Changes to Gift Tax Exemption Laws Could Affect Winery Estate Planning

By: Kemp Moyer and Sachi Danish, BPM LLP 

For owner-operators of wineries and other closely held businesses, now may be an opportune time to maximize estate planning through the utilization of gifts of ownership interests. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017 has been broadly seen as favorable to businesses, high-net-worth individuals and estates, including the temporary doubling of the lifetime federal exemption for gift, estate and generation-skipping taxes, which stands at $11.7 million in 2021.  

  However, the combination of a new administration, as well as increasing federal deficits in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic fallout and federal response, means the higher lifetime exemption may be in jeopardy. Many in the tax policy and preparation communities are expecting the recently elected Congress and administration to accelerate the rollback of the exemption increase. Sweeping changes have been proposed by the Biden administration and now it is widely considered just a matter of when and how much. Among the potential early targets is the larger estate tax exemption, which will sunset back to pre-TCJA baselines at the end of 2025 without further action from Congress.  

Estate and Gift Tax Law 

  As noted previously, the current gift, estate and generating skipping tax (GST) exemption amount is approximately $11.7 million per individual. This exemption amount is currently required under the law to be cut by 50% in 2026, to about $6 million per person, depending on adjustments made for inflation. This reduction is built into current law, and it has created a use-it or lose-it opportunity for high-net-worth individuals. However, the following Biden proposals are even more dramatic: 

• Reduce the estate and GST exemption to $3.5 million and only permit $1 million in tax-free lifetime gifts. 

• Increase the estate tax rate significantly from 40% up to a 65% top rate. 

• Eliminate the stepped-up basis rules at death. This would be a significant change as a carryover basis may create an income tax at death (“death tax”) or upon later sale on all appreciated property.  

• Limit valuation discounts between family members. 

• Include grantor trusts in the grantor’s estate and eliminate use of short-term grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts (IDGTs). 

• Limit duration of GST trusts. 

  The above proposals make it urgent to address your estate tax planning now, rather than waiting for what the future may bring, although planners must also consider the possibility of retroactive law changes. 

  Some estate and gift opportunities to consider under current law include: 

• Use your annual exclusion gifts of up to $15,000 per person ($30,000 if both parents make gifts to that individual). Over time, these gifts can accumulate into significant amounts. These amounts could be on top of direct payments to a provider for medical services or educational tuition for anyone, related or not, which are not considered gifts.  

• Make large gifts of assets with potentially depressed values and subject to discounts. Leverage the current $11.7 million unified credit amount with gifts of fractional interests in real property or ownership interests in a family or closely held business that qualify for valuation discounts. To protect against retroactive changes to the $11.7 million gift exemption amount planners should also consider use of disclaimers, formula gifts, and lifetime qualified terminal interest property (QTIP) trust elections as part of the planning with trusts. 

• Make low-interest loans to children. Loans for homes or business opportunities are often very attractive, with August 2021’s Applicable Federal Rates (AFRs) at .19% for loans three years or less, 1.00% for loans more than three years and not more than nine years, and 1.87% for loans more than nine years. 

• Gifts and sales to intentionally defective grantor trusts (IDGTs) can be used to transfer cash, securities, business interests, real property and other investment assets to descendants in a tax-beneficial manner. The sale or gift of assets from the parents or grantors to an IDGT is not subject to income tax, because the grantors are treated as having sold the assets to themselves. Only gift tax is due on the transfer. Assets transferred to the IDGT remain in the trust and grow outside the grantor’s estate, allowing them to appreciate tax-free. 

  Owner-operators of successful businesses likely already have some familiarity with the estate tax. This tax works in conjunction with the federal gift tax, which applies to transfers of property during one’s lifetime. In theory, both estate transfers and gifts made during one’s lifetime are currently taxed at a maximum marginal rate of 40%. 

  The gift tax annual exclusion allows individuals to gift up to $15,000 per recipient per year tax-free. The lifetime gift tax exemption currently stands at $11.7 million, and this maximum amount represents the sum of all taxable gift, estate, and generation-skipping giving allowed before taxes are due. The temporary nature of the current higher lifetime exemption has created a level of urgency in many estate strategies. 

  There are proposals in Congress to reduce the estate and GST tax exemption to $3.5 million and the gift tax exemption to $1 million, limit valuation discounts for family businesses, and trigger income tax when gifts and transfers of appreciated property exceed $1 million.  Political analysts expect these proposals to be among the Democrats’ top priorities, not to just increase taxes but to redistribute wealth in our country. This puts some pressure on larger estates that may be affected, including many winery owners. To utilize the higher lifetime exemption before it expires, many high-net-worth individuals are acting urgently to accelerate their estate planning strategies to avoid a much greater potential estate tax burden. 

Winery Ownership Estate Planning 

  Even in an increasingly corporatized wine space, many wineries continue to be family-owned businesses. Many owners of closely held wineries, desiring to keep their legacy in the family, already intend to pass down the business upon their death to their children or other inheritors. The increasing likelihood of a rollback on the lifetime exemption means winery owners may want to consider transferring at least some portion of their business in the near future via gifts, or sales to IDGTs rather than waiting until death. Gifts and sales of appreciated assets may trigger immediate to grantor trusts are  

  While certain wine industry segments have recovered to or even exceeded their pre-COVID sales, many closely held wineries are experiencing challenges such as reduced tasting room visits and lower sales to restaurant customers due to COVID-19, which often contributes to a lower business valuation. A lower valuation means a smaller gift in the eyes of the IRS, and less estate taxes or even avoiding them altogether. 

  The benefits of any reduction in business value due to the pandemic and the availability of the favorable tax rules related to grantor trusts may not be here for long. This is a unique opportunity for winery owners to take care of what they were already planning to do down the line, while taking advantage of historically favorable tax conditions. Estate planning is a process, not a one-time trust agreement, and as you become more educated in the process through your trusted advisors including your attorney, accountant, wealth and insurance advisors, your ability to make the key decisions in the process will become easier. 

  Kemp Moyer is Certified Valuation Analyst and a Director in the Advisory practice leading the Firm’s Valuations and Appraisals team at BPM LLP.  

  Sachi Danish is a Director in Tax Private Client Services and leads the Estate & Trust practice for BPM. 

Ways to Help Promote Your Venue

It is important now more than ever to promote your winery to both potential clients and other industry professionals.  Promoting your winery in your community can increase your exposure and bring in more business.  We’ve put together a list of a few ways to reach out to potential clients and partners in your community.   

5 promotional ideas 

  1. Join business organizations and networking groups.   

By joining local organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Visitor Bureau and other business groups in your area, you can attend events and meet other business owners. This gives you the opportunity to start developing important networking relationships that can lead to more business. You can host an after-hours event at your venue for members of these organizations to showcase your space and offerings.  

  1. Invite executives to visit. 

Invite leaders at corporations and small businesses to visit your venue. On the invitation, highlight your venue has ample space and is equipped for luncheons, company parties, team building, and meetings. Host a networking luncheon for these executives, so they can learn more about your venue while also meeting other leaders in the community.  

  1. Be part of organizations where you can share your expertise. 

Seek out organizations such as Events in America and join conversations. You can self-publish an article regarding relevant industry information for venues. You can then share it on your website, in your email newsletter and on social media. This increases your credibility and positions you as an expert in the venue arena.   

  1. Partner with convention centers and exhibit halls.  

If there are convention centers, exhibit halls, museums or other venues that hold large trade shows and other events in your area, develop a relationship with key leadership at those places. Find ways you can host an off-site luncheon, dinner or after-hours event at your venue for attendees of events held elsewhere. You can even suggest catering for the event.  

  1. Hold an evening for event planners.  

Establishing relationships with event planners can propel your business forward. Event planners can be your key to booking more events. Invite the top event planners in your area to experience a night in your space. At the event, give tours of your venue, present live cooking demonstrations, offer wine and specialty drinks, serve dinner and provide a delectable dessert bar.  This evening just may be a catalyst to future conversations with event planners and possibly lead to you becoming a preferred venue for many of them. 

We hope these tips help you attract more clients to your venue who should also think about event insurance.  

Markel® offers event liability insurance to hosts and honorees, providing coverage such as property damage to the venue or injury to a guest. Up to $2 million in event liability insurance can be purchased by your client from Markel any time at least 1 day before the event. Policies start as low as $75.   

By offering Markel Event Insurance, it will not only help protect your clients, but it can also help protect you by potentially decreasing your own business liability risk for accidents due to negligence of the event host or honoree. Markel Event Insurance is an easy and affordable solution for your clients – a free quote takes only a few minutes online or on the phone – turning you into a one-stop-shop for your clients.  

To learn more, please visit markelinsurance.com/event or call 1-855-480-9757.  

This document is intended for general information purposes only. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. Markel does not assume any obligation to update any information herein, or remove any information that is no longer accurate or complete. Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content. 

Coverage is underwritten by Markel American Insurance Company and policyholder services are provided by the underwriting manager, Markel Service, Incorporated, national producer license # 27585, in California d/b/a Markel Insurance Services, license # 0645481.  Terms, conditions, and exclusions apply.  Insurance and coverage are subject to availability and qualifications and may not be available in all states.    

© 2021 Markel Service, Incorporated.  All rights reserved.   

How Does Your Safety Program “PAIR” With Your Workers?

