Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Hagerty Advantage: Our People: Jacob Durrance and Katie Forsythe

Here at Hagerty, we truly believe the advantage is our people. Throughout the months of June and July, we will be profiling several of Hagerty’s Response professionals – many of whom have been deployed continuously over the past year helping our clients respond to COVID-19 and other natural hazards.

Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty Consulting.

Jacob Durrance: I started my career as a Medic in the United States (US) Army. After the Military, I studied Emergency Management at Florida State and interned at the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM). After interning and working at FDEM, I moved to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity where I had the opportunity to work on Coastal Resiliency and Community Development Block Grant CDBG- Disaster Recovery (DR) projects. I joined Hagerty in early 2020 to help with the COVID-19 response efforts.

Katie Forsythe: After college graduation I joined AmeriCorps-SBP in order to help individuals who were impacted by South Carolina’s Severe Storm, where my parents lived. As a result of this event, I gained exposure to Emergency Management and found the experience fulfilling. Very early on in the experience I decided that Emergency Management would be the career path I’d take. Understanding that States Prepare, Respond, and Recover from all types of disasters, meant that it was consistent, service-based work that I could build a career and life with. Following my work with AmeriCorps I accepted a job with the State of South Carolina Disaster Recovery Office and then with the South Carolina Emergency Management Division. During my tenure, I worked with Hagerty staffers and found that they were professional and a joy to work with.

What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management, especially as a disaster response professional?

Jacob Durrance: I pursued a career in Emergency Management because I am passionate about helping people. I like working in recovery because it is easy to see the impact our work has on individuals and communities.

Katie Forsythe: Working as a disaster response professional and in the field of emergency management means a lot of long hours, research, flexibility, adaptability, and so much more, but is worth all the effort, knowing that we are making a direct impact in millions of citizens lives.

With hurricane season underway and the peak time for wildfires on the horizon, how should communities be preparing today?

Jacob Durrance: Plan, Prepare, and Practice. Plan for how to react/respond to disasters. Prepare by making sure you have the necessary supplies/equipment. Practice by talking through your plan and making necessary updates, checking your supplies and testing your equipment and walking through the steps of your plan.

Katie Forsythe: Communities need to start messaging before peak time on how to plan for and mitigate impacts of hazards. While entering peak time or during the seasons, communities should be messaging the types of resources available, how to prepare for the disasters, and how to respond. Over-planning, over-communicating, and being prepared is the best way to handle disasters.


What are you passionate about outside of work?

Jacob Durrance: I am an avid motorcycle rider. I spend most of my weekends riding up and down the Florida coastline.

Katie Forsythe: I am an avid hiker who loves to take my dogs on adventures.

Where is one place in the world you would like to travel and why?

Jacob Durrance: I am a big History buff, so it is hard to pick a more impactful or moving experience than Gettysburg during a reenactment.

Katie Forsythe: I would love to travel to Alaska to see the northern lights, and experience midnight sun.

Jacob Durrance: is an experienced Contracts and Grants Manager with a background in Emergency Management and Homeland Security. He has extensive experience with the State of Florida’s Disaster Recovery programs through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) and Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)-Disaster Recovery (DR) programs.

Katie Forsythe: is an emergency management professional with four years of experience in supporting clients as they manage large-scale recovery efforts. Most recently, She served as a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)  Public   Assistance   (PA)   program   specialist , supporting a client, its stakeholders, and its citizens in program coordination, data analysis, stakeholder coordination, and the appeals  process.