How VDCI Helps Build an Emergency Response Plan

Hurricane wreckage

Mosquitoes are a continual threat we face each year, and in some areas, they pose a danger all year round. The risk of exposure to mosquitoes can increase exponentially following hurricanes, violent rainstorms, and other natural disasters that leave moisture and standing water—ideal mosquito habitat—in their wake. Emergency response must be swift in order to interrupt breeding activities before mosquito populations surge, but preparing an emergency response plan at the last hour can be detrimental to a community by wasting time, funds, and resources. Developing a response plan for your state or municipality ahead of emergencies will help ensure all the bases are covered when emergencies ensue.

A female mosquito can lay up to 200 eggs in a source of standing water, sometimes as small as a puddle or bottle cap. Following a storm, entire communities can serve as a breeding ground for multiple mosquito species, which can peak over the course of several days and weeks. Vector-disease control companies with a focus on protecting public health are equipped with the tools and knowledge to help communities evaluate the risks they may face following a natural disaster and can customize a preparation plan to mitigate explosions of pest mosquito populations as well as the spread of deadly diseases like Zika, Dengue, West Nile Virus, and Yellow Fever during these times of crisis. OCIAL

When building effective emergency response plans, VDCI’s ground crews and pilots start by mapping the physical characteristics of the region to identify areas of vulnerability and potential inaccessibility, as well as zones that should be excluded from mosquito treatments due to the presence of endangered species. This information is collected in accordance with requirements set forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

VDCI then conducts monitoring and surveillance in target zones to assess local mosquito populations, species dynamics, and disease presence. During this process, experts utilize different types of specialized traps, laboratory tests, and GIS/GPS technologies like state-of-the-art drones to uncover potential trends or patterns in mosquito activity. This comprehensive data is used to establish a baseline that informs every management choice when an emergency occurs, from the types of products used to the frequency of applications. Licensed companies also collaborate with state and federal agencies, local health departments, and media groups to educate community members about mosquito prevention and personal protection strategies.  

When potential weather emergencies are expected, our experts closely monitor the progression of the storm or hurricane and ensure our aerial and ground fleets are poised to deploy at any time. This preparation includes conducting final inspections of aircraft and  servicing loading trucks, communicating with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), bringing in pesticides and advanced equipment, and setting up a home base from which scientists, pilots, and ground crews can safely operate.  

Once authorized by local authorities, VDCI can take immediate action to apply Ultra Low Volume pesticides that have been EPA-registered for public health use. The primary delivery method is by aircraft; a single plane can treat an average of 30,000 acres in a single evening without obstruction by damaged roads, flooding, downed trees, or other wreckage. However, ground crews can be used to tackle areas where aerial applications may not be suitable. Ground crews are capable of covering roughly 3,000 acres in a single evening with Ultra Low Volume pesticides, which have been tested and do not pose a significant risk to humans or non-target insects per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Once a mission is complete, project responsibilities are not over. VDCI continues trapping and laboratory analysis efforts to measure the success of applications and determine if the mosquito populations have been adequately minimized. This information is then reported to authorities and stakeholders to ensure their goals have been achieved—with the ultimate goal of protecting the public and relief workers as they work to restore power, clear roads, manage flooding, rebuild infrastructure, and aid displaced homeowners. 

Trends indicate that natural disasters are becoming more frequent and intense. The most responsible and effective way for states and local governments to protect their communities is through proactive planning with an experienced vector-disease control company. With a detailed plan in place, communities can focus exclusively on critical restoration efforts that must take place after deadly storms, rather than the often overlooked threat of deadly diseases.

Download the VDCI Emergency Response Informative Guide

Torrential rainstorms, hurricanes, flooding, and other weather events are often followed by a rise in local mosquito populations that can persist for weeks or months, often interfering with recovery efforts.  Learn the importance of post-disaster mosquito management and how to create an emergency response plan to aid recovery efforts in your community so that you can help protect your community after a natural disaster. Prepare now, be protected later.

Download The VDCI Emergency Response Guide

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Our Experience/Qualifications

For more than 20 years, Vector Disease Control International (VDCI) has aided mosquito control and recovery efforts following natural disasters. Starting with Hurricane Bonnie in 1998, VDCI’s emergency response team has supported communities and abatement districts in protecting relief workers and displaced members of the public. 

Our team can help your community create an emergency response contingency plan for mosquito control efforts after a hurricane, major flood event, or increased disease activity. 

Does your community have an emergency response contingency plan in place for mosquito control? If not, contact us today or call 800.413.4445  to learn more about how we can help you prepare for the unexpected.

Contact Us Today to Learn How You Can Build an Emergency Response Plan for Your Community

VDCI_Logo_squareSince 1992, Vector Disease Control International (VDCI) has taken pride in providing municipalities, mosquito abatement districts, industrial sites, planned communities, homeowners associations, and golf courses with the tools they need to run effective mosquito control programs. We are determined to protect the public health of the communities in which we operate. Our mosquito control professionals have over 100 years of combined experience in the field of public health, specifically vector disease control. We strive to provide the most effective and scientifically sound mosquito surveillance and control programs possible based on an Integrated Mosquito Management approach recommended by the American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). VDCI is the only company in the country that can manage all aspects of an integrated mosquito management program, from surveillance to disease testing to aerial application in emergency situations.