By: Michael Harding, Senior Risk Solution Specialist, Markel Specialty

With the intensity of the wine season gearing up and peak times just around the corner, how prepared are you to protect the health and safety of your workers? Protecting your employees is crucial to attaining your orchard and vineyard goals and having a successful operation. Having a solid and functioning safety plan in force results in better productivity, enables your workers to thrive and contribute to the performance of your business.  A good safety program is a win –win for everyone!

  Regardless of the size of your operation, it is your responsibility as an employer, to have a safety program in place.  Depending on the size of your operation, your safety program may be informal or it may need to be more formal in nature – every winery is different. You’ll obviously want to abide by any government safety regulations that apply but there are also several safety management practices that will help you better demonstrate your commitment to safety, provide a safer working environment for your workers and yield you more efficiencies within your business. 

  It is not uncommon for a winery to produce a safety manual from an online template, issue it to their workers, briefly review it during a new employee training session and in turn, believe they have an effective safety program. Even though doing this is important, there are additional ways to visibly support your safety program to the point where it actually becomes “operationalized” into your day-to-day activities.  Outlined below you will find some of the ways we have found to be very effective to visibly demonstrate your support of your safety program.

Effective Ways to Promote a Safety Program at a Winery Safety Policy and Program

1.  Draft a safety policy statement and sign it, better yet, have all of your supervisors sign it too.

2.  Make sure that your workers receive this policy statement either through an employee handbook, an employee bulletin board posting or through new employee orientations and meetings.

3.  Safety responsibilities should be formally assigned to a single individual to coordinate safety compliance efforts, accident investigation, and emergency procedures.

4.  Verify that appropriate safety responsibilities are also defined for everyone else.

5.  Work with either your insurance carrier or your insurance broker to establish an internal claims cost containment or return to work policy to reduce post-accident injury expenses.

6.  Hold supervisors accountable in annual performance reviews in part for safety objectives and/or the accident results of their workers.

Safety Rules and Standards

1.  Workers need to know how to safely do their job by having general work procedures and safety rules developed for your winery operation. High risk procedures like confined space entry, lockout / tagout, any work at heights, etc., need to be in writing.

2.  Safety rules are as important as any other part of your business. Write them so they are simple and easy to understand. Distribute them to all workers and have them sign an acknowledgment of understanding. Also post them in a common area as a reminder to everyone.

3.  Have a disciplinary system in place to deal with any safety rule violations.

4.  Develop a plan for winery emergencies like natural disasters and fires to make sure your workers know how to effectively respond in emergency situations.

Safety Training

1.  Make sure you have a safety orientation plan in place. Complete the orientation before workers begin a new job. Workers need hands on job training.

2.  Train your supervisory personnel so they can conduct safety inspections related to workplace safety hazards or applicable regulations in their area on a regular basis.

3.  Review your winery operations to determine the safety training needs for all work areas. This would include areas such as: emergency response to fire or injury, confined space, electrical safety, handling of chemicals, fall prevention and wearing of personal protective equipment, just to mention a few.

4.  Supervisory safety training sessions should be held regularly, addressing the following: accident investigation, conducting safety talks, understanding workers compensation, complying with government safety regulations, completing safety inspections, and controlling employee accident costs, as needed.

Safety Inspections

1.  Formal safety inspections should be conducted regularly by supervisors or other management staff. Document the results of these inspections.

2.  On a daily basis, supervisors should routinely conduct informal safety inspections with any negative findings documented and corrected.

3.  Consider developing customized safety inspection checklists for each area to ensure your inspections are thorough and consistent.

4.  Have a follow-up system in place to make sure that systematic corrective action is being taken on the deficiencies noted during safety inspections.

5.  Regularly update your safety inspection procedures and checklists by utilizing information generated in accident investigation reports so you can prevent recurring incidents.

Accident Investigation

1.  Have a supervisor (of the employee) investigate all injuries requiring medical treatment along with any “near misses” to make sure they don’t happen again.

2.  Maintain accident statistics about injuries that occur in your winery operation and review them regularly in management staff meetings. An accident occurring within your facility should be considered a significant winery operational deficiency and you should appropriately take corrective measures for each one.

3.  Focus on fact finding, not fault finding to avoid attributing accident causes to employee carelessness or possible fraud on accident investigation reports. Identify the underlying root cause(s) for each accident.

4.  Have a first aid treatment procedure in place to help effectively reduce the severity of work-related injuries. You should include:

a)  A properly stocked first aid kit. The American Red Cross recommends: https://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/anatomy-of-a-first-aid-kit.html

b)  Eye wash station(s). Grainger has an article describing where eye wash stations should be placed: https://www.grainger.com/content/qt-emergency-shower-eye-wash-stn-req-120

c) Employees trained / certified in first aid. First aid training is often available through local organizations such as the Red Cross, local fire departments, EMS, etc. Check your local area listings.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

1.  Conduct a hazard assessment of your winery operations to determine any personal protective needs and requirements for your workers. Make sure appropriate PPE is readily available to all workers, they are trained in its use and they follow all established requirements.

2.  Hold your supervisory personnel responsible for enforcing the use of PPE devices. This would include such items as safety glasses, proper footwear, gloves, and hearing protection, etc.

3.  On a periodic basis, review accident and inspection reports to evaluate the use or need for any additional personal protective equipment devices.

Motivation

1.  Demonstrate safety is a priority at your winery by holding regular meetings with your workers and supervisors to talk about any safety concerns. Keep minutes of each of these meetings with what was talked about and who attended.

2.  Have an “alternative duty” transitional work program in place to encourage injured workers to remain on the job in restricted capacity.

3.  Consider having a constructive policy in place to address workers who have had two more injuries or property damage accidents during any twelve-month period of time.

4.  Establish ideas and plans to motivate all workers to follow existing safety policies/procedures in an effort to achieve specific safety goals through such methods as personal recognition, bonuses, awards, etc.

Mechanical Safeguards

1.  Survey any high accident areas, materials, processes or buildings annually if you are having occurrences to specifically evaluate the adequacy of your equipment safeguards and/or OSHA machinery guarding compliance.

2.  Identify and provide appropriate signage where guarding is required. Develop procedures when guards are required to be removed for service or maintenance.

3.  If protected by interlocks or safety switch, inspect these systems regularly to verify that they have not been disabled or bypassed.

General Operating Conditions

1.   Maintain good housekeeping practices in all of your working areas so as to reduce slip, trip and fall hazards.

2.   Prohibit the climbing on racks in any storage or warehousing operations. Provide and encourage the use of sound, sturdy ladders.

3.   If forklifts are used, provide required training to all operators. Order pickers, if used, must work from an approved platform and wear appropriate fall protection.

4.   Tractors, mowers and other power equipment should be provided with appropriate rollover protective devices (ROPS).

Vehicle Safety

1.   Motor vehicle records should be routinely obtained for all new drivers and updated annually.

2.   Motor vehicle records should be evaluated using a defined point system for all drivers on an annual basis.

3.   A record of training should be maintained on file for all personnel who have access to and operate vehicles, farm equipment, vans or other powered equipment during the course of their employment.

4.   Accident reporting kits should be kept in all vehicle glove compartments.

5.   Drivers should conduct vehicle inspections daily.

Conclusion

  At the end of the day, safety doesn’t need to be complicated. You can keep your program simple so that it meets the needs of your winery. Remember that:

•    Safety doesn’t happen without the person in charge and everyone else standing up and taking responsibility.

•    No one single person can be responsible for safety – more people making safety a priority correlated to fewer people being injured.

•    Stay with it – safety isn’t about written rules and handbooks, it’s about thinking about the potential dangers and what needs to be done to keep everyone safe.

By “pairing” these safety program components with what you and your workers do, you’ll be better prepared to meet the busy times ahead with safer and fewer injured employees. You, your employees and your business will all benefit!

  The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments.  Please contact us or your insurance professional if you have any questions. Products and services are offered through Markel Specialty, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated (national producer number 27585).  Policies are written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for rate and coverage may vary.

For More Information Please Call Us At: 800-814-6773 Or Visit Our Website: markelinsurance.com/winery

Simplified Risk Management for Your Winery

By: Michael Harding, Senior Risk Solution Specialist, Markel Specialty

Take a look around. You must be so proud of where your winery is today! You’ve worked very hard to develop, finesse, and grow your winery to what you see in front of you. Countless hours and limited staffing have created a place of pride!

  You took a lot of risks to get your winery to where you are today. In fact, your winery probably wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t taken some of those risks. But now that it is more established, the risks are more significant – there is just so much more to lose! A serious calamity could be detrimental to all that you’ve built. And, unfortunately in today’s “mid-COVID” economic environment, limited staffing may present many challenges to your winery and it may be difficult to allot sufficient time to think about the many ways your winery might be impacted by previously unthought-of risks. Risks can be managed, however. Whether your winery is small or large, you have the responsibility to your employees, your clients, and yourself to invest in risk management planning.

  A lot of winery businesses only think about buying insurance when they think about risk management. However, many wineries don’t give much thought to other ways that they can protect their winery from the numerous risks that they face. Some risks are random and unpredictable (like weather and acts of nature). Others are more predictable and can be planned for – such as costs of supplies, overhead, new hires, and equipment replacement. There are also the other kinds of events that can – and do – happen almost anytime; they can disrupt your operations, take a chunk out of your reserves, kill your bank account, and cripple or destroy your winery.

