Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Erin Roberts

Erin Roberts

What brought you to Hagerty Consulting?

“I have always been drawn to emergency management and humanitarian relief, which led to my pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) focused on global health and managing disasters. I wanted to apply my public health degree in a practical way, via emergency management. After working for four years in public health preparedness, I felt ready for a more emergency management-focused position. In my search, I found Hagerty, the premier consulting firm working in this space. I knew I wanted to be a part of a team that was devoted to quality work and serving people. I found that at Hagerty.”

What did your previous life entail?

“Prior to joining Hagerty, I worked on public health preparedness projects for the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). There, I worked on pandemic preparedness, helping to establish a national hotline that would allow the public to be quickly triaged during a severe pandemic (think 1918). This tool pushed boundaries around scope of practice as we worked to ensure that frontline healthcare workers (like nurse practitioners and pharmacists) could quickly join a response without facing licensure limitations.

Prior to NACCHO, I interned for a small emergency management agency in Tennessee where I saw a rural community do great things with few resources. This work triggered a great interest in rural preparedness.

I’ve also done public health work focused on HIV/AIDS. While pursuing my MPH, I helped develop deliverables for an orphanage serving children with HIV/AIDS in India. Among our many projects, we developed a way to telemonitor children’s health through inexpensive, automated phone surveys. I also worked for a small non-profit that supported mothers living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda.”

What professional accomplishments are you proud of?

“I am most proud of supporting the live test of the pandemic preparedness capability/triage line that was five years in the making. This was a six-week long simulation in two states. A media campaign prompted real callers to use the line, many of whom were older adults and those with limited access to care.

I was a liaison between over a dozen organizations and had the opportunity to work with two amazing local health departments. Watching a public health department keep its community healthy on an annual budget of <$100,000 is an inspiring thing to see, especially in the face of ongoing cuts to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement Program.

I firmly believe that this tool would alleviate medical surge across the country and ensure that medications make it to the public.”

What have you learned about emergency management in the time that you’ve been at Hagerty?

“Hagerty staff are experts in the field. The team is close knit and always willing to share their knowledge and support. In three months, I have worked on tabletop (TTX) and full-scale exercises (FSEs), developed comprehensive emergency management plans, and supported hazard mitigation work. I have gotten the chance to learn about mass transit preparedness (and to get to know my city’s metro more intimately). I have also gotten to explore the cross-sections between preparedness and care for one of our most vulnerable populations – older adults. There is no shortage of work or things to learn.”

What three things should emergency managers know about public health?

  1. “Pandemic preparedness is sometimes seen as an unlikely or abstract event, but it is important to recognize that a major pandemic is imminent (“not if, but when”). Understanding basic public health law and what is ethical and legal during a pandemic will be important, especially in the face of mass fatalities and the breakdown of social structures.”
  2. “Maintaining medical supply chains should be at the forefront of a response. Engage your local pharmacies; they will be vital partners in medical countermeasures dispensing. Pharmacists have been recognized as one of the most trusted professionals in healthcare, and they have broad access to the community. They need to know what you as an emergency manager do and how they can help maintain medication access in an emergency.”
  3. “Mental health is key to community resilience. An emergency response that includes psychological first aid and sustained access to mental health medications will help a community recover quicker. Transparency and accountability are also important to helping the community work through grief, blame, and confusion and begin healing. Collective mental health affects whether a community can ‘build back better.'”

Erin Roberts is a Managing Associate in Hagerty Consulting, Inc.’s Preparedness Division. In this role, Erin supports Hagerty in policy analysis, program and project management, and plan development. Before her time at Hagerty, Erin provided support to state and local health departments as a Senior Program Analyst at NACCHO. Erin is deeply interested in how social factors converge to create humanitarian crises and how these “system failures” can be averted. Hagerty is always looking for talented professionals to join our team. Learn more here.