Supply Chain Resilience: an Urgent Priority

The cascading impact of disruptions to international supply chains has emerged as a key threat to the nation’s resilience, undercutting the maintenance and repair schedules of critical infrastructure sites and limiting access to affordable healthy foods and consumer goods.

Though the public at large generally understands the problem as one of delay and inconvenience, producers and supply chain experts are acknowledging that these problems are worsening and could soon lead to outages, breakdowns, and increased resource insecurity.

In efforts to address this, state and local leaders should gain awareness of the evolving supply chain situation and develop mitigation plans. This solution is not easy; however, emergency management has a key role to play in the ongoing communication among stakeholders to increase visibility and the development of cross-sector strategy aimed at supporting the private sector and prioritizing corrective measures.

In Rochester, Minnesota, power utility operators recently reported that the lead time on securing a fiber-optic cable has gone from four months to more than a year. Earlier this year, the United States (US) Department of Commerce (DOC) released a report warning that the semiconductor supply chain was in a “fragile” state with manufacturing fabrication plants operating at more than 90 percent capacity given the high-demand for computer chips for a number of products – from your cell phone to your car, to critical medical devices. To solve these issues, private sector leadership is also critical – the supply chain is almost entirely composed of private sector relationships that are invisible to other sectors. 

Inflation of materials for critical infrastructure has forced several states to reassess road and bridge repairs for 2022. For example, the Michigan Department of Transportation regularly plans for a four percent inflation in its budgets, but is now charting a six to seven percent increase above the original budget. Additionally, a number of pressures on food markets – from geo-political crises to the COVID-19 pandemic – have also continued to increase prices and lower access. 

Understanding the 21st Century Supply Chain

A supply chain is the network of production and enterprise that unify to create a product and deliver it for sale to the end user. The chain can include a truck driver who transports a product across state lines. Increasingly, it has included online distribution agents who may rely on multiple delivery agents like Amazon.

Based on our experience, once disorganization sets in – the compounded impact of missed delivery and production dates – products can sit in a warehouse due to a delivery backlog, and because no single actor is working to mitigate the impact of the disruption, prioritization is market-driven and can take time, causing gaps in service. In efforts to confront this challenge, the US House of Representatives passed The America Competes Act, providing over $100 billion to strengthen domestic supply chains. 

However, at this time, it is unclear how comprehensive federal action will be and it will likely take time to have a meaningful impact on immediate circumstances.

Supply Chain Resilience at Regional and Local Levels

Even though addressing supply chain issues takes time, there are things regional and local leaders can do to help strengthen their supply chain mitigation efforts. Here are three ways local and regional leaders can build solutions and prepare to make the best use of any new incoming resources.

1. Leverage regional/multi-jurisdiction organizations to develop supply chain resilience work teams or work groups that include both private sector leaders and non-governmental organizations. 

Regional planning, governance, and coordinating institutions were designed to confront complex, cross sector challenges and have established many of the key relationships necessary to gain situational awareness. Developing a cross-sector supply chain work group to better understand your region’s unique challenges is a strong first step.

The Centralina Council of Governments, an organization of more than 70 municipalities located in the Central Piedmont of North Carolina, partnered with the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) to analyze which industries are connected to one another through supply and distribution.Partnering with a regional Council of Government to approach the problem of situational awareness could be a key strategy to gain research capacity, convening power, and regional understanding.. 

This approach can also synergize efforts to identify and secure resources. For example, the recently restarted Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program (RCPGP) is a federal grant program to close known capability gaps and support local actors in developing solutions.

2. Identify key infrastructure owners/operators and proactively support dynamic private sector continuity planning for all elements of production.

Regional trade organizations, industry groups, and private sector stakeholders can show leadership by proactively mapping their supply chains and identifying key pressure points. This does not have to be a novel effort, but built on the existing capability of partner organizations to ensure they are able to continue their essential services and have an avenue to create awareness of actual or potential disruption. Private sector actors can collaborate to develop data dashboards that chart shortages of key resources, changes in suppliers, increasing demand, and anticipated downstream impacts.

Increased situational awareness and an active forum for information exchange and advocacy allows a more coordinated community-level response. Supply chain experts are exploring how public-private partnerships could be developed to support and finance these measures, even while acknowledging the risks of introducing top-down approaches.