  Trying to get your arms around all potential risks and attempting to completely eliminate them is unrealistic. On the other hand, not paying enough attention to relevant risk management issue can leave you unprotected. To that end, it makes sense to be cautious. The biggest challenge in risk management is to find the proper balance between peace of mind and running your winery.       

  Simply stated, risk management is a discipline for dealing with uncertainty. It provides you with an approach to recognize and confront the threats you face. Risk can be very complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. Every winery can start with a simple, easy-to-follow plan that can manage and lessen risk. If needed, you can expand from there.

Getting Started

  Risk management goes beyond just identifying risk; it is about learning to weigh your risks and making decisions about which risks deserve immediate attention.

  There are many ways to undertake risk identification; the key is using a system that allows you to identify major risks facing your winery. It is important to make a list and examine every risk, no matter how small; they could develop into something more serious over time. To begin, a risk assessment might  start by examining some of the different aspects of running your winery. You could look at your:

1.  Management practices

2.  Hiring and volunteer policies

3.  Training

4.  Staff, guest, and visitor safety

5.  Growing, harvesting, and production methods

6.  Insurance coverage

7.  Property and facilities

8.  Warehousing

9.  Workers compensation

10. Crisis and emergency planning

11. Auto and mobile equipment exposures

12. Social media

  Although this might, at first glance, appear to be complicated and involved, a simple way to start your own self-assessment that may be useful is to gather a few members of your staff representing various functions of your winery, and conduct a brainstorming session by asking a few questions:

1. What can go wrong?

2. What are you concerned about?

3. What will we do to prevent harm from occurring?

4. What will you do to lessen the worry?

5. How will you finance?

  Your answers to each will provide you with a direction for necessary action.

  From this session, you’ll undoubtedly have a sizable list with many concerns. And, just making a list of all possible risks is not enough. It is easy to quickly become overwhelmed, so you’ll need a way to take the risks you’re facing and put them into perspective. Not all risks are created equal. Risk management is not just about identifying risk; it is about learning to weigh various risks and making decisions about which risks deserve immediate attention. In doing this you will often find that your winery’s vulnerability to a risk is often a function of financial impact. What are the odds that a particular risk will materialize, and  how much is it likely to cost? How much does your winery stand to lose as a result? This helps quantify which risks are worth worrying about and which are not.

Using a Risk Matrix in Your Risk Assessment

  A risk matrix is a valuable tool you can use to help determine both the likelihood and the consequences of any particular risk. It helps you focus your attention on those issues that have higher consequences. In such a matrix, the likelihood is rated from probable to improbable and the consequences are rated from acceptable to intolerable. A risk that is almost certain to occur but has few serious consequences needs little attention. This enables you to identify and mitigate risks that may be less certain but have greater consequences.

Prioritize Your List

  Once you’ve assessed your risks, you can begin to take steps to control them – giving priority to those with the greatest likelihood of occurrence and/or biggest potential impact.

  Select appropriate risk management strategies and implement your plan. Here are four basic risk management techniques that can be used individually or in combination to address virtually most every risk you face:

1.    Avoid it: Whenever you can’t do something with a high degree of safety, you should choose avoidance as a risk management technique. Don’t engage in an activity or provide a service that pose too great a risk. In some cases, avoidance is the best technique because many wineries don’t have the financial resources required to fund the training, supervision, or other safety measures. Always ask, “Is there something we could do to provide this safely?” If the answer is “yes”, risk modification (#2 – next) may be more practical.

2.    Change it or modification: Modification is simply changing an activity or service to make it safer. Policies and procedures are examples of risk modification. For example, if a winery is concerned about the risk of using unsafe drivers make deliveries, they might add Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) record checks to its screening process.

3.    Take it on yourself/retention: A winery may decide that other available techniques above aren’t suitable and it will retain the risk of harm or loss. For example, when a winery purchases liability insurance and elects a $1,000 deductible, it’s retaining risk. Where organizations get into trouble is when risk is retained unintentionally, such as within the exclusions of their insurance policy.

4.    Share it: Risk sharing involves sharing risk with another through a contract. (Insurance is an example that shares the financial impact of risks.)

  Monitor and update the risk management program. Your winery is a dynamic one that constantly faces new challenges and opportunities. Risk management techniques and plans should be reviewed periodically to make certain that they remain the most appropriate strategy for your needs and circumstances.

Conclusion

  The ultimate goal for your winery regarding risk is to create a culture where risk is routinely examined and managed, simply as part of your organization’s overall business process. Risk management starts with the management of a winery. By operating in a transparent and ethical manner, a lot of risks are mitigated by promoting a sense of accountability.

We can’t know what lies ahead, but we do want to be prepared to respond to future events effectively and gracefully. Make a conscious effort to identify and manage your exposures. Ask:

•    Can you avoid or eliminate the risk?

•    If not, can you control or mitigate the risk?

•    Can you transfer the responsibility of finance?

  Reckless leaders take reckless risks; prudent leaders take calculated risks. Risk management is the “calculator”.  Kayode Omosebi

YOUR RISK MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

  The next step is to involve others in your efforts. Remember that an effective risk management program can never be the responsibility of one individual. If you’ve already engaged a group, task force, or committee in identifying risks and strategies, you’re well on your way to implementing a risk management program.

  Keep in mind that many effective strategies for managing risk in a winery may not require any additional expenses. Time, attention, and resolve may be all that’s needed to increase the safety of vital assets. Give your team a deadline—a  date by which you plan to have made significant progress in achieving your risk management goals. Review your progress frequently and set new goals as you achieve the existing ones.

  As we have discussed, risk management need not be a complex and bewildering array of technical terms, actuarial tables, or probability statistics. On the contrary, risk management is, in large part, the application of healthy doses of common sense and sound planning.

  Remember that the simpler the risk management strategy is, the more likely it is that it will be applied. Yes, there may be items that are not considered in the first iteration of the plan, but at the outset, it is more important that your program be comprehensible rather than comprehensive. As you continue to develop and refine your plan, what now seems new and strange will become second nature.

  As time passes, your plan should become more inclusive as you address more risks in order of their priority. As stated at the beginning of this article, risk management is a process not a task, therefore it is important to constantly review what you are doing, celebrate your triumphs, and analyze the reasons behind any setbacks.

Demystifying Wholesale Wine Distribution

By: Becky Garrison

  At the virtual Oregon Wine Symposium held February 16-19, 2020, Jeff Lewis, Director of Education & National Sales, Revana Portfolio, and Colin Eddy, National Sales Manager, NW Wine Company, presented a seminar titled “Demystifying Wine Distribution: A Winery Toolkit to Help Build and Navigate Wholesale Distribution Across the United States.” They designed the seminar for winemakers looking to enter the wholesale channel for the first time, and those with existing distribution looking to expand their markets.

  Lewis and Eddy opened their conversation with a brief history of the 21st Amendment ratified on December 5, 1933, which repealed the 18th Amendment that launched prohibition. The 21st Amendment left it up to the states to govern the production and sale of alcohol. While every state has its own specific regulations, most stuck to the 3-Tier System separating producer, distributor and retailer.

  According to Lewis and Eddy, this 3-Tier System has multiple benefits. From a regulatory and educational point of view, this system ensures the safe handling of alcohol so that the final prod-ucts are safe for consumers. From an economic angle, this creates billions of dollars of local, state and federal tax revenue. The commercial benefits prevent a given winery from dominating the marketplace.

  Eddy said a key advantage of expanding into wholesale distribution is a daily representation of your brand. “You’ve got salespeople out there telling the story of your brand and letting custom-ers sample your wares. No one can be everywhere.”

  Distribution also ensures the ability to deliver products to licensed accounts in designated territo-ries and collect payment in accordance with state and federal laws so that both the manufacturer and producer get paid on agreed-upon terms.

  Another development that began in 2020 was a rise of online wine sales, with consumers pur-chasing bottles directly from a winery, a website like wine.com or an online service such as Drizly. Large wholesalers rolled out online purchasing websites that allowed retail shops, bars and restaurants to purchase wines online without the presence of sales representatives. “The les-son here is that people are comfortable having wine delivered to their home, and online platforms are getting future customers easier and safer access. That is something that’s going to continue,” Eddy said.

Achieving Success in the Wholesale Distribution Market

  Winemakers interested in expanding their sales should first ask themselves why they are inter-ested in wholesale distribution. “It’s important to remember you’re creating a whole new sales channel, and with that comes a whole set of variables,” said Lewis.

  Among those variables include how existing sales channels will interact with this new wholesale channel and how a wholesale distribution channel will impact the sales of wine clubs or winery-only wines. Is there enough wine in production to execute this plan?

