Crisis Action Group Works to Keep Employees Safe Stephanie Neary is the NNS COVID-19 Test Center supervisor.

Crisis Action Group Works to Keep Employees Safe

Published January 20, 2021

Every weekday at 7 a.m., Engineering Manager Ryan Woolridge (O48) joins a team of shipbuilders to talk about the current COVID-19 situation at the shipyard and strategize how to keep shipbuilders safe. In his 10 years at Newport News Shipbuilding, he never expected to be a part of something like this, but sees great value in it.

“We are dealing with a pandemic that no one has experience with. We can’t go out there and attract talent who has experience dealing with this, so it helps to have a team that is dedicated to making sure our employees stay healthy and safe,” Woolridge said.

The team, known as “The CAG” or COVID-19 Crisis Action Group, was formed immediately after COVID-19 hit last March, and it has been in place ever since. Modeled after a military operational approach, the CAG draws on subject matter experts at all levels from across the shipyard to make decisions and rapidly execute the company’s response to the pandemic.

Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance, the CAG has implemented safety protocols like a shift change to assist with social distancing when the virus first hit, making masks readily available to shipbuilders, implementing temperature screenings, and setting up the testing center at Bldg. 601, to name a few. While Woolridge represents the waterfront, Emily Tavai (O20) brings her human resources experience to the team. Tavai participated in the effort to facilitate working from home during COVID-19.

“The CAG team is a very diverse group. It’s not just HR or production. There is representation from across the yard. Everyone brings a different perspective,” she said. The team members have rotated every few months, keeping diversity and ideas fresh and forthcoming.

There are 13 core members on the CAG who rely on shipbuilders throughout the yard to ensure shipbuilders’ voices are heard. A steering committee of shipyard leaders also assists with the decision-making process.

The CAG is currently assisting with vaccine distribution plans, and it will remain operational until the pandemic’s impacts subside.