Based on our experience working through similar challenges with our clients, there are limitations of approaching this task solely as an exercise in documenting corporate relationships and business practices. One of these limitations is that relationships must be understood in the context of shock (disasters and unanticipated events) and community stress (the challenges experienced by communities due to specific characteristics and local economies). 

3. Create regional, cross-state compacts for the sharing of key and critical goods and services, supported by government coordination and communication.

Developing policies that promote resource sharing and resource re-routing could extend the viability of existing products and maximize current resource levels. We assert that government can play an important role in communicating to the public to prevent and limit hoarding and over-buying. Typically, disaster responders have worked with state and federal government officials to shift resources after a shock and to restore the functionality of the private sector. Prep-planning and policy support for these maneuvers would increase efficiency. 

In this non-traditional disaster environment, we need to best understand how the government can best support and restore conventional systems to meet community needs.


Mitigating disruptions begins with building relationships, gaining strategic awareness and collaborating across sectors.Global supply chains have been disrupted now for more than two years and, given continued geopolitical impacts, there is seemingly no end in sight. Leaders at every level – even those whose portfolio does not traditionally include commerce – will need to quickly plan and prepare for these impacts.

Harrison Newton is a Senior Managing Associate at Hagerty Consulting. Prior to joining Hagerty, he spent nearly a decade in public service with Washington, DC. During his tenure with DC, he was responsible for establishing the District’s first Resilience Office, where he ultimately served as the Deputy Chief Resilience Officer responsible for promoting resiliency programs across various District departments and agencies. 

Tory Littlefield is a Managing Associate within the Preparedness Division at Hagerty Consulting. Prior to joining Hagerty, Mrs. Littlefield spent seven years as an emergency management planner in Vermont with a regional planning commission. 

Individual Impacts of the Cyber Threat

Throughout Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we have explored key topics related to the dynamic, global cyber threats our nation faces today and how to manage the growing intersection between cyber and physical threat management. We have discussed how the cyber threat environment has evolved and become more sophisticated and increasingly impactful over time, exposing vulnerabilities in systems, platforms, and infrastructure. To conclude this month, we will be discussing how the cyber threat landscape has expanded and how it can impact individuals, families, and communities as well as private and public sector organizations.

As the scope of the cyber threat broadens, individuals are increasingly facing impacts from cyber incidents: Source


Cybersecurity has gained attention as a threat to infrastructure and systems in recent years, with several high-profile cyber attacks against major businesses, local governments, and federal agencies. The United States alone suffered an estimated 65,000 ransomware attacks in 2020. This onslaught of attacks has led private and public sector organizations to increase their system hardening measures and enhance cyber preparedness. However, as bad actors in the cyber field become more sophisticated, the scope of their attacks has expanded to include attacks with more direct impacts to everyday citizens and individuals, in addition to those against companies or governments.

Recent cyber incidents have shown the capacity of the cyber threat to create devastating consequences for individuals, both by targeting individuals directly, and by targeting systems critical to life safety and security. Following a recent ransomware attack on a hospital, a lawsuit alleges that the hospital’s failure to contain and report the incident adequately led to the death of a patient. In addition to attacks on hospitals, hackers have exploited medical technology vulnerabilities by using malware and ransomware to threaten data and systems connected directly to users’ medical devices (e.g., insulin pumps).

Impacts on individuals have also been seen in telecommunications, with cyber attacks limiting phone service in communities and in schools. The Wake County Public School System experienced a partial phone system outage following a cyber attack. The City of Walla Walla, Washington also experienced a disruption in phone service following a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The potential downstream impacts of telecommunications outages, such as limitations on contacting emergency or other essential services, are severe. 

Attacks on school networks have become increasingly common as well, with attackers targeting students’ data for identity theft. This challenge is often exacerbated by limited reporting requirements for schools, meaning that parents may not be aware if their student’s information was exploited. The potential for outages related to cyber attacks also poses a risk to educational systems, as classes and other educational resources are increasingly provided online as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


As we experience an increase in the frequency and severity of cyber attacks targeting or impacting individuals, private and public sector organizations will need to reconsider the meaning of cybersecurity and cyber preparedness to include not only the protection of their services, but also the protection of individuals who rely on them. Hagerty can support the implementation of promising practices and emerging solutions that are protecting users from the evolving cyber threats. 

