With almost 40 years in the hospitality industry, Steve Jung, GM of DoubleTree by Hilton Sonoma Wine Country, has seen and experienced a lot, including his share of wildfires. HSM recently caught up with Jung to gain insights on being proactive, prepared and ready for anything when disaster strikes. Below you’ll find the highlights of our conversation.

HSM: What is your history in your industry, and when did you experience your first wildfire?

Jung: I’ve been in the industry for a long time, and with that comes a lot of experience, a lot of history and a lot of challenges throughout the years. I’ve been at my current hotel for eight years and have learned that as far as supply management goes, it’s really about preparation. In 2017, the Tubbs Fire happened in the middle of the night and really hit us by surprise. I was awakened by high winds and a phone call from a friend who ended up losing his house. When I got to the hotel around 4:30 am, the lobby was full of people who had evacuated – dogs, cats, kids, a bird, and I think we had an iguana, too. It was just mayhem.

HSM: What did you learn from that fire, and how did HSM help?

Jung: After that fire, preparation is what has really set us apart. We’ve been impacted by a fire every year since then, including this year, on top of the pandemic. The first thing is knowing that your type of guest is going to change. It’s not your corporate or group traveler, and where we are located, we’ve become kind of the hub for evacuees. So, we generally get the same people back every year, and our team knows how to handle it – what we’re serving for dinner, for breakfast, what to expect with pets – knowing what’s going to happen helps us to prepare for the hotel’s needs and the guests’ needs.

Knowing how many emergency kits, masks, batteries and water supply is huge. Sometimes we go through hundreds of cases of water, and we need enough food on hand to feed people for three or four days. The minute I have any concerns, I call HSM, and they get us what we need; so I’ve never had a supply issue. And then they’re there to help us in the aftermath with whatever items or engineering needs we have.

HSM: What has surprised you along the way?

Jung: During the clean-up after evacuees left, we had an issue with pest control because people brought all sorts of things into the hotel. Where HSM stepped in is they actually negotiated the deal with our national vendor Ecolab to get the whole property, or at least all of the meeting space, exterminated at a huge discount, which was a huge benefit for us. That’s where HSM stepped in – they will help you out with whatever you need.

HSM was also on a call with us every day, not only to make sure that supply chains were open, but also to secure price and product for air filters. That was another learning – we had to replace almost every air filter in the building because a lot of problems with fires are caused by smoke, which can travel hundreds of miles from the actual fire due to high winds.

HSM: Overall, how has your partnership with HSM helped you to get through these fires?

Jung: HSM was instrumental in making sure we had the supplies that we needed because everyone in Sonoma County was trying to secure the same things, like air filters and N-95 masks, and HSM stepped up to the plate and made sure we got them. They played a critical role in ensuring that our supply chains were still open with our national vendors.

We work hand-in-hand with the Red Cross who uses our hotel as a volunteer site. We’ve also became a donation center for the community and have raised over $1M in kind giving. And we are in a position to reach out to them and say, “What do you need from us?” because HSM takes the pressure off. I know they will take care of it, so I don’t worry.

HSM: Recently with the pandemic, how has HSM been helpful with relief and recovery?

Jung: They play a critical role in our success, because whenever we are looking for items, it’s a quick email or call. I have friends at independent hotels who can’t find product; we’re all under pressure financially. During the pandemic, people have been so impressed that I had Lysol. With HSM, I have access to their buying power, and, whatever I need, I just call and they can always find it. That’s why this relationship is extremely important.

Published: March 01, 2021

Category: News