Local company manufacturing protective gowns for first responders

Posted at 10:09 AM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 16:19:22-04

A local business that is considered non-essential is changing its business model from building tree houses to fulfilling one million orders of level one protective gowns for first responders.

For the last 25 years, Daniels Wood Land in Paso Robles has produced tree houses, commercial playgrounds and theming for popular theme parks like Disneyland and Universal Studios. Andy Dauterman, the executive vice president for the company says that after Governor Gavin Newsom issued a shelter-at-home order and asked all non-essential businesses to close, the company had to lay off all 54 of its employees.

"So we immediately closed and started discussing internally how we could help," Dauterman said.

Wanting to find a way to bring back employees and help in the fight against Covid-19, the company reached out to local fire officials to see how they could help.

"They presented us with a protective gown to design, and we looked at it and it was pretty easy to disassemble and we within 24 hours produced prototypes for them, which they approved," Dauterman said.

Not only did they have the idea, but the company was able to bring back its employees and other community members who were in need of jobs.

"Since then, we have ramped up our production, we have 140 employees currently, so we're about three times the size we normally are. so we're employing people who ordinarily wouldn't have jobs right now, which is great," Dauterman said. "We have orders for nearly a million gowns at the moment."

Dauterman says the gowns, made out of a plastic sheeting, are being shipped out across the United States.

"We use a press that has a template that we created that will make multiple sheets at one time. Those are then sent to employees that will heat shield or heat sink the edges to produce the sleeves of the gowns, then they're folded, packaged up and put into boxes," Dauterman said.

With so many people working to produce the gowns, health and safety remains the top priority.

"We're working really hard to ensure everybody's safety," Dauterman said, "Everybody has masks, everybody's separated, all in the CDC guidelines."

Sterilizations crews come through the warehouse on a consistent basis to wipe down surfaces and make sure the work space is staying clean and safe for employees.

Dauterman says eventually the company will return to its normal operations when it's allowed to do so, but for now, the hard working employees are spread across three different shifts to make this a 24-7 operation.