  Lewis and Eddy broke down their approach into a toolkit designed to help winemakers achieve success in the wholesale distribution market. Their first recommendation is to review the current distribution landscape. Currently, there are 1,126 unique wine distributors across the U.S. In breaking down these numbers, 37% of these distributors reside in four states, with 141 distribu-tors in California alone. Also, the list of distributors continues to shrink and consolidate market share. Presently, the top ten distributors as follows: 

Southern Glazers Wine & Spirits

https://www.southernglazers.com

• 45 States

• 119 offices

• 1100+ wineries represented

•225 Oregon Wineries Represented (total U.S. market share 32%)

Republic National Distributing (RNDC)

https://www.rndc-usa.com

• 23 States

• 94 offices

• 1000+ wineries represented

• Major recent acquisitions in Young’s Market (2020) and Opici FL (2021) (total U.S. market share 19%)

Johnson Brothers

https://www.johnsonbrothers.com/suppliers

• 23 States

• 36 offices

• 430+ wineries represented California only

• 70+ Wineries represented (total U.S. market share 10%)

Breakthru Beverage Group

https://www.breakthrubev.com

• 16 States

• 40 offices

• 660+ wineries represented

Empire Distributors, Inc.

https://empiredist.com

• 4 States

• GA, NC, TN, CO 580+

• wineries represented

WineBow

https://www.winebow.com

• 22 States

•. 600+ wineries represented

• National Wholesaler R. Importer

Heidelberg Distributing Company

https://heidelbergdistributing.com

• 2 states OH/KY, 90+ wineries represented

• Services 26,000 retailers

Wine Warehouse

http://winewarehouse.com

• California ONLY

• 70+ wineries represented

Horizon Beverage

https://www.horizonbeverage.com

• 5 States

• Northeast Based

• 260+ wineries represented

Empire Merchants

https://www.empiremerchants.com

• New York only

  At present, there are 11,000 wineries, with 80% producing less than 5,000 cases a year. Another 16% of wineries are classified as small, producing 5,000 to 49,999 cases, 2% are medium pro-ducing 50,000 to 4,999,999 cases, and 1% are large wineries that generate 500,000 cases or more.

  Next, they said to explore what markets to target. An analysis of the desired markets will help determine which distributors would work best for those particular products you’re looking to sell. Where are people consuming wines, and which wines are they drinking?

  Along those lines, look at regulations in these particular states to assess if this is a market where it makes sense to enter at this junction.

  Presently, 13 states are one-price states. In these states, there’s no different pricing for restaurants or retail outlets and no quantity discounts.

•    Kansas,

•    Missouri

•    Oklahoma

•    Oregon

•    Virginia

•    New Hampshire

•    Utah

•    Idaho

•    Montana

•    New Jersey

•    Mississippi

•    Pennsylvania

•    Ohio. Also,

  Channel pricing is prohibited in 16 states. In these states, you cannot separate on- and off-premise pricing.

•    Kansas

•    Oklahoma

•    Virginia

•    New Hampshire

•    Utah

•    New York

•    Arizona

•    Washington

•    Idaho

•    Oregon

•    Montana

•    New Jersey

•    Mississippi

•    North Carolina

•    Ohio

•    Pennsylvania

  In addition, quantity discounts are restricted in Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Missouri, Minnesota, North Carolina, Ohio and Oklahoma.

  Next, Lewis and Eddy addressed state-controlled and franchise markets. Unless one has particu-larly strong relationships in an individual state, these markets do not represent an ideal place to start, and it can become difficult to change distributors should the need arise.

  The state-controlled markets are in Pennsylvania, Mississippi, Utah, Wyoming, New Hampshire and Maryland (Montgomery County), where the wholesaler acts as a broker to the state, or you sell directly to the state as the manufacturer, creating another “tier” to sell through.

  The franchise market is loosely defined as a market or defined territory in which one has a con-tractually binding agreement of representation with a wholesaler. Generally speaking, franchise markets protect the wholesaler or distributor from losing revenue and brands they’ve worked to build over time. Before entering into one of these markets, research the franchise law agreements for that particular state and define the parameters around potential future releases. If possible, sign a contract with these parameters. Thirteen states are currently under a franchise market.

•   Connecticut

•   Georgia

•   Idaho

•   Maine

•   Massachusetts

•   Michigan

•   Montana

•   New Mexico

•   North Carolina

•   Ohio

•   Tennessee

•   Vermont

•   Virginia

  The final market type they addressed was price posting. In certain markets, the winery and dis-tributor must post their wholesale pricing in advance with the state. The five states that require monthly price postings are Connecticut, Delaware, Missouri, New Jersey and New York. Also, they touched briefly on special situations like SS packs, Cuvée cases, and other “work-around methods” in pricing wines for different premise-types.

Choosing a Wholesale Distributor

  Lewis and Eddy advocate asking your pre-existing relationships which distributors they would recommend. Also, define the distribution partner’s territory and assess if their market focus is in sync with those markets you’re looking to target. Then look at those distributors and determine where your positioning might be within their portfolio.

  Examine the number of their active accounts with a particular focus on those deemed their key accounts. Will a new brand get buried because they represent other similar varietals that will re-ceive greater attention from this distributor, or can they market a new brand effectively? Does the pricing for your wine fit in with this distributor’s portfolio? Where are their most active sales channels? For example, if a distributor primarily targets bars and restaurants for sales, they will not be the best fit for a winery looking to enter the retail market.

  Lewis added that another huge part of this equation is the sales team and territory. “You might end up splitting a state up because these mid-level and smaller distributors aren’t big enough to cover an entire state.”

  Be sure to explore the distributor’s overall operation. What is the size of their staff, and is this staff commissioned? Who are the key decision-makers, and what is their overall reputation with-in the wine industry? Is there an ownership change or other management issues? Are they look-ing to consolidate or expand? What is their timeline for paying their wineries, and do they pay them on time? Does their warehouse and inventory practices work for your particular needs?

  They recommend the SevenFifty website https://go.sevenfifty.com/ as a valuable source in identifying brand competitors and researching distributors, as well as price positioning and mar-ket positioning. The website also allows you to look at which producers wholesale distributors have in their book.

Launching a Wholesale Distribution Program

  Before releasing a particular wine, be sure your sales reps and brand managers have adequate resources so they can tell the story behind this vintage. Be clear where you want your wine sold, as well as the pricing for placements. Along those lines, register your labels when applicable, and allow for ample time for this registration process to be completed. Determine if you need addi-tional staff to manage both this new sales channel and inventory.

  When planning a market visit to a distributor, timing is everything. Many distributors hold their general sales meetings on Mondays and Fridays, with most of their sales staff in attendance. Hence, these meetings represent an opportunity to tell the brand’s story and have the staff taste these wines.

  When going on a distributor ride-along, be mindful that most ride-alongs occur Tuesday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The typical visit is six accounts, though it could be any-where from five to nine with a break for lunch. (You will be expected to pay for lunch). Ask to see a list of accounts you will be visiting in advance. In particular, you need to know if you are visiting on- or off-premise accounts, as that will impact your attire and the sales materials you need to bring. Know your pricing and be prepared with collateral. During these visits, be flexi-ble. The distributor arranged an entire day of appointments around your wines, so be mindful when they need to do tasks such as putting in an order. Also, expect the occasional cancellation.

  A few things Eddy suggested to keep in mind once you have a distributor in place include monthly tracking to check your inventory and update your distributor on progress versus goals. He said wineries should know when it’s time to change pricing and be aware of chain presenta-tion schedules. “You need to be clear with your distributor regarding where you want your wines sold.”

  Finally, nothing is more important than having a plan. “Have a plan going in. Check up on it, and follow up,” said Eddy.

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard During Wildfire Season

By: Michael Harding, Senior Risk Solution Specialist, Markel Specialty

Weather conditions and natural disasters occasionally take a toll on vineyards and other agricultural production systems. Due to climate change and recurring droughts, some of which are severe, the frequency and severity of wildfires is expected to increase. These risks highlight the need for winegrowers and winery owners to be as prepared as possible to reduce risk.

Putting Your Plan Together

  Many wineries may have already revisited their evacuation plans and filed them with their respective state agencies. Staying current of wildfire season developments can help enhance your ongoing planning and preparedness. Technology can also support your wildland fire planning and response. Additional planning resources by the American Red Cross are available at: www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire.html

Steps to Take Before a Wildland Fire Event

•    Take a close look at your winery’s communication protocol for evacuations. Everyone should have a clear understanding of any community alarms that signal when you need to evacuate. Assign specific accountabilities to staff so everyone works collectively to achieve a positive outcome of protecting lives and property.

•    Work with your regional Forest Service to better understand emergency evacuation procedures in your area.

•    Coordinate with the American Red Cross, FEMA, and other emergency agencies to give them the locations of your evacuation sites. Invite your local fire department out as part of a fire pre-incident plan. They should be provided a map of your property, highlighting planned evacuation routes. They can also offer technical assistance to support your plan.

•    Prepare and post route maps for each site, including alternate routes. With a large fire, you may need to use “Plan B.”

•    Consider forming a cooperative agreement with another site to share resources and serve as an evacuation site.

•    Identify key equipment to be evacuated, including computers and other vital records. As part of your business continuity planning, programs should already have information backed up and stored remotely. But, in case you don’t, practice removing this equipment as part of your practice response.

•    Stock an ample supply of water and easily-prepared foods until rescue arrives.

Controlling Wildland Fire Exposures

  Wildland fires are one of the most catastrophic threats to wineries.  Protecting your structures from ignition and fire damage is an important program objective second only to an evacuation plan. Taking precautions ahead of time can help reduce the exposure of a wildfire intrusion. There are a number of proactive measures a winery can take to mitigate the property damage a wildland fire can cause.

  To support a fire adaptive community philosophy, the local fire department or authority having jurisdiction for your winery should require you to develop a landscape plan for your property. It is wise to seek their advice and incorporate their recommendations as you develop a plan specific to your location. You can learn more about fire adaptive community planning at the Fire Adaptive Communities, www.fireadapted.org

  According to the NFPA 1144 – Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fires, fire protection plans should address four zones around a property.

What are the primary threats to property during a wildfire?

