WMU employs state-of-the-art cleaning technologies in effort to keep COVID-19 off campus

Contact: Erin Flynn

A Custodial Services employee uses misting equipment to disinfect a classroom.

For comprehensive information on policies and procedures the University is taking to keep the campus community safe, visit the Safe Return webpage.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Safety is top of mind as Western Michigan University prepares to welcome students, faculty and staff back to campus for fall semester. From antimicrobial solutions and misters to electrostatic disinfecting equipment, a number of state-of-the-art cleaning processes are being employed to mitigate spread of COVID-19 on campus.

A custodian cleans a water fountain.

High-touch surfaces will be cleaned more frequently.

"The days of using a mop to move the dirt and bacteria around are gone," says Peter Strazdas, associate vice president of Facilities Management. "I would argue that our full spectrum approach with state-of-the-art cleaning products and equipment is the best around."

Custodial Services will perform enhanced cleaning protocols across campus, including increasing focus on high-touch surfaces and high-traffic areas. Frequently used classrooms, common areas and restrooms will be sanitized multiple times per day to minimize germ build-up. The most powerful tool in the staff's cleaning arsenal is MicrobeCare, a long-lasting antimicrobial solution that will be used in tandem with electrostatic disinfecting equipment.

"It's a product that adheres to the surface to create a layer of protection that helps to disintegrate any type of growth on the surface," says Brandy Moran, director of Custodial Services. "It bonds to the surface and reaches surfaces that can't be seen, so it gets into all the nooks and crannies of an environment."

"It has been used very effectively in hospital operating rooms and is gaining traction in other public applications," adds Strazdas.

Custodial crews are also equipped with products such as Aqueous Ozone, a powerful and nontoxic oxidizer that destroys germs, bacteria and other contaminants on surfaces. In addition to manual application, they'll use electronic misters to effectively and efficiently deploy the solution.

A custodian cleans a table in a classroom.

State-of-the-art cleaning products are being used across campus.

Some buildings and spaces on campus are being hibernated so that custodial resources can better concentrate and focus on areas of greatest need. Outside air flow has also been doubled in all buildings to increase ventilation.

"We're taking every safety precaution possible," says Moran. "We really are doing everything we can to think in advance and prepare campus for people to be safe."

The forward-thinking approach is also evident in Tekna, an innovative product development and ISO 13485 certified manufacturing company based in WMU's Business Technology Research Park. Tekna is collaborating with WMU to pilot new disinfection equipment that uses ultraviolet—UVC—light on campus this fall. Tekna’s portfolio of devices, known as AvaUV, will be placed in various locations on campus, such as Valley Dining Hall and research areas, where people will be able to disinfect personal items like phones and keys as well as professional tools and lab equipment.

A person places cell phones into a UVC disinfection machine.

New UV disinfection equipment created by Tekna is being piloted on campus.

"We can clean the spaces people are in, but we can't clean the items that they carry," says Moran.

Custodial Services has developed processes to be proactive, consistent and also reactive, if necessary, with the ultimate goal of continuing to provide safe and valuable in-person instruction and services.

"We've distanced the classrooms. We've gone in and spread out all of the seating. We're putting up signs so that we can make sure people are following through with all of the policies and procedures on campus of wearing masks and social distancing and following protocols for self-screening," Moran says. "We have the best custodial team who is dedicated to doing their part to support WMU's mission to provide exceptional education. If everybody continues to do their part to keep campus safe … Western can continue to thrive."

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit WMU News online.