Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Garrett Ingoglia


Garrett Ingoglia

Garrett serves as a Vice President for Hagerty Consulting, Inc.

How did you first become involved in the fields of Disaster Recovery and Emergency Management?

After a few years of teaching in the US and abroad and doing political work in NYC, I decided to go to graduate school to pursue my growing interest in public management and policy. While I assumed this would lead to a career in government or a non-profit, I was impressed by a couple of the recruiters, Steve Hagerty (Founder and President of Hagerty Consulting) and Fred Tombar (former Senior Advisor to the HUD Secretary) and decided to try public sector management consulting. I was working with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development as a consultant when the 9/11 attacks occurred. Like many Americans, New Yorkers in particular, I was angry, frustrated, and desperate for some way to help the City recover. When Steve Hagerty called and asked if I wanted to join the team supporting World Trade Center (WTC) recovery in New York, I could not have been more thrilled. My experience working on the WTC recovery project was so challenging, engrossing, and rewarding that I was inspired to pursue additional work in the emergency management field. Over time, I expanded my experience from infrastructure recovery to disaster housing, emergency operations planning, exercises, and eventually emergency response and public health needs in disasters. Now, almost twenty years later, the journey continues as I learn more about the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), Hazard Mitigation Assistance, and Recovery Support Functions.

How did your experiences working for an international NGO in the field of humanitarian relief compare to, or prepare you for, your current role with Hagerty?

At the core, my goal in each job is the same: to help people and communities withstand and recover from disasters, whether it is an Ebola crisis in Liberia or a hurricane in the US. I had worked in domestic emergency management for more than a decade before I joined Americares, a non-profit disaster relief and global health organization, and began working in international humanitarian relief. The experience working with Americares helped round out my experience in this field and provided me with some real operational experience in emergency response. At Americares, I had to constantly monitor natural disasters and complex emergencies around the world; make quick decisions about if and how to respond; and then manage a team focused on mobilizing staff, supplies, and funding to help disaster survivors. This experience gave me an appreciation of the challenges of emergency response and how much preparation is required for an organization to respond effectively. I also discovered that the United States had a lot to learn from other countries. For example, I encountered communities in countries like El Salvador and Myanmar that were truly committed to being prepared for disasters—in part because they knew that the health and safety of their families and neighbors depended on this local preparedness. In the US, too often we see families and communities who expect that the cavalry—in the form of the government or Red Cross – will protect them. As we know, this is not always feasible.

Working for an NGO also provided me with a new appreciation for the role of private non-profits or “voluntary agencies” in domestic emergency response and recovery. Before I joined Americares, I thought—like too many emergency managers—that nonprofits and citizen groups were non-essential elements of the emergency management picture. However, my time working for a non-profit changed my perspective. During the response to Hurricane Sandy, the needs surpassed the capacity of the local, state, and federal partners to address. A combination of national nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), community groups, and spontaneous volunteers mobilized to provide critical, sometimes lifesaving, assistance to communities across New York and New Jersey.  I gained a new-found respect for these groups and understood the essential role they fill in supporting emergency response and recovery.

What are some of the lessons you have learned from supporting (or managing) recoveries from major disasters?

Successful disaster recovery requires active leadership from the community’s elected officials and engagement and buy-in from all sectors of the community. After 9/11, New York City’s Mayor appointed a Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding to support the recovery. This kind of high-level commitment is what is needed to get all of the elements of a city—or other jurisdictions—moving in the right direction.  Additionally, I’ve seen how deep understanding of Federal grants programs and skill and experience in grants management can help state and local governments obtain and maintain more funding, leading to faster and more resilient recovery.

What do you see for the future of Disaster Recovery and Emergency Management?

Like all industries, technology will bring major changes to emergency management, including disaster recovery. In fact, the field has been a bit slow to adopt new technology, and there needs to be a focus on how information technology, drones, and artificial intelligence can improve current processes to save lives, protect property, and speed up the delivery of assistance to survivors, while reducing cost.

Former FEMA Administrator Brock Long’s focus on mitigation was very smart. We should see more of an emphasis on mitigation, particularly pre-disaster mitigation, in the coming years. My hope is that communities across the US will take a more honest and practical approach to development, mitigation, and climate change adaptation, weighing risks and making tough choices about how much to invest in mitigation and where people can safely live.

Given the benefits of mitigation, our investment as a nation should be much higher than it is now. The US should consider adopting the term disaster risk reduction (DRR), which is used in the humanitarian relief sector to describe a very broad range of activities to protect people and communities, encompassing planning, training, exercises, community awareness, structural mitigation, land use decisions, and insurance schemes. While changing names is not going to make people safer, DRR signifies a more holistic approach to making communities and families safer, which I think is the right mission to have.

Finally, I hope we see the field of emergency management expand its scope beyond searching, rescuing, and rebuilding. Disasters affect people and communities in many ways, and the people most effected are often those that can least afford to bear the costs. Disasters cause long-term shocks that can negatively affect physical and mental health and cause long-lasting economic damage to families and communities. Recognizing this reality and addressing it effectively will be one of emergency management’s most pressing challenges in the future.

Garrett Ingoglia is a Vice President for Hagerty Consulting. Garrett has 20 years of experience across all phases of emergency management and humanitarian assistance, including executive leadership roles in private and non-profit organizations in both domestic and international settings. Garrett has a Master of Public Administration degree from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University, and earned his Bachelor of Arts from Williams College and currently lives in New York City with his wife.