  • Cyber Assessments: Enhancing your application of promising practices and emerging solutions should begin with a cyber assessment that includes an inventory of what resides on your network and identifies the level of protection and preparedness currently established by the organization or individual. It is important to understand the different levels of security that home and work devices may have and the cyber hygiene best practices that can enhance your protection. While the value of impenetrable passwords is clear, two-factor identification continues to see amplified importance after incidents such the Colonial Pipeline attack. Hagerty applies a comprehensive approach towards cyber assessments, ensuring data collection efforts that involve stakeholders and a thorough review of relevant documentation.
  • Cyber Policies: Individuals and organizations should ensure that they have developed cyber policies that assert responsibilities and principles associated with cybersecurity. With the growing threat from ransomware, it is critical to maintain and regularly test offline backups of data, as this measure can help ensure continued access to data and eliminate the need to pay ransom in the first place. Strong cyber policies help to reinforce cultural values for cyber threat awareness and prevention as well as supporting the implementation of cyber preparedness and response plans.
  • Cyber Plans: Hagerty supports the development of cyber plans with distinct focus areas, whether that be preparedness or response. Individuals and organizations should ensure a collaborative approach to planning that brings staff representing emergency management, business continuity, information technology/operational technology (IT/OT), and executive leadership together to determine which other partners must be engaged to maintain a coordinated approach to implementing action throughout the jurisdiction. With the increasing number of individuals who are also made victims by cyber attacks, the practice of planning is not restricted to organizations, and when a similar framework is followed, individuals can significantly increase their protection.
  • Cyber Training and Exercises: With cyber threats targeting individuals through increasingly frequent and sophisticated spear phishing attempts and individual vulnerabilities being exploited to target and disrupt organizations, the value of cybersecurity training and exercises is greater than ever. Hagerty has supported clients in building upon previous preparedness efforts to enhance organizational capabilities for cyber preparedness and response. Both bottom-up and top-down approaches offer value to building readiness against cyber threats. For instance, top-down efforts that focus on organizational leadership offer a unique opportunity for leadership to demonstrate that cyber is a strategic priority.


In addition to these promising practices and emerging solutions, contributing to a culture of cyber threat readiness is a key way to engage stakeholders and make progress toward reducing the impacts of cyber threats on individuals. Communicating the value and impact of cyber hygiene and other preparedness measures plays a critical role in establishing education and investments related to cybersecurity as a priority. 

Hagerty’s solution to cyber program management utilizes the Cyber Nexus Approach, which integrates existing practices and cultural values with the latest practices that build readiness against cyber threats. Whether your organization’s executive leadership is seeking support with building this culture, or you are seeking assistance with leveraging improvements in the maturity of your culture’s regard for cybersecurity, Hagerty is ready to help you strengthen your posture and reduce the impacts of cyber threats on your organization and those who rely on it.

Erin Bajema is Hagerty’s cyber sector co-lead and an emergency management professional with experience supporting several areas of emergency preparedness as an analyst, planner, evaluator, and instructional systems designer. Ms. Bajema has served on projects in a diverse range of subjects, including disaster recovery planning, housing, continuity of operations, hazard mitigation, active threat, evacuation, damage assessment, and cybersecurity.

Austin Barlow is Hagerty’s cyber sector co-lead as well as a planning, training, and exercise project manager with a background that includes disaster fieldwork, employment in support of all levels of government, and formal training and education in the development and implementation of emergency management policy. Mr. Barlow has led and supported national-scale projects, programs, and technologies, with a focus on strengthening whole community partnerships, addressing vulnerabilities, and building critical capabilities.

Managing Security Threats in the Cyber and Physical Realms

Emergency management and security practitioners have long worked to combat physical security threats, including those posed by active threat events. As our world becomes increasingly digital, these practitioners are facing an emerging threat type outside the physical realm: cybersecurity. As October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Hagerty wants to encourage the personnel and partners dedicated to emergency management to consider how cyber risk is evolving and they can use their existing skill sets to help combat that risk. Cyber risk is now a global security challenge.

Security threats are expanding their reach beyond purely physical attacks and into cyber assets: Source

As we examine the newly broadening aperture for threat management, consider the following incidents:

  • On Christmas Day of 2020, a recreational vehicle was intentionally detonated in Downtown Nashville, causing injuries and long-term damage to property, forcing over 60 businesses in the area to close. 
  • In January 2021, a hacker gained remote access to a computer associated with a water treatment plant in the Bay Area and deleted programs that were used to treat drinking water. While the incident was resolved in time to avoid serious impacts, the event could have resulted in illness, mass panic, and supply chain concerns.

