Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Recovery Program Manager Chris Thomas

Chris pictured with a T-38 during his graduation from USAF Pilot Training at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, in 2006.

Chris Thomas is a Recovery Program Manager with Hagerty Consulting’s Disaster Recovery Practice. He is currently supporting our national client base on recovery and preparedness programs. Chris is an Eagle Scout with a lifelong commitment to public service. Before joining the Hagerty Team, Chris spent eight years in the Air Force as a pilot and three years with FEMA as a Public Assistance Branch Director. We spent some time talking to Chris about his career journey and what has surprised him about working as a consultant helping public sector clients prepare for and recover from disasters.

On a Commitment to Public Service

“My parents instilled me and my siblings with a commitment to public service.  Service was not something to aspire to; it was a way of life.  I honored this commitment to public service through participation in the Boy Scouts of America and assisting other scouts on their trek to becoming an Eagle Scout.  It came as no surprise to anyone in my family when I joined the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in college.  It was even less of a surprise when I became active in the Arnold Air Society, the community service organization affiliated with the Air Force ROTC program.”

Serving in the Air Force

“While many of my experiences in the Air Force have left their indelible mark on me, I found preparedness and planning for natural disasters to be a very rewarding experience with skills that I will use throughout my career and friendships that I will have for the rest of my life.  As one of my favorite commanding officers was fond of saying, “Forewarned is Forearmed,” and helping my Air Force Base and the surrounding communities plan and prepare for disaster was both a vital mission and personally satisfying.  After serving in the military for nearly a decade, it didn’t take me long to find my way back into the federal government as a member of one of two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT).”

Working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency

“The IMAT is geared towards disaster response, and while I helped communities in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, I was fortunate to be able to assist in recovery and preparedness efforts as well.  Although I had a fair amount of experience working with foreign governments and other U.S. federal agencies from my years of military service, FEMA was the first time in my professional career that I worked extensively with state and local governments, non-profits, and consultants.  The partnerships I developed with local governments and non-profits showed me how directly and acutely their efforts impacted their communities.  I really enjoyed working with people that knew the names of their fellow residents and could recall living alongside them for years.”

Becoming a Hagerty Consultant and What He’s Learned

“The more I was exposed to the local forms of civil service, the more I realized that it had a lot to offer in terms of professional and personal development.  This led me to Hagerty Consulting with its mission to help our clients prepare for and recover from disasters.  It wasn’t until I began working as an emergency manager from this perspective that I realized that my federal service had prepared me extremely well for municipal emergency management. In particular, four things surprised me once I began to work outside of the federal government.

  1. Teamwork at the Local Level – I am constantly surprised by the enthusiasm, dedication, and can-do attitude at the local level and how consultants become a part of the team. There is a personal touch to the outcomes that Hagerty achieves in implementing public policy at the local level.  The firm’s commitment to the mission and the teamwork everyone cultivates is a culture that I haven’t seen since my early days in an Air Force flying unit.
  1. Information Sharing in the Emergency Management Community – I have been surprised by the eagerness local and state emergency managers have to share information and lessons learned across jurisdictions and the role that a firm like Hagerty Consulting has in facilitating this information flow. The availability of data now allows for local governments and small organizations to tap into a wealth of information previously inaccessible to them, and at Hagerty I have had the pleasure of helping communities access the unique niche of information that is the foundation of emergency management.
  1. Organizations are Growing with Hagerty’s Help – Similarly, I have been surprised by the depth and breadth of experience and knowledge at Hagerty Consulting and how this experience augments the skills of state and local emergency managers.  I have also been surprised by the willingness within different organizations to teach each other and the opportunities for on-the-job education and professional growth and development here at Hagerty.
  1. Service Outside of the Federal Civil Service – I have also been surprised at how readily the spirit of public service can continue in the private sector. I am thankful for the time I had with the military and with FEMA.  I made lasting, life-long friendships with some very special people.  However, I am most grateful that FEMA reminded me how rewarding it is to support local communities, and am thankful that Hagerty Consulting has given me an opportunity to continue to serve.”

Chris Thomas grew up in Tampa, Florida.  When he wasn’t preparing for hurricanes and tropical storms, he was surfing the few waves those storms would bring. After traveling the world with the Air Force, he settled down in California before finding his current home in New York. Hagerty Consulting is always looking for intellectually curious people with a commitment to the public sector to join our team. We want to learn more about you. Please visit our career site here to view open opportunities and apply.  We encourage you to share your expertise and interest to us by applying under the “Other Qualified Candidates” posting!