Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Savita Goel

Savita Goel serves as a Management Consultant and client Team Lead in Hagerty’s Recovery division.

Before joining Hagerty, you worked in international infrastructure development advisory roles. What led you to Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty) and emergency management?

My career began working as a structural engineer in India and Malaysia, until the financial crisis in Asia of the late 1990s that caused many projects to shut down. I decided to go to graduate school and happened to take a class with a professor who worked on blast engineering, which led to my interest in protecting all types of infrastructure against active threats, such as terrorist attacks. After graduating, I immediately started working in post-September 11th era New York City (NYC), and for the next decade, my work revolved around thinking about potential disasters and how to protect my client’s assets, such as buildings.

During that time, I was introduced to a representative of the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) who mentioned Hagerty and their resilience work helping the City to recover after Hurricane Sandy. I had traditionally only viewed resilience on a single asset or building structure basis, but Hagerty was assisting the City toward their vision of implementing city-wide resilience projects. This sparked my interest. Finding Hagerty felt like serendipity to me. Here at Hagerty, I can bridge my passion for community resilience and my technical background to support our public sector clients to recover stronger.

How do you use your technical engineering background in your day-to-day role of leading federal grants recovery?

My engineering background, complimented by my experience working with federal grants, allows me to take a holistic approach to thinking about an individual project without getting too bogged down in the details. For instance, since I understand the technical background of capital construction, I can help provide our clients with an all-encompassing view of a project and connect the dots to the requirements of federal grant, such as those in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Public Assistance (PA) program. This combined skillset has helped me to identify what it takes for a client’s project to transition from point A – the initial phase – to the central phases of project execution and building, and finally to point Z – the closing phase of completing a project and gathering all the documentation necessary for federal reimbursement.

You have had the opportunity to support long-term recoveries from major disasters. Based on your experience, what do you see as the some of the key challenges that other recovering communities should be aware of? 

A few of the common operational challenges I have come across while supporting long-term recoveries have included knowledge sharing of individual projects, retention of documentation, and limited or decentralized information on public assets, such as buildings or infrastructure assets. Let me elaborate:

  • Knowledge Transfer: Oftentimes over the life of a recovery, a client (or even supporting contractors) might experience staff turnover from the time the disaster struck to the current recovery point. Even with the best of operational practices or transition plans, information can become hard to track down or even lost the further away the recovery moves from the disaster itself and as supporting resources and staff change over time.
  • Recovery Documentation: The process of gathering documentation and the development of document management strategies present a common challenge for many recoveries. Since records are not always centrally or digitally stored, finding physical copies of documentation to support a recovery can be difficult.
  • Infrastructure Data: Depending on the type of infrastructure impacted from a major disaster, gathering all of the asset records and related data can be a challenge. Having a central inventory of a client’s assets can provide an important baseline of what a client owns versus what might be privately owned, leased, etc. Additionally, having a thorough record and data set of assets can help illustrate the level of damages caused by a disaster when applying for disaster recovery grants.

What do you find most rewarding about working in the Recovery Division at Hagerty?

My goal as part of the Recovery team at Hagerty is always to help our clients improve their disaster recovery operations where needed, increase efficiencies when possible, and reduce a community’s risks down the road in the event of another disaster. To that end, I most enjoy acting as an advisor to our clients in their long road to recovery, as well as learning about an individual client’s operations. I have come to appreciate the level of complexity involved with both an individual project and the entire portfolio of recovery projects, as well as the amount of collaborative team effort and coordination it takes to respond to a major disaster. Knowing that my work at Hagerty can make a difference to a community and improve a client’s disaster recovery and emergency management operations in the future is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling.

Clearly you love challenges – you’re an emergency management consultant and an avid marathon runner! How do you manage doing both of these challenging activities? Is there a particular marathon you are preparing for next?

All my life, I have been a bit of a work-a-holic, so now I am trying to balance my work and personal life. I needed an outlet that does not require coordination with other schedules, and I found running was one of those activities I could do anytime of the day and anywhere. I could have had the worst day, but at the end of my day, I can just put on my shoes and go for a run. Running has really become how I deal with my stress and specifically running outdoors has seriously become a form of meditation for me. For my next running challenge, I plan to participate in both the Reykjavik and San Francisco Marathons by the end of this summer.

Savita Goel is a Management Consultant in Hagerty’s Recovery division, lending her expertise to our clients to support large infrastructure projects. Savita has a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Stern School of Business at New York University (NYU) and a Master of Science in Structural Engineering from Penn State University. She also earned her Bachelor of Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani and currently lives in NYC.