Although each of these incidents has a different cause, both events had the potential to trigger cascading delays, damage to property, loss of life, and significant economic impacts. Knowing this, emergency managers and their partners can apply their experience developing physical security preparedness and response principles to the cyber threat.


While we often hear about physical security threats, such as active shooters and acts of terrorism, the emergence of cyberattacks represents not only an evolution of these known threats, but an expansion of the existing risk. In other words, criminals who wish to carry out acts of violence or commit crimes no longer need to leave their homes to do so. Moreover, those with nefarious intentions can now carry out attacks without access to the resources or organizational support that physical security threats may require.

The threat we now face is complex. The perpetrators of cyberattacks range from skilled hobbyists and small organized criminal groups to nation-state actors. Perpetrators have also demonstrated an ability and willingness to operate locally or at scale, from using electric vehicle charging points as a backdoor to home networks, to holding 45% of United States East Coast’s diesel, petrol, and jet fuel as part of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware incident that occurred earlier this year. Cyberattack victims also span sectors and are not always the most obvious targets. In some cases, nation-states have exploited expansive supply chain networks, including small businesses, in order to steal sensitive defense industrial information and undermine national security.

Cyber breaches can impact your organization’s finances, operations, or reputation, and the accumulated cost is not always easy to quantify. Following a cyberattack, organizations may have to consider whether they can afford to pay a ransom, whether they are able to restart operations, or whether they can ever rebuild the trust of customers. In addition, unlike the accoutrements associated with robust physical security, comprehensive cybersecurity can be challenging to demonstrate to your customers and the public.

Thinking about the impacts of cybersecurity on your organization can feel overwhelming. However, it is often the absence of basic cybersecurity preparedness protocols that can put your operations at risk. The Colonial Pipeline attack impacted the movement of over 10 million barrels of product, resulting in cascading fuel shortages across the Eastern Seaboard. Hackers held the firm to ransom thanks to the theft of a single password, enabled by the failure to use multi-factor authentication on a virtual private network. Robust cybersecurity measures and a quick, considered response can be the difference between success and failure.


Hagerty is here to help.  Our team of experts are on hand to support your organization as it prepares for and responds to the emerging cyber risks your organization faces. Our offerings will allow you to understand the threats and translate them into concrete remedial actions, such as cyber disruption plans, communications protocols, business continuity strategies, risk assessments, and more.

  • Programmatic Assessments: If your organization is unsure where to start in combating physical and cyber security threats, Hagerty can assess your current policies and procedures and offer tangible recommendations for improvement. 
  • Funding: Hagerty has a wealth of experience in identifying and securing funding in support of planning, training, and exercise activities. We are here to help you fund your preparedness and response activities.
  • Planning: Hagerty’s experience developing emergency preparedness operations plans in a range of sectors can ensure your policies account for the known unknowns, ultimately building your organizational resilience. Hagerty has worked with governmental and non-governmental organizations across the nation to develop planning products that establish functional procedures for threat preparedness and response based on best practices.
  • Exercises: Hagerty’s robust exercise design practice  includes experience in developing exercises that test capabilities in both physical and cyber threat response. These activities have resulted in actionable after-action reporting and enhanced organizational readiness.

Using these capabilities, Hagerty stands ready to enhance your organization’s cyber and physical security preparedness as you work to protect your organizations against risk. Visit to learn more.

Making cyber preparedness a priority, and building capabilities together, we can all be #CyberThreatReady.

Erin Bajema is Hagerty’s cyber sector co-lead and an emergency management professional with experience supporting several areas of emergency preparedness as an analyst, planner, evaluator, and instructional systems designer. Ms. Bajema has served on projects in a diverse range of subjects, including disaster recovery planning, housing, continuity of operations, hazard mitigation, active threat, evacuation, damage assessment, and cybersecurity.

Austin Barlow is Hagerty’s cyber sector co-lead as well as a planning, training, and exercise project manager with a background that includes disaster fieldwork, employment in support of all levels of government, and formal training and education in the development and implementation of emergency management policy. Mr. Barlow has led and supported national-scale projects, programs, and technologies, with a focus on strengthening whole community partnerships, addressing vulnerabilities, and building critical capabilities.

Jonathan Davis is a Managing Associate at Hagerty Consulting, where he works on energy, security, and cyber issues. Mr. Davis recently joined Hagerty from the British Government.