Anatomy of an Aerial Mosquito Application

Anatomy of an Aerial Mosquito Application

Written by: Malcom Williams

VDCI_Aerial_Mosquito_Management_Application_SunsetVector Disease Control International (VDCI) is proud to own the largest fleet of aircraft in the world dedicated specifically to mosquito management. Aerial applications can be an important component of an integrated mosquito management (IMM) program. Current events, such as the threat of Zika virus (2016), multiple positive West Nile mosquito traps reported, and natural disasters where severe flooding occurs, have created awareness about mosquito habitats that can sometimes be difficult or too large to treat on the ground. 

Therefore, having the ability to utilize aircraft can be an effective complement to ground-based activities. Aerial applications may be the only way to break the mosquito breeding cycle in emergency response situations or when mosquito populations are abnormally high.

6 Steps Required To Conduct Aerial Mosquito Control

Conducting these missions for municipalitiesmosquito abatement districts, military bases, and several other communities where residential properties must be considered, is a highly scientific and advanced process. We will discuss some of the steps required to conduct an aerial application for the control of mosquitoes.

1. Determine the Target Species

Like other aspects of an IMM program, aerial application must be justified by surveillance of mosquito populations. Surveillance allows us to understand not only the number of mosquitoes present but also the distribution of species in a given area. Culex mosquitoes fly at certain times of night (depending on the geography, temperature, and daylight) and are susceptible to certain types of products. An Anopheles mosquito can behave quite differently and might require a different product or application rate. Therefore, knowing the target species allows the manager and applicator to understand which product should be used, at what rate it should be applied, and during what time the application should be made.

2. Low-Level Waiver, Congested Area Plan, and Regulatory Thresholds

Micronairs_Aerial_Mosquito_Management_Spray_Equipment.jpgBefore an aerial mosquito management mission can begin, the applicator must receive a low-level waiver from the FAA and a Congested Area Plan must be approved for the actual location of the impending aerial application. The FAA prohibits flying over congested areas at low altitudes and aerial mosquito management missions are typically performed at 300 feet above the ground. An applicator must also be sure that National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit thresholds have been met in order to justify an aerial application. The most common method to meet such thresholds is simply surveillance using standard trapping techniques. If indeed those thresholds have been met, the public must be notified of the upcoming aerial application. Finally, pilots file a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM). This filing alerts other pilots about the presence of a low-flying aircraft and helps ensure the safety of the application crew.

3. Calibration of Spray Equipment

Calibrating the aircraft’s spray equipment is the law as well as essential for a safe and effective application. Calibration ensures proper flow rates and the application of product to the target area. In addition to flow rates, the second component of calibration is ensuring the correct droplet size. Droplets that are too large will fall to the ground and not kill any mosquitoes, while droplets that are too small will either float away or not harm the mosquito (and perhaps even foster resistance). So it is imperative to have just the right size droplet.  Below lists the three most critical pieces of equipment, related to calibration and accurate product deposition, that should be checked prior to each application.

AIMMS Unit: A weather probe that takes real-time weather data and feeds it to the aircraft’s GPS unit, thereby automatically directing the pilot where to fly to ensure a successful application

Micronairs: Rotary atomizer that ensures the proper droplet size is being produced

GPS Unit: Critical to telling pilots where to fly to apply product in the targeted application zone

4. Pre Fly the Application Zone

Aerial application is performed at night when mosquitoes are flying. Unfortunately, flying at low altitudes at night can be dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken. During the daytime, each crew should fly the application zone, noting any potential obstacles and recording them in the aircraft’s GPS unit. In the event that these obstacles are not properly lighted, the GPS unit will alert the crew of the presence of the obstacle during the application mission.

5. Conduct the Mission

Aerial_Mosquito_Spraying_Two_Planes.jpgAfter all of the above has been completed, an aerial mosquito management mission can commence. The aircraft is loaded with the product to be used and the crew performs the application.

6. Download GPS Data and Produce Application Maps

Once the spray system has been rinsed, and the aircraft inspected after the mission, the crew should download the GPS data and send it to a GIS professional. Once the GIS professional receives the information, an application map is produced and delivered to the manager of the Integrated Mosquito Management program.

The aerial application can be a critical component of an IMM program, particularly when disease transmission has been identified as a risk to public health. Many, many steps must be taken before an airplane is in the air conducting the application. Preparation, technology, and a skilled pilot are all critical to ensuring a safe and effective aerial mosquito management mission.

Malcom_Williams_bio_photos_1_12.2015-1.jpgMalcom Williams is leader in the world of aerial mosquito management. He started flying planes as a teenager in the early 1970s and began conducting flights for mosquito control in 1987. Malcom become Chief Pilot for VDCI in 2004 – and has accumulated over 14,000 hours of aerial mosquito management missions. During his time on land, Malcom has designed and built eight of the spray planes used by VDCI. He is licensed to conduct public health vector control and is extremely familiar with FAA congested area plans.

VDCI Assists CDC with Zika Virus in U.S. Territories

Written by the VDCI team

Marshall_Islands-1.pngVDCI began a contract with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in April of 2016. The goal of the partnership is to assist U.S. Territories with public health efforts by defending the population against the threat of Zika. As part of the partnership, VDCI team members have been active in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Marshall Islands, and Guam.

Dr. Broox Boze, Operations Manager in Northern Colorado, discusses her work while in the Marshall Islands.
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