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Be Prepared: Panel of Experts Address Safety Issues and Emergency Preparedness

by Kerana Todorov
September 11, 2018

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Speaking at a forum on how to prepare for the worst-case scenario were from left to right: Nicole Cummings, human resources manager at Cakebread Cellars; Andrew Parsons, assistant chief/hazardous materials programs manager at County of Sonoma Fire and Emergency Services; Oscar Villanueva, chief operating officer, TAL Global Corp.; Napa County Sheriff's Capt. Cullen Dodd and Cal Fire/Napa County Fire Capt. Justin Hartman. . Photo by Cyril Penn.

The Wine Country is not immune to natural disasters and other tragedies, or even terrorism. Four years ago, a 6.0-magnitude earthquake rudely woke up Napa County. Then deadly fires last October destroyed hundreds of houses and Napa and Sonoma Counties.

With these disasters in mind, a panel of experts on Sept. 6 addressed safety issues and emergency preparedness at Wine Business Monthly’s SUMMIT, a forum for human resources personnel in the wine industry.

The panel gave tips and reminders on how wineries can be better prepared for emergencies.

Cal Fire/Napa County Fire Capt. Justin Hartman said wineries should have a posted emergency plan such as the evacuation route posted in the Napa Valley Marriott meeting room where the forum was. Also have fire protection systems serviced annually.

Hartman also urged the audience to have clear access roads and fire lanes for large apparatus and fire personnel. It may be a good idea to have a secondary exit to avoid traffic jams. Wineries should have a centrally located a site plan that includes exit, gas shutoff and fire alarm control panel locations and other key information. Wineries should also have a binder that contains safety data sheets for all the chemicals stored on site.

Cal Fire officials last fall oversaw the fire disasters in Napa and Sonoma.

“When the fire guys come in for these types of disasters, they’re pretty much running the show,” Napa County Sheriff’s Capt. Cullen Dodd said. Responding sheriff’s deputies on the scene need “a knowledgeable manager” or someone in charge familiar with the facilities and entries and exits, Dodd said.

Oscar Villanueva, chief operating officer at TAL Global Co., a security consulting and risk management firm, said a crisis management plan should include what to expect when first responders show up.

Nicole Cummings, human resources manager at Cakebread Cellars, said Cakebread’s workers compensation carrier is very helpful. The workers compensation does audits, checking on all exits and entries. How clear are they?

Speakers also addressed the importance of having staff trained for emergencies.

Training is” key,” said Hartman. It’s muscle memory.

Dodd stressed staff training. “A lot of people are most likely to be under the influence of something, so their judgment is going to be off and the best way to deal with that is by prompting your staff to be calm,” he said, referring to winery guests. He recommended scenario training, noting that winery guests are going to be in a different condition and the staff is going to be responsible for them. 

“If you haven’t at least done a scenario at some point, then they’re not going to understand what being calm means because we can all listen to somebody sit up here and talk but unless you go through it, it doesn’t work as well,” Dodd said, referring to winery employees.

Dodd urged HR departments to have a communication plan to let every department know of what is going on.

Dodd, whose agency has responded to high-profile shooting incidents, urged the audience not to hesitate to call 911 if there is a concern, a problem in the parking lot for instance. People should trust their instincts.

Villanueva said companies should identify possible risks to their facilities, including fire, violence and terrorism, chemical leaks or having guest have a heart attack.

Andrew Parsons, assistant chief/hazardous materials programs manager at county of Sonoma’s fire and emergency services department, said employees should be trained on what to do when materials are released.

He urged the audience to maintain updated emergency and overall safety plan. Most wineries have to file hazardous materials business plans through the California Environmental Reporting System – or CERS – a program run by California Environmental Protection Agency.

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