Kelly Girandola is a Managing Associate in the Preparedness Division where she has contributed to a diverse portfolio of projects within Hagerty’s Security and Threat Management Sector, including multiple Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attack programs. Prior to joining Hagerty, Kelly worked for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as a Special Assistant to the Secretary in Washington, DC.

Become Climate Resilient: Changes You Can Make to Prepare for Increasingly Extreme Weather Events

The newest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released in August 2021, summarizes global climate change science and impacts, and concludes we are at a “code red for humanity.” The report confirms the rise of more frequent extreme weather events due to climate change throughout all regions of the globe, including the United States (US). About one in three Americans experienced a climate disaster during the summer this year. These increasingly frequent and intense natural disaster events underscore the importance of National Preparedness Month.

Climate Change Preparedness and Mitigation Tips

The first step in preparing for an increase in extreme weather events is understanding how climate change affects you and your community; then you can take action to protect yourself and others from the devastation brought by these events.

How Does Climate Change Affect You and What Can You Do About It?

Here are some steps you can take to understand how climate change and the hazards it creates affect you, and how to prepare for them:

  • Identify what natural hazards are prominent in your area. This is a vital first step that will allow you to customize your preparations. There are various online tools to help you with this, including this interactive map of climate threats. You can assess risks to your property through tools like Flood Factor, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service’s wildfire risk map, and the US Drought Monitor. Additionally, look for hazard assessments from your state or local government, which are often provided through county or city open data websites or through high-resolution maps in hazard mitigation, comprehensive land use, or sustainability plans.
  • Prepare for extreme weather events. Different weather events require different types of preparations. Once you know the most common natural disasters where you live, you can start to prepare. has an emergency preparedness checklist and Hagerty’s first 2021 Preparedness Month post offers important, lesser-known preparedness actions. It’s especially important to prepare for extreme weather events by reviewing what your home and/or renters insurance policy covers (and doesn’t), and by organizing important documents and backups. Updating your insurance coverage and having backup documents at-hand may help you repair or rebuild more efficiently after an extreme event.
  • Build a strong local network. Strong social networks help individuals and communities better withstand and recover from disasters. Prepare for climate change and extreme weather events by reflecting on what help you may need and what assistance you may be able to provide to your neighbors, then start building those critical social connections. Consider participating in or hosting an event like Neighborfest, an innovative community preparedness and connection celebration in a block party format.
  • Adapt your home and property to withstand local hazards. There are several ways you can weather-proof your home and its surrounding landscape to minimize damage from extreme weather. Consider how to “harden” (i.e., protect) against damages and how to mitigate (i.e., reduce risk). For example, you can harden your home against flooding by sealing cracks in your foundation and basement walls, and you can lessen flood risk by creating natural green spaces with local plant species (instead of impervious surfaces like asphalt and concrete) to better absorb water. The Firewise USA program offers specific, easy to understand guidance for homes in wildfire-risk zones. Extreme weather events often contribute to power outages, so climate-proofing your home also involves preparing for extended outages.

How Can You Help Slow Climate Change?

Climate change is a global problem and addressing the root causes of climate change is critical to protecting ourselves and our communities over the long-term.

  • Choose strategies to reduce your carbon footprint. Our daily choices – such as how we travel, what we eat, the materials in our clothing, and the temperature we set the thermostat – have a significant impact when aggregated. Carbon footprint calculators estimate the amount of greenhouse emissions generated by our daily activities. Try the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Household Carbon Footprint Calculator to find out how your carbon footprint compares to the US average and how you can reduce your environmental impact.
  • Advocate for climate mitigation solutions. Decreasing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions substantially enough in the timeframe needed to avoid catastrophic consequences requires large-scale coordination, not just individual action. Encourage climate action in your community by voting in all elections, showing up for public comment events, volunteering with environmental organizations, and/or engaging with local decision-makers.


Extreme weather events are increasing in intensity, frequency, and cost. Planning as individuals and households for the climate extremes that affect us is a critical component of emergency preparedness overall.

Elizabeth Foster is a Senior Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Ms. Foster works with Hagerty’s clients on climate resilience, disaster recovery planning, and continuity of operations projects. Prior to joining Hagerty, she managed technical assistance focused on development and land use strategies to improve urban resilience with the Urban Land Institute. Elizabeth also served as a Disaster Risk Reduction & Management Program Officer for the US Peace Corps in Amlan, Philippines, supporting the municipality’s capacity to implement climate change adaptation and disaster management programs.

