Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog


The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact communities across the country and many emergency management, public health, and other government officials are finding themselves in unprecedented territory. They are grappling to sustain response efforts with simultaneous recovery operations underway. With mass-dispensing of a COVID-19 vaccine several months away, organizations need to position themselves to effectively manage concurrent response and recovery operations and using data to analyze trends can help do so.

Harnessing data to maximize Capabilities in pandemic response

During response efforts, officials are overwhelmed with data and reports, and it can be easy for critical data elements to be overlooked. It is important to remember, metrics really tell the narrative and should be used to inform the decision-making process.

When analyzing COVID-19 data and identifying trends in partnership with epidemiologists, it is important to consider these key health indicators:

  • Rolling case counts
  • Positivity rates
  • Demographic information on COVID-19 cases
  • Predictive case count modeling
  • Hospitalization rates
  • ICU bed capacity
  • Mortality rates

As healthcare systems are stretched to the brink, accurate data is important to critical to help inform resourcing and priority material distributions (i.e., therapeutics, testing supplies, and personal protective equipment [PPE]). As such, officials should establish a plan for ensuring they have the most up-to-date, accurate information to empower them to make data-driven decisions.

Moreover, this pandemic has proved that data must be effectively analyzed to be actionable, thus turning data into intelligence – which is key to effective policy and decision-making. To help turn information into actionable data, organizations should consider following the steps in the Intelligence Cycle:

  • Establish Direction: What do you need to know?
  • Begin Collection: Where are you going to get this information?
  • Process Information: Is this information credible? What does this information tell me, and how is it relevant to what I am looking for?
  • Analyze: How does all this information come together, and what story does it tell? As intelligence, how does it support the mission?
  • Act: Now that I have this intelligence – what is next?  How urgent is it, and what medium should I utilize to effectively deliver this information?
  • Evaluate: Was my direction, collection, analysis, and dissemination effective? What were my strengths and areas for improvement?

The intelligence-gathering process is an immense task during crisis response and recovery. Emergency management agencies, health departments, and other entities operating within an Incident Command System (ICS) structure should consider the establishment of an Intelligence Section or Intelligence Unit within the Planning Section. By including an Intelligence Section or Unit in your incident structure, you have a dedicated team providing short-term and long-term data collection, and trends analysis to empower you to make data-driven, informed policy decisions – something so vital as science and facts continue to drive this pandemic response.

Understanding the Economic Impact of COVID-19

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt for years to come, to include our nation’s economic recovery.  As part of our support to Salt Lake County, Hagerty was requested to develop an Impact and Community Needs Assessment to serve as a baseline for recovery metrics.  Unlike traditional disaster recovery such as a hurricanes, fires, or floods, measuring success in COVID-19 recovery cannot be measured in homes rebuilt or by the environmental impacts of a natural disaster. The metrics Hagerty has created to provide a comprehensive and inclusive approach to recovery include:

  • Total business revenue lost;
  • Unemployment rate and workforce needs;
  • Number of businesses that applied for loans;
  • Number of businesses closed – temporarily or permanently;
  • Business operations tax revenue lost;
  • Building revenue lost;
  • Commercial activity tax revenue lost;
  • Government expenditures related to COVID-19 response and recovery; and
  • Budget shortages caused by COVID-19.

It is critical to both analyze and measure the impact on the local and state economy for successful recovery modeling, the metrics can be utilized to determine the impact and act as a benchmark for future recovery success.


With the worst pandemic since the 1918, continuing to move forward will be a challenge, and leaders must continue to think about the steps ahead. As the response to COVID-19 continues across the country, recovery planning is simultaneously occurring. As we know, a resurgence of COVID-19 cases will force recovery efforts to pivot or cease. Both response and recovery efforts rely heavily on data to inform, guide, and tell a story of success and innovation. Moreover, data collected over the course of the response can be utilized to make policy decisions regarding the reopening of local businesses, schools, and public health regulations. A general decline in COVID-19 cases is indicative of a successful public health response and adherence to public health orders. Moreover, declining case trends can be used to prompt the beginning of long-term recovery and the safe reopening of the local economy. As the mission evolves, the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 will be felt throughout communities across America for years to come.

Kevin Reppen is an Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division, having supported several emergency preparedness and response projects across the public and private sectors.  Kevin was vital to the establishment of the Intelligence Section within Salt Lake County’s COVID-19 Response, where he served as the Deputy Intelligence Section Chief and continues to conduct strategic intelligence efforts as a part of the sustained response and recovery operations.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Kevin supported Hagerty’s Active Threat portfolio and Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attack (CCTA) programs across the country.

Andrew Abernathy is a Managing Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division.  Having supported response and recovery projects in the public and private sectors, Andrew is supporting Economic Recovery Planning for Salt Lake County’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery, where he serves as a Recovery Policy Advisor for the county’s leadership.  Andrew has a background in Economic Development and disaster recovery planning.