Research around property destruction vs. property survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way that the majority of properties ignite in wildfires. Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind, they can cause spot fires and ignite structures, debris and other objects.

  There are methods for property owners to prepare their structures to withstand ember attacks and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the structure or any attachments. Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown structures ignite due to the condition of the structure and everything around it, up to 200’ from the foundation.  This is called the Structure Ignition Zone.

What is the Structure Ignition Zone?

  The concept of the structure ignition zone was developed by retired USDA Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990’s, following some breakthrough experimental research into how structures ignite due to the effects of radiant heat. 

The structure ignition zone is divided into three zones; immediate, intermediate and extended.

Immediate Zone

  The structure and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the structure; defined as a non-combustible area. Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers.

  START WITH THE STRUCTURES then move into the landscaping section of the Immediate Zone.

•    Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.

•    Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.

•    Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8” metal mesh screening.

•    Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8” metal mesh screening to reduce embers.

•    Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.

•    Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – wooden pallets, mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Intermediate Zone

  5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the structure.  Landscaping/hardscaping – employing careful landscaping or creating breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior.

•    Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.

•    Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.

•    Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of 4”.

•    Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns. Prune trees up to 6-10’ from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.

•    Space trees to have a minimum of 18’ between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.

•    Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than 10’ to the edge of the structure.

•    Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.

Extended Zone

  30-100’, out to 200’. Landscaping – the goal here is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.

•    Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.

•    Remove dead plant and tree material.

•    Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.

•    Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.

•    Trees 30 to 60’ from the structure should have at least 12’ between canopy tops.

•    Trees 60 to 100’ from the structure should have at least 6’ between the canopy tops.

If an Evacuation Becomes Evident

•    If possible, identify the location and direction of the fire event. Remain cognizant that this can quickly change direction and speed.

•    Clearly explain your evacuation procedures to all that may be involved.

•    Identify special medical needs and gather emergency equipment and necessities, including trauma supplies for ready access.

•    Designate enough vehicles to evacuate everyone safely. Reinforce safe driving practices with all drivers.

•    Equip staff with emergency communications equipment (cell phones, walkie-talkies, whistles, flares, colored smoke canisters, etc.). Ask your local jurisdiction authority for suggestions.

•    Load key equipment, vital records, food, and water.

•    Ask qualified associates to disconnect and move LP gas tanks to a safer location, such as a gravel lot, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions to empty the tanks.

•    Warn firefighters of underground fuel storage or LP gas tanks before you leave.

  Making your facility fire resistant can help reduce property loss. However, keep in mind that these steps should be done only by assigned staff in conjunction with an evacuation and never require or allow staff to remain behind. Close and secure all doors and windows once combustible materials have been moved away from these openings.

•    Wet down buildings and roofs. There are commercial grade fire retardant products available that can help support your efforts to protect your property. But do your research ahead of time; and don’t let the application of these products reduce the priority of evacuating.

•    Have qualified personnel cut down trees in the fire path, bulldoze a firebreak, and cut field grass as short as possible.

•    Remove brush and dry vegetation near buildings.

Fire evacuation – What you need to know

  During wildfire season, you may be forced to evacuate in a hurry. People are your first priority; to include guests, staff and firefighters. Most fire evacuations provide at least a three-hour notice; but due to the scope of your operation, you may need to do it sooner. Take proactive steps before and during an evacuation to reduce anxiety and avoid injuries. Plan, prepare and practice.

Filing Claims

  In the event your area experiences a wildfire event, it is highly likely it will not only be monitored by your insurance agent, in addition to your insurance company. Pre-loss documentation, such as video recordings and pictures of buildings, business personal property inventories, should be up to date and included as part of your evacuation materials. Working with your agent is a great resource to understand what might be necessary to help with documentation, if you should need it.

Reference

•    NFPA 1144 – Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fires, 2018 Edition. National Fire Protection Association. Quincy, MA 02169, 2018

•    Fire Adaptive Communities. Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network.

      www.fireadaptednetwork.org

•    Wildfire Safety.http://www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire.html. © 2019 The American National Red Cross

  This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability.  This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice.  Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.   Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

Are You Seeing the “Low Hanging Grapes?”

(What if OSHA Came Knocking at Your Door?)

Frequent Winery OSHA Violations – Are You in Compliance?

By: Michael Harding, Senior Risk Solution Specialist, Markel Specialty

If you’ve been doing this for a while, no one needs to tell you that operating a winery is NOT a simple business. There are many things to pay attention to in order to run your winery efficiently. You have to contend with regulatory approval, deal with all of the aspects of making your wine, obtain the right equipment, staffing, marketing & sales as well as sanitation and waste management – just to mention a few. Oh yea, don’t forget safety and OSHA compliance! Is that also on your list of things to manage?

  You might think that safety is just common sense and that your employees will always  work safely while on the job. This is not always the case. Each year thousands of employees die from work-related deaths and thousands more are injured on the job, many of which require numerous days away from work. This not only causes pain and stress for the employee and family but also costs employers (such as you) billions of dollars each year.

  The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA, commonly called the OSH Act)was enacted in 1970 to “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions to preserve our human resources”. This OSH Act consists of a number of safety and health regulations that employers are required to follow. The OSH Act also allows states to enact their own safety and health laws as long as they are at least as strict (meaning some states regulate more than others) as the federal standards. As a winery, you are required to comply with these standards (either federal or your state’s program). So how do you think you doing?

  If you’ve never experienced an OSHA inspection, the National Safety Council has an excellent article, “What to expect when OSHA is inspecting” that can provide you with valuable insight regarding OSHA inspections. This article also highlights a list of programs that require records and proof documents that you may need to be maintaining.

  For this article, we’ll highlight frequently cited federal OSHA regulations for wineries (within NAICS Code of 312130) during the past year as well as violations cited in California (with one of the larger state OSHA programs and a large number of wineries).  We hope you and your winery find this information useful. We suggest you use this information to develop a checklist that you can use to help improve your safety program, where needed, and perform inspections to help you “see the low hanging grapes” regarding OSHA compliance. Of course, there may be  other safety regulations that may also apply to your winery so you’ll want to consider seeking out professional advice regarding any additional standards that may apply.

  Should you need help with any of these regulations, you can contact your local state OSHA office; most of them have a free voluntary compliance division that can offer free advice and assistance. They can also provide you with the specifics of each of the regulations governing your state.

Frequent Winery Violations

  Below you will find some of the frequently cited OSHA regulations within the winery industry. If you click on the heading of each, it will take you directly to the federal OSHA regulation.

  General Duty Clause: OSHA requires that each employer “furnish to each of its employees a workplace that is free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm to its employees.”

  With this you’re expected to identify and correct any health or safety hazards present in your work environment. This is a “high level” standard and a serious responsibility that you as an employer must address to reduce the chances of one of your employees being injured or harmed. OSHA provides guidance on what elements should be included in an effective occupational safety and health program.

  Some states (such as California) even require that employers develop a written “Injury and Illness Prevention Program” (IIPP) which is a basic safety program tailored to your winery operations. As part of an IIPP you are required to identify the hazards within your workplace and how you can eliminate or reduce them.

  Hazard Communication:  This standard requires that you must provide your employees information about the hazardous substances to which they might be exposed. This needs to be a written program that outlines your winery’s policies and procedures. You must use Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), appropriate labels and other forms of warning, along with training to make sure your employees understand the substances and how to protect themselves.

  Permit-Required Confined Spaces:  Generally speaking a confined space is a space not intended for continuous occupancy and has limited means for entry or exit. These have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere and other potential safety or health hazards. Fermentation tanks, silos and sumps are examples and must be evaluated to determine if they meet the definition of “permit required.” In turn you must prepare the space before entry and test the atmosphere with a calibrated direct-reading testing device. This standard also requires a written program that outlines how your winery will comply with the regulations governing confined space entry.

  Respiratory Protection:  Wherever needed, this regulation requires a written program that governs how your winery will select and use all respirator types ranging anywhere from disposable dust masks all the way up to a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). With this you must develop written worksite- specific procedures.

  Medical Services and First Aid:  As an employer, you need to ensure that medical advice and consultation on matters of winery health are readily available. Since most wineries are not in close proximity to a medical facility, you need to have a person or persons adequately trained to provide first aid AND have adequate first aid supplies readily available. If you have any corrosive chemicals that your employees could be exposed to, then you need to have quick drenching or flushing capabilities provided in your work area for immediate emergency use.

  Emergency Eyewash and Shower Equipment:  The most common citation from this regulation is the lack of or insufficiency of an emergency eye wash. You must have an emergency eye wash whenever the eyes of one of your employees might come in contact with a substance that can cause corrosion, permanent tissue damage or severe irritation to their eyes, such as a fork truck lead battery charging station. Eye wash stations must meet certain criteria as defined in ANSI Z358.1-2014 and either be plumbed or have a self-contained reservoir capable of providing at least a 15 minute hands-free flow of continuous water.

  Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):  This is OSHA’s standard for governing personal protective equipment. As an employer, you must provide and employees must wear appropriate PPE whenever they could become injured or sick by not wearing it. This standard, linked above, places the responsibility of determining the where, what, when, how along with proper storage and care on each winery.

  Flexible Cords & other Assorted Electrical Hazards:  This is a common violation among wineries. Flexible extensions cords are frequently cited for misuse and abuse. Generally speaking you cannot use flexible cords to provide electricity to a piece of equipment when you should have installed an electric outlet. Also, you can’t connect one extension cord to another and then to another (also referred to as a “daisy chain”); you cannot extend cords through walls, windows or doors. You should have someone knowledgeable in this standard review your facility to identify any electrical concerns so that they can be quickly remedied.