Gianna Christopher is Hagerty’s Coordination and Administration Associate within the Preparedness Division. She supports the division by creating written publications, performing Quality Assurance/Quality Control (QA/QC) on important documents as requested with tight deadlines, as well as performing other assorted administrative tasks.

Additional resources

Personal, Family, and Community Preparedness: How You Can Prepare Today for the Hazards You May Face Tomorrow

Every September when National Preparedness Month arrives, there is a lot of information from a variety of sources on how best to prepare. But by October, preparedness often becomes an afterthought. The COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters have brought emergency preparedness to the forefront. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency ‘s (FEMA) annual National Preparedness Survey, trends show that Americans are taking more steps to become better prepared, like building preparedness kits and forming emergency plans. The 2020 results show that 68 percent of those surveyed have taken three or more basic actions to prepare, a 6 percent increase over 2019’s estimate. Prepared individuals and communities recover faster after disaster strikes. Taking steps to prepare yourself today can help ensure readiness to respond when faced with disasters or emergencies.

Personal and Family Preparedness

Creating personal preparedness and family preparedness plans can be a fun activity. FEMA recommends building specific kits that contain supplies and provisions for 72 hours for your home, car, and on-the-go. Kits can be created over time and can be built inexpensively using second-hand shops and repurposing items you already own. Before you begin building your kits, consider your own personal needs and the needs of your family by asking these questions:

  1. How many people will you plan to support in an emergency? Although you may live alone, your emergency plan may include meeting up with family or friends. When planning for the members of your group, make sure to account for individuals with disabilities or aging/older adults. Determine how many supplies you will need to bring based on who is in your group.
  2. How much can you physically bring with you? A car kit can contain multiple items as your vehicle will be carrying most of your supplies. But if you are left without the use of your vehicle, can you take the rest of the supplies on foot? How much can your group reasonably carry on their backs?
  3. What hazard-specific items will you need to store? The United States is one of the most disaster-prone countries on earth, and thus, each section of the country must prepare for a unique set of natural hazards. Therefore, to properly prepare, it is important to know the risks you may face. For example, a go-kit for a hurricane-prone area has different supplies than one for an earthquake.
  4. What important items would you like to bring if you need to evacuate? Items such as your passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, etc. are useful to have on-hand and at the ready. Expanding beyond documentation, what important items from your life would you like to bring? Do you have important family mementos that you’d be sad to leave behind, or comfort items such as a book or fidget toys you can’t live without? Think about other elements for your emergency kits beyond life saving and life sustaining items.

While there are plenty of lists available online for emergency kits, there are some less commonly added items to highlight here. Below is a list of items you may want to consider adding to your kits:

As mentioned previously, you can begin to pack your kits slowly and over time. Once a year, test out your kit by asking your family to conduct a “fire drill”, aiming to leave the house in ten minutes. Test the weight of your kits by going on a family hike, seeing how each member reacts to carrying supplies. Family and personal preparedness should be added to your annual traditions and may one day save lives.

Community Preparedness

Community preparedness is also critical to ensuring that collective, coordinated response and recovery activities are executed efficiently and effectively. The most successful approach to scaling resilience efforts is to keep them local. The strategy should engage a wide range of stakeholders, including government partners, community organizations, businesses, schools, and houses of worship. This ensures that plans are adaptable, intentional, and receive buy-in from the local community. As disasters grow in both frequency and intensity, planning can no longer occur in a vacuum; a whole community approach is critical to improving outcomes for disaster survivors. Whole community engagement means involving a diverse group of people as active participants, ensuring that their roles and responsibilities are clearly defined, and leveraging the full spectrum of available resources.

Community engagement relies upon understanding the culture and complexities of each community. While inclusive planning for diverse communities can be a challenge, social and economic profiles are helpful tools. An effective community profile will identify specific community characteristics, including: composition of the community, representation of diverse population groups, community geography and structure, socio-economic diversity, community resident resources and services, programs, small businesses, and schools. There are many data sources that can assist in developing profiles, such as FEMA’s Resilience Analysis and Planning Tool (RAPT) and the Platform for Understanding Lifeline Stabilization of the Economy (PULSE). It is critical to complete a community profile to facilitate inclusive community engagement.

