The Hagerty Advantage: Our People: Austin Barlow
Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty Consulting.
Austin: I’m driven by two main things: opportunities to build a culture of preparedness and the integration between emergency management and emerging technologies. My passion for helping communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters really cemented itself through my year of service as a Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Corps Team Leader. After my experience with FEMA Corps supporting New Jersey’s response to and recovery from Hurricane Sandy, I supported New York City Emergency Management (NYCEM’s) Ready New York program and became interested in education, training, and exercises. My Master of Public Administration (MPA) program at George Washington University (GWU) brought me back in touch with a former mentor from my time with American Red Cross and he introduced me to the world of consulting, where I met some of the wonderful role models and colleagues that would eventually familiarize me with Hagerty! Now I get to support Hagerty’s Preparedness Division by applying my experiences and expertise with planning, training, and exercises.
What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management?
Austin: The people are what make this field and our collective mission so fulfilling those we serve, as well as those we work alongside, offer constant reminders that our work exists far beyond us as individuals. We are creating legacies together and endeavoring to build the interest and engagement of those that our legacies seek to serve. That journey of crafting torches to be carried by those who follow, in collaboration with so many passionate individuals, brings a deep sense of the meaning to the work we do.
Communities across the country have been saturated with disaster response missions over the past year — everything ranging from COVID-19, to natural disaster, to active threat events. In light of these varying hazards, how should communities be preparing themselves today?
Austin: As an industry, we need to continue to build our integration with stakeholders at all levels. By bringing in representation from communities that we serve, it ensures the participation of citizen-leaders and citizen-led programs. This helps us to ignite support with building a culture of preparedness, ultimately giving us a better platform to execute our work on. Similarly, we should continually re-examine the challenges that we struggle to succeed in the face of and discuss what evolutions to technology and policy may fundamentally change that landscape. To that end, I hope to see more partnerships between emergency managers and futurists in the coming decades.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
Austin: I love to cook. I often find myself using food and kitchen related analogies at work. The kitchen is where I find space to be creative with ingredients and processes, and it’s fun being able to taste the outcomes. My other great passion is martial arts – I have been practicing Aikido since my high school years. I find sword-work particularly therapeutic.
Where is one place in the world you would like to travel and why?
Austin: I have always loved desert and canyon landscapes. I am also an avid amateur astronomer. It would be a dream vacation of mine if I could travel to Namibia and do a stargazing tour in Sossusvlei and spend some time meditating in the dune landscape during the day.
Austin Barlow is an impactful innovator, leader, and mentor with a background in managing national-scale projects and programs, strengthening whole community partnerships, and building critical capabilities. Austin is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) and it is his mission to make the world a safer place and empower people to keep it that way.