  Moving Parts of Machinery or Equipment:  You can be cited for a machine guarding violation when moving parts of your equipment are not properly protecting the operator and other employees. Just think about an area where an employee could get part of their body injured by moving portions of your machinery or equipment. Crushing areas, bottling lines and conveyors are but a few examples that should be evaluated to make sure that they are adequately guarded. Your maintenance shop also should be regularly inspected to make sure that tools such as grinders and saws and the like have proper guards in place. Bottom line – if someone can get any part of their body into a moving part while it’s in operation, it probably should be guarded.

  Guardrails and Elevated Work Locations:  Your winery can be cited for not installing guardrails on the open sides of work areas that are more than 30 inches above the floor, ground, or surrounding working areas. Examples that might require guarding include platforms or other elevated locations which are accessed for maintenance or storage.

  A standard guardrail consists of a top rail, midrail, and posts. You must also install a toe board if falling tools or materials would be a hazard to employees working below. The vertical height of the guardrail must be 42 to 45 inches measured from the upper surface of the top rail. The guardrails must support 20 pounds per linear foot applied either horizontally or vertically downward on the rail.

Conclusion

  The intent of this article is to ensure that safety and health regulatory compliance is both “on your radar” and a recurring part of your business focus. By inspecting these and other safety and health matters in and around your winery, you can be in a better position to address the “low hanging grapes” and enhance the overall safety and well-being of your employees.

  This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability.  This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice.  Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.   Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.

  *Markel Specialty is a business division of Markel Service, Incorporated, the underwriting manager for the Markel affiliated insurance companies.

Software for Wineries: Time-saving Technology Lifts Wineries to Higher Levels of Productivity

Credit: Vintrace

By: Cheryl Gray

Software applications are helping wineries worldwide manage day-to-day operations from vineyard to table, including that often elusive commodity: time. From tracking product inventory to monitoring grapes’ ripeness, time-saving winery software choices are available for virtually every business need. The question of what applications are on the market is immediately followed by where to find it.

  Process2Wine:  Leave it to the south of France to provide an answer by way of Process2Wine, a cloud-based SaaS vineyard and winery production management platform for desktop and mobile devices, developed by Ertus Group in Bordeaux, France. Created by a team of technicians, winemakers and oenologists, Process2Wine has been in use in wine regions of France, including Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne and Languedoc, since 2013. To expand into the United States, Ertus Group acquired Wine Management Systems in 2018. Clement Chivite, an experienced winemaker turned business manager in California, spearheaded the adaptation of Process2Wine to fit the U.S. and Canadian markets.

  “With Process2Wine, you can record all operations from vine to bottle. The software helps winemakers and growers manage record keeping and allows them to monitor their production by creating reporting at every stage of the winemaking process. Comparing procedures, inputs, analyses and costs year-over-year helps viticulturists and winemakers make the right decisions and find efficiencies based on accurate data. Plus, it saves so much time to be able to generate a 5140 report or a pesticide use report at the click of a button.

  “The software is continuously being updated. Our R&D aims to help the industry respond to new challenges, such as climate change, using the internet of things and precision agriculture.”

  Process2Wine customer assistance includes training sessions, online support and direct contact with client account managers.

  Vintrace:  Arriving from Australia to the U.S. in 2008, vintrace is a cloud-based global competitor, serving wineries of all sizes in North and South America, Europe, New Zealand and its native Australia.  Heather Crawford, general manager for the company’s North American division, told The Grapevine Magazine why the word “trace” is part of the company’s name.

  “Starting in the vineyard with assessments for harvest planning, creating bookings, writing work orders for grape processing, labs and all movements, ending with the final packaging and tracking of inventory, vintrace enables every part of the winery. With accurate, real-time information, time is saved at critical moments, like harvest, and fewer mistakes are made as all tanks, all vessels and all wines are tracked.”

  Crawford added that using vintrace’s application programming interface makes it possible for clients to expand the software’s productivity.

“Increasingly, we are seeing wineries extract production information from vintrace to put alongside other data, such as planning and forecasting, in tools like Microsoft Power BI, to better measure their operations. Using vintrace APIs makes this completely self-service.”

  Clients have access to either self-help or hands-on technical support from the vintrace team. Crawford said the application increases scanning capabilities and is available on Android and iOS for mobile connectivity.

  TeraVina:  Oztera, based in Pleasanton, California, partnered with Microsoft to offer TeraVina, a winery software application built on the Microsoft Dynamics Business Central (NAV) platform. Oztera provides both cloud-based and computer-installed winery software. Michael Stallman is the company’s director of business development.

  “We took the base functionality and underlying technology from Microsoft and extended that solution to provide winery specific functionality. We were fortunate to work with some very prestigious wineries and seasoned industry veterans to really focus on winery requirements and automating common tasks. We continue to grow our solution to meet the needs of all our clients and push the buck on technology. It is important to note that we can move more quickly with changing technology trends because we have Microsoft behind us. We can extend their technologies to keep up with the larger market and not bootstrap wineries to specific technologies.”

  Oztera can also apply its toolset to integrate with external systems, allowing wineries to keep existing functions they like and improve the output of others, even if that application is an Oztera competitor.

  “A good example is a recent integration with Winemaker’s Database. We encountered a scenario where the winemaking team really liked where they were at with their winemaking systems, but the rest of the business needed help. While on the surface, WMDB is a competitor of ours, we were willing to work with them and provide a solution that helped our client achieve their goals.  We delivered a system that provided them with the gains they needed on other fronts while building a bridge to WMDB, making that part of their business more streamlined. “

  VinNOW:  Another choice for wineries with small budgets looking for big package solutions is VinNOW, the brainchild of Ted Starr. A software engineer, Starr put his 40 years in the industry to work by creating a software system that he said can handle just about anything. 

  “VinNOW was created in 1999 as a custom program for wineries with a need: telesales, customer records, inventory tracking, order discounting and invoicing. It has been growing ever since to include point of sale, robust wine club processing, QuickBooks integration, compliance and shipping integrations with multiple vendors, comprehensive reporting and time cards, to name a few. “

  Starr and his wife, Deanna, an experienced winemaker, use VinNOW in their Milano Family Winery, based in Hopland, California. He explained to The Grapevine Magazine how the software helps to save time. 

  “We utilize our integration with ShipCompliant to collect and submit various states’ compliance reporting for sales tax and excise taxes, saving countless valuable hours of time. Our extensive reporting capabilities allow us to get the information needed to complete various reporting requirements such as sales tax, wine sales by alcohol level, and shipments, inside and outside of our state. 

  In addition, we use our VinTracker bulk wine and custom crush billing module to track the wine’s containers, volume and work performed, as well as generating work orders for current work to be completed.”

  Starr said that VinNOW offers an alternative to cloud-based software systems, which can be a problem for wineries with poor internet connections.

  “As many wineries are in areas which experience this, that is a major challenge.  On a busy day, if you can’t use the solution, you lose sales. Using software that is on your computer ensures you are in charge of your data – it is located at your site. With cloud-based systems, if your internet is down or slows, it will hinder your ability to sell your products.”

  Starr added that product installation and data maintenance are intuitive and VinNow also comes with free unlimited live support and training. New features and functions are added continuously, including some adaptations to accommodate the demands that COVID-19 restrictions have placed upon wineries.

  “We have redesigned our point of sale to facilitate the sales process. We are also able to process credit card transactions away from the winery or tasting room.”

  InnoVint:  Ashley Leonard started her career as a winemaker nearly a decade ago.  Frustrated by winery software that didn’t quite fit her needs, Leonard founded InnoVint, a cloud-based, mobile software solution managing all aspects of the winery. Backed by a team of experienced winemakers and modern software engineers, Leonard said her company is the first to bring mobile-driven software to the wine industry.

  “The software goes beyond activity tracking as a digital workflow productivity tool, uniting winery teams both within production and with other departments such as finance and compliance. Daily activity is recorded in real-time, whether in the vineyard, the lab, the cellar or on-the-go. Production integrates seamlessly with compliance and costing, so the winery has confidence that their entire operation is running smoothly.”

  Leonard said that InnoVint puts the winery back in charge of time management, taking the head-scratching out of technology use.

  “Winemakers are not software gurus. They shouldn’t have to waste their time figuring out clunky, legacy databases to fit their unique processes. They deserve purpose-built software that caters directly to their specific vineyard and winery activities. InnoVint is designed by a team of winemakers with 75 harvests under our belt, and it shows in how catered our solution is for them.

  Whether the winery is a small boutique producer, large custom crush operator or bulk wine supplier, we save them hours of time per week by reducing communication friction, bringing relevant winemaking data to the surface and uniting production with the other departments at the winery through a single pane of glass.”

SAFETY FOR YOUR WINERY:

Have You Fortified Your Workers’ Compensation Program?

Even though there may be many aspects that are similar, the safety programs for every winery will in all likelihood look very different. Like any other effort to manage your risks, your plan will need to identify the risks you face and in turn determine how they will be managed.

There are many hazardous activities carried out in the wine industry that can result in a serious injury or even death if not managed properly. Your risks may include things such as:

•   The physical work environment

•   Occupational hazards(i.e. slips and falls, chemicals, cuts/lacerations)

•   Machinery, processing and substances used

•   Work practices and systems of work

•   Special events involving live music, weddings, special tastings, etc.

