken about the link between poor mental health and severe pest infestations, which we often see when individuals are suffering from addiction, hoarding and post traumatic stress disorder caused specifically by childhood abuse. Our interest and study of the field expands further than we might expect from what is a ‘pest control’ business but for us its about being a veteran owned and operated company.
This interest in mental wellbeing led me to read a paper published in the lancet back in late February this year by my friend Professor Sir Simon Wessely. The paper titled - ‘The psychological impact of quarantine and how to reduce it: rapid review of the evidence’. Within this review Simon speaks about the effects of quarantine and how we can see in both adults and children post trauma stress symptoms which can manifest in the form of confusion and anger. It also speaks about how long-term exposure to imposed isolation can show stressors such as ‘The fear of infection’, ‘Frustration’ and ‘Boredom’.
But back in February we where still a month away from lockdown and by the end of March when this was in full flow, society (and us as a company) had turned our eyes on protecting the NHS. It was at this time when CPC was approached by a large NHS trust to provide support and develop an ‘on mass’ sanitising programme for two of their largest hospital, one of which had several active COVID19 wards.
We as a company are accustomed to disinfecting large areas with our pest control work but this presented challenges way greater than before, we had to protect the NHS. And that is what we did, we immediately redirected all of our manpower and assets and started work on one of the countries bigger disinfecting programmes.
Firstly a roster was established, 24/7 support was provided and our systems tweaked to best fit the need. All of our team are military veterans or current serving reservists and I know we all felt the same, time to serve again. Since then we have tried and tested equipment and product, application, speed and various other factors that have had an influence on the overall aim which is to provide the safest possible environment.
We quickly developed what we call the DECON methodology and covers 5 distinct areas of focus:
• Dispersal - how and what equipment (and product) we use for a specific site, location, unit, room or area
• Events - considering what event has happened before disinfecting, what is happening whilst we are disinfecting and what event(s) will happen afterwards is key to the plan of attack.
• Categorise - high, medium and low risk and how we prioritise what and how we treat. We do this with an area-by-area, room-by-room approach.
• Objectives- understanding what needs to be achieved in helping us reaching the best possible result
• Notify - reporting our findings to our clients and informing others on best practice will allow us to help get control the COVID19 virus beyond our own task.
This initial work twinned with our purchasing and scaling is now proving us with the ability to work closely with Schools in and around the London area in the best possible way. Now using this methodology we are now implementing some of the most thorough systems of creating a safe and secure environment, not only for the pupils but also for the staff. By creating content like this and openly speaking with those involved we are seeing a reduced rate in anxiety with parents, one of the key components in Professor Simons review was how essential it is to provide adequate and relevant information.
In our book ‘War and Pest’, we detail the way we work interdependently, create small team like environments with our clients. We are doing this with Operations and estate directors by creating: systems of work providing education and adequate information. Ensuring accountability and commitment to getting the job done delving into risk management, both physically and psychologically implementing appropriate control measure helping support our clients.
To focus entirely on the physical aspects of a task like this would be foolish and we need to look at it as an eco system, balancing the vulnerability of a child, parent, family member, teacher and team member in terms of physical or psychological health. Because that’s what we want, speaking as a parent we want our children to feel safe, return to normal life, socialise in their support networks and develop within our schools.