  A commitment to managing these safety and health risks is a great way for your winery to protect your greatest resource – your people. Spending time on health and safety can help create a better work environment and improve your worker morale. Winery accidents on the other hand, due to a lack of this kind of commitment, can have an immense impact on your injured workers, their co-workers and on their families in terms of pain, suffering, disability, stress and loss or change of employment. Your winery can incur direct costs that may include claims costs, increased insurance premiums, and fines. There are also indirect costs, which may include damage to property, the cost of finding and training temporary employees, and production or service interruption leading to loss of customers.  The total cost of an accident can be significant.

  At first, managing workers’ compensation for your winery may seem like a daunting task. You want to protect your employees while still keeping your premiums as low as possible.  There are many challenges to address. Avoiding accidents is a sure way to not only protect your employees but also keep your premium costs down. Where do you start? What should you focus on? A good way for you to begin is to identify areas that warrant your initial safety efforts by asking a few basic questions:

•    How frequently do safety incidents arise?

•    How will our management deal with them?

•    Who is responsible for mitigation efforts?

•    What costs are associated with each event?

•    What costs are associated with initiatives to mitigate them?

•    What safety and legal regulations are applicable to our organization?

•    What are the training and recordkeeping requirements?

  You might also ask your insurance agent to help you answer some of the questions above so you can determine your safety risks and in turn start putting together a safety program to specifically address your winery’s risks. In OSHA’s “Safety and Health Program Management Guidelines”, they suggest the following core elements be included in a Safety and Health Program to aid in managing workplace risks:

•    Management Leadership

      a) Top management demonstrates its commitment to continuous improvement in safety and health, communicates that commitment to workers, and sets program expectations and responsibilities.

      b) Managers at all levels make safety and health a core organizational value, establish safety and health goals and objectives, provide adequate resources and support for the program, and set a good example.

•    Worker Participation

      a) Workers and their representatives are involved in all aspects of the program—including setting goals, identifying and reporting hazards, investigating incidents, and tracking progress.

      b) All workers, including contractors and temporary workers, understand their roles and responsibilities under the program and what they need to do to effectively carry them out.

      oWorkers are encouraged and have a means to communicate openly with management and to report safety and health concerns without fear of retaliation.

      c) Any potential barriers or obstacles to worker participation in the program (for example, language, lack of information, or disincentives) are removed or addressed.

•    Hazard Identification and Assessment

      a) Procedures are put in place to continually identify workplace hazards and evaluate risks.

      oAn initial assessment of existing hazards and control measures is followed by periodic inspections and reassessments to identify new hazards.

•    Hazard Prevention and Control

      a) Employers and workers cooperate to identify and select options for eliminating, preventing, or controlling workplace hazards.

      b) A plan is developed that ensures controls are implemented, interim protection is provided, progress is tracked, and the effectiveness of controls is verified.

•    Education and Training

      a) All workers are trained to understand how the program works and how to carry out the responsibilities assigned to them under the program.

      b) All workers are trained to recognize workplace hazards and to understand the control measures that have been implemented.

•    Program Evaluation and Improvement

      a) Control measures are periodically evaluated for effectiveness.

      b) Processes are established to monitor program performance,  verify program implementation, identify program deficiencies and opportunities for improvement, and take actions necessary to improve the program and overall safety and health performance.

•    Coordination and Communication on Multiemployer Worksites

      a) The host employer and all contract employers coordinate on work planning and scheduling to identify and resolve any conflicts that could impact safety or health.

      b) Workers from both the host and contract employer are informed about the hazards present at the worksite and the hazards that work of the contract employer may create on site.

  By having an organized and integrated approach to the safety and health program for your winery, you can be well on your way to better managing the welfare of your employees and avoiding accidents and their associated costs.

Understanding Workers’ Compensation Basics

  Workers’ compensation was one of the first insurance programs adopted broadly throughout the United States.   It is designed to provide a satisfactory way to address the medical and economic aspects of employment related injuries.

  With this insurance, your workers’ are provided benefits for certain conditions sustained in the course of employment such as injury, disability, and death.  These benefits are paid without regard to fault in exchange for the worker giving up their right to sue  their employer.

  Most states have compulsory workers’ compensation laws requiring  employers to accept and comply with all provisions of the law. The purpose of these workers’ compensation laws is to provide benefits for any of your employees who suffer an occupational injury or disease. 

Important Wording Within These Laws Include:

•    A definition of “occupational injury” that appears in many state workers’ compensation laws is an injury “arising out of and in the course of employment.” 

•    “Arising out of employment” is generally interpreted to mean that the injury must arise out of a risk which is reasonably related to the employment. 

•    “In the course of employment” is generally interpreted to mean that for an injury to be compensable, it must occur when the worker is at work, during the hours in which they are expected to be there, and while they are engaged in the work that they are employed to do.  In other words it has to do with the time, place, and circumstances of the injury.

  While early workers’ compensation laws had no provisions for occupational disease, each state has now either incorporated occupational disease coverage into workers’ compensation  law or passed separate disease legislation.

  All workers’ compensation laws incorporate four types of benefits: Medical, Disability, Rehabilitation, and Survivor also known as death benefits.

•    Medical benefits provide payment for the medical treatment of an injured worker.  

•    Disability benefits compensate workers who are unable to work as a result of a work-related injury.

•    Most states have laws addressing workers’ compensation rehabilitation benefits and every state accepts the provisions of the Federal Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 

•    Survivor also called “Death Benefits” attempt to compensate a surviving spouse, children or other relatives of a worker whose death results from an on-the-job injury.

  The most common funding method to pay for these benefits is a workers’ compensation insurance policy from a private insurance company.  Under this method you, as an employer transfer all compensation obligations to your insurance company, which then pays worker benefits to your employees and handles other details required by law. 

Fundamentals of Managing Workers’ Compensation Safety Program

  Reducing the frequency and severity of claims is the best way you can contain your total cost of workers’ compensation.  Written safety programs that address the hazards your employees are exposed,  along with top management support and effective employee training not only help reduce direct claims expense, but eliminate the indirect or “hidden” costs of workers’ compensation claims.  These programs can produce substantial savings for your winery over time, since related expenses such as: loss of services, cost of training a new worker, temporary help, and administrative expense are often multiples of the direct claims costs incurred.

Claim Investigation

  Your supervisors and managers will play a key role in preventing claims and must understand the importance of thoroughly investigating the causes of injuries and taking appropriate corrective action to eliminate unsafe conditions and practices that produce claims.   It is frequently your supervisors who play a pivotal role in the opportunity for, and success of return-to-work programs including: modified duty and transitional work programs.

  Actions taken by your supervisors immediately after an injury occurs can have a major impact on the ultimate disposition of your claims.  These individuals are critical since they are frequently the first to know of claims and have the initial opportunity to investigate, direct and manage events.

Claim Reporting

  Prompt reporting of insurance claims should be encouraged and is considered a best practice in workers’ compensation.  There are significant benefits for promptly reporting all of your employee injuries.  This includes:

•    Most states have reporting requirements for insureds to report claims on a timely basis and may impose monetary fines as a penalty for failing to report claims.

•    Prompt reporting allows the claim adjuster to complete a timely investigation of the loss to determine compensability and to determine an appropriate plan of action for resolving the claim.

•    “Red flag indicators” of fraud are able to be detected and this allows the carrier to determine whether a case should be referred for surveillance or if there is an opportunity to pursue subrogation against a negligent third party.

•    The prompt reporting of injuries allows medical treatment to occur within specialized occupational medical clinics familiar with treating workers’ compensation injuries with a focus on facilitating an early return-to-work to promote quicker healing.

•    In some states, workers’ compensation benefits may be reduced (or altogether denied) if there is confirmed evidence of alcohol or a prohibited drug on a post incident drug test.

Medical Control/Provider Selection and Management

  Proper selection of workers’ compensation medical providers, combined with effective referral procedures and ongoing provider communication programs can significantly reduce your claims expense. Medical providers must understand your winery operations and human resources philosophies, should specialize in occupational medicine, and be willing to work closely with your insurer.

Return-to-Work

  It is well established that returning injured employees to the workforce in a timely manner substantially decreases both direct and indirect costs.  Programs that focus on managing temporary disability, permanent disability and early return-to-work will have the greatest impact on reducing claims expense and increasing employee satisfaction and productivity.

  There are many approaches to establishing return-to-work programs, based on your winery’s culture and individual needs. They range from simple “modified duty” plans to fully integrated “total absence management” programs seeking to use the same practices and protocols to manage all time off work – both occupational and non-occupational injury and illness. In addition to reducing workers’ compensation expense, these programs can decrease your exposure under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other similar federal and state laws.

Know your Experience Rating or Experience Modification

  An experience rating or modification provides a financial incentive to reduce workplace accidents.  The rating does not apply to all employers.  Most small employers are not eligible.  Visit with your insurance agent to determine if or when you may qualify for an experience modification.

  An experience modification compares your winery’s loss or claims history to all other companies in the same industry that are similar in size.  A modification of less than 1.00 reflects better than average losses while over 1.00 reflects worse than average losses.  The modification increases or decreases the cost of your winery’s workers’ compensation insurance premium.  It must be applied to your policy regardless of the insurer.

Conclusion

  There are many things to consider as you attempt to “fortify” your workers’ compensation” exposures. Not only do you need to have controls in place to manage the safety and health risks inherent to your winery you also need to have systems in place to manage a claim should it occur. Having an integrated management system such as this can greatly help your winery in addressing these risks.

  This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice.  Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.  

© 2020 Markel Service, Incorporated.  All rights reserved. 

Don’t Get Caught Off Guard During Wildfire Season: Tips For Your Winery

Weather conditions and natural disasters occasionally take a toll on vineyards and other agricultural production systems. Due to climate change and recurring droughts, some of which are severe, the frequency and severity of wildfires is expected to increase. These risks highlight the need for winegrowers and winery owners to be as prepared as possible to reduce risk.

Putting Your Plan Together

  Many wineries may have already revisited their evacuation plans and filed them with their respective state agencies. Staying current of wildfire season developments can help enhance your ongoing planning and preparedness. Technology can also support your wildland fire planning and response. Additional planning resources by the American Red Cross are available at: www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire.html

Steps to Take Before a Wildland Fire Event

•   Take a close look at your winery’s communication protocol for evacuations. Everyone should have a clear understanding of any community alarms that signal when you need to evacuate. Assign specific accountabilities to staff so everyone works collectively to achieve a positive outcome of protecting lives and property.

•   Work with your regional Forest Service to better understand emergency evacuation procedures in your area.

•   Coordinate with the American Red Cross, FEMA, and other emergency agencies to give them the locations of your evacuation sites. Invite your local fire department out as part of a fire pre-incident plan. They should be provided a map of your property, highlighting planned evacuation routes. They can also offer technical assistance to support your plan.

•   Prepare and post route maps for each site, including alternate routes. With a large fire, you may need to use “Plan B.”

•   Consider forming a cooperative agreement with another site to share resources and serve as an evacuation site.

•   Identify key equipment to be evacuated, including computers and other vital records. As part of your business continuity planning, programs should already have information backed up and stored remotely. But, in case you don’t, practice removing this equipment as part of your practice response.

•   Stock an ample supply of water and easily-prepared foods until rescue arrives.

Controlling Wildland Fire Exposures

  Wildland fires are one of the most catastrophic threats to wineries.  Protecting your structures from ignition and fire damage is an important program objective second only to an evacuation plan. Taking precautions ahead of time can help reduce the exposure of a wildfire intrusion. There are a number of proactive measures a winery can take to mitigate the property damage a wildland fire can cause.

  To support a fire adaptive community philosophy, the local fire department or authority having jurisdiction for your winery should require you to develop a landscape plan for your property. It is wise to seek their advice and incorporate their recommendations as you develop a plan specific to your location. You can learn more about fire adaptive community planning at the Fire Adaptive Communities, www.fireadapted.org

According to the NFPA 1144 – Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fires, fire protection plans should address four zones around a property.

What are the Primary Threats to Property During a Wildfire?

  Research around property destruction vs. property survival in wildfires point to embers and small flames as the main way that the majority of properties ignite in wildfires. Embers are burning pieces of airborne wood and/or vegetation that can be carried more than a mile through the wind, they can cause spot fires and ignite structures, debris and other objects.

  There are methods for property owners to prepare their structures to withstand ember attacks and minimize the likelihood of flames or surface fire touching the structure or any attachments. Experiments, models and post-fire studies have shown structures ignite due to the condition of the structure and everything around it, up to 200’ from the foundation.  This is called the Structure Ignition Zone.

What is the Structure Ignition Zone?

  The concept of the structure ignition zone was developed by retired USDA Forest Service fire scientist Jack Cohen in the late 1990’s, following some breakthrough experimental research into how structures ignite due to the effects of radiant heat. 

The structure ignition zone is divided into three zones; immediate, intermediate and extended.

Immediate Zone

  The structure and the area 0-5’ from the furthest attached exterior point of the structure; defined as a non-combustible area. Science tells us this is the most important zone to take immediate action on as it is the most vulnerable to embers.

  START WITH THE STRUCTURES then move into the landscaping section of the Immediate Zone.

•    Clean roofs and gutters of dead leaves, debris and pine needles that could catch embers.

•    Replace or repair any loose or missing shingles or roof tiles to prevent ember penetration.

•    Reduce embers that could pass through vents in the eaves by installing 1/8” metal mesh screening.

•    Clean debris from exterior attic vents and install 1/8” metal mesh screening to reduce embers.

•    Repair or replace damaged or loose window screens and any broken windows. Screen or box-in areas below patios and decks with wire mesh to prevent debris and combustible materials from accumulating.

•    Move any flammable material away from wall exteriors – wooden pallets, mulch, flammable plants, leaves and needles, firewood piles – anything that can burn. Remove anything stored underneath decks or porches.

Intermediate Zone

  5-30’ from the furthest exterior point of the structure.  Landscaping/hardscaping – employing careful landscaping or creating breaks that can help influence and decrease fire behavior

•    Clear vegetation from under large stationary propane tanks.

•    Create fuel breaks with driveways, walkways/paths, patios, and decks.

•    Keep lawns and native grasses mowed to a height of 4”.

•    Remove ladder fuels (vegetation under trees) so a surface fire cannot reach the crowns. Prune trees up to 6-10’ from the ground; for shorter trees do not exceed 1/3 of the overall tree height.

•    Space trees to have a minimum of 18’ between crowns with the distance increasing with the percentage of slope.

•    Tree placement should be planned to ensure the mature canopy is no closer than 10’ to the edge of the structure.

•    Tree and shrubs in this zone should be limited to small clusters of a few each to break up the continuity of the vegetation across the landscape.

Extended Zone

  30-100’, out to 200’. Landscaping – the goal here is not to eliminate fire but to interrupt fire’s path and keep flames smaller and on the ground.

•    Dispose of heavy accumulations of ground litter/debris.

•    Remove dead plant and tree material.

•    Remove small conifers growing between mature trees.

•    Remove vegetation adjacent to storage sheds or other outbuildings within this area.

•    Trees 30 to 60’ from the structure should have at least 12’ between canopy tops.

•    Trees 60 to 100’ from the structure should have at least 6’ between the canopy tops.

If an Evacuation Becomes evident

•    If possible, identify the location and direction of the fire event. Remain cognizant that this can quickly change direction and speed.

•    Clearly explain your evacuation procedures to all that may be involved.

•    Identify special medical needs and gather emergency equipment and necessities, including trauma supplies for ready access.

•    Designate enough vehicles to evacuate everyone safely. Reinforce safe driving practices with all drivers.

•    Equip staff with emergency communications equipment (cell phones, walkie-talkies, whistles, flares, colored smoke canisters, etc.). Ask your local jurisdiction authority for suggestions.

•    Load key equipment, vital records, food, and water.

•    Ask qualified associates to disconnect and move LP gas tanks to a safer location, such as a gravel lot, or follow the manufacturer’s instructions to empty the tanks.

•    Warn firefighters of underground fuel storage or LP gas tanks before you leave.

  Making your facility fire resistant can help reduce property loss. However, keep in mind that these steps should be done only by assigned staff in conjunction with an evacuation and never require or allow staff to remain behind. Close and secure all doors and windows once combustible materials have been moved away from these openings.

•    Wet down buildings and roofs. There are commercial grade fire retardant products available that can help support your efforts to protect your property. But do your research ahead of time; and don’t let the application of these products reduce the priority of evacuating.

•    Have qualified personnel cut down trees in the fire path, bulldoze a firebreak, and cut field grass as short as possible.

•    Remove brush and dry vegetation near buildings.

Fire Evacuation – What You Need to Know

  During wildfire season, you may be forced to evacuate in a hurry. People are your first priority; to include guests, staff and firefighters. Most fire evacuations provide at least a three-hour notice; but due to the scope of your operation, you may need to do it sooner. Take proactive steps before and during an evacuation to reduce anxiety and avoid injuries. Plan, prepare and practice.

Filing Claims

  In the event your area experiences a wildfire event, it is highly likely it will not only be monitored by your insurance agent, in addition to your insurance company. Pre-loss documentation, such as video recordings and pictures of buildings, business personal property inventories, should be up to date and included as part of your evacuation materials. Working with your agent is a great resource to understand what might be necessary to help with documentation, if you should need it.

Ref:

•    NFPA 1144 – Reducing Structure Ignition Hazards from Wildland Fires, 2018 Edition. National Fire Protection Association. Quincy, MA 02169, 2018

•    Fire Adaptive Communities. Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network. www.fireadaptednetwork.org

•    Wildfire Safety. www.redcross.org/get-help/how-to-prepare-for-emergencies/types-of-emergencies/wildfire.html. © 2019 The American National Red Cross

  This document is intended for general information purposes only, and should not be construed as advice or opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. The content of this document is made available on an “as is” basis, without warranty of any kind. This document can’t be assumed to contain every acceptable safety and compliance procedures or that additional procedures might not be appropriate under the circumstances.  Markel does not guarantee that this information is or can be relied on for compliance with any law or regulation, assurance against preventable losses, or freedom from legal liability.  This publication is not intended to be legal, underwriting, or any other type of professional advice.  Persons requiring advice should consult an independent adviser.  Markel does not guarantee any particular outcome and makes no commitment to update any information herein, or remove any items that are no longer accurate or complete.   Furthermore, Markel does not assume any liability to any person or organization for loss of damage caused by or resulting from any reliance placed on that content.