Once a community profile has been completed and there is a better understanding of the demographics and the shared risks and vulnerabilities, planning strategies should be inclusive of a wide variety of stakeholders. Plans that are made without full community representation are less effective and more difficult to implement when mobilizing the community becomes necessary. Incorporating the whole community in the full planning process maximizes community assets, addresses community needs, and ensures that everyone benefits from future recovery efforts. Groups like National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD), state-level VOAD, and Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD), nonprofit consortiums, interfaith coalitions, Long Term Recovery Groups, local government/emergency management officials, and other planning committees could already be engaging in this work, so identifying pre-existing efforts as well as leveraging and integrating their plans can be a productive starting point. Individuals can also volunteer for these efforts by reaching out to local emergency management agencies, COADs, or nonprofits that are involved in this work, like the American Red Cross or the Salvation Army. National VOAD or your state VOAD’s website can help direct you to these agencies and organizations. Becoming involved in preparedness activities in the community ensures that diverse perspectives are being incorporated into the planning process.


Emergency preparedness is everyone’s responsibility. Preparing yourself and your family puts less strain on first responders in your community. Reach out to members of your community this Preparedness Month, especially those who are homebound and elderly. Building a more resilient family and community is the most important thing we all can do in honor of National Preparedness Month.

Hagerty Consulting (Hagerty) is an emergency management consulting firm that helps clients prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. For over twenty years, we have supported our clients in their preparations for, response to, and recovery from some of the nation’s largest disaster response and recovery missions including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Michael, the Camp Fire, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, amongst others.

Additional resources

The following resources are intended to support your home and community become more resilient.

* PULSE is a tool provided by the National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC). To utilize PULSE, contact to request login credentials.

Building Resilience: Continuity of Operations Planning in the Transportation Sector

The transportation sector faces many unique challenges as an amalgamation of public and private sector entities. The transportation industry is comprised of many unique subcomponents including airports; seaports; railroads; trucking; and pipelines, to name a few. Within each of these subcomponents, there can be further division into passenger, cargo, and commodities. Each of these subcomponents require their own unique consideration to operations and resiliency when forming a Continuity of Operations (COOP) plan.

The industry is vital to the healthy operation and growth of the North American economy – the lifeblood of the United States’ (US) economic might, distributing goods, people, and services from coast to coast and back again. Any disruption to the flow of oxygenated blood in the body is a life-threatening event; likewise, transportation interruptions can create negative ripple effects that cascade through all sectors of the American economy. Moreover, transportation service disruptions from a localized event now have the possibility of leading to global negative impacts across a myriad of industries.

What is a Continuity of Operations Plan?

A Continuity of Operations plan provides a single framework for organizations to respond to all manner of disruptions or disasters in an organized manner to restore their organizations essential functions. Having this framework pre-established before a disruption strikes can lead to a more organized response than operating ad-hoc once a disaster has already occurred. Given the myriad of threats that the transportation sector faces today, creating a COOP plan can increase the resiliency of transportation-based businesses and organizations.

Current Threats Facing the Transportation Sector

The Transportation industry faces events with varying degrees of probability and impact daily. Countless instances of small storms, strike actions, infrastructure construction, and vehicular accidents lead to localized transit disruptions daily. Additionally, throughout the past decade there have been numerous significant events that have halted domestic and international transportation. For example in 2010 the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland severely disrupted European and transatlantic air travel for over a week. In February 2021, Winter Storm Uri led to transportation impacts that increased petroleum prices across the US.

Transportation operators also face the threat of human disruption; be it accidental or intentional. Simple accidents can cause devastating impacts, such as the container ship Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal for nearly a week. Modern international conflicts have also led to cyber campaigns targeting opposing countries’ vital industries, with transportation infrastructure prime targets. Not to mention cyber criminals perpetrating the same acts, but for profit instead of nationalistic aims.

Moreover, the COVID-19 Pandemic is one of the most unprecedented challenges the transportation industry has faced in modern time. The backlog of ships waiting offload at the Port of Los Angeles, Long Beach stemmed from labor shortages due to pandemic related layoffs. Imports from increased consumer spending caused a whiplash effect catching the industry by surprise. While the pandemic led to record highs in cargo shipping, it negatively affected the airline industry. According to the International Air Transport Association in 2020 international air travel dropped 76% below 2019 levels, with domestic travel experiencing a 49% decline. US passenger rail reported a similar drop experiencing a 53% decline comparing March 2019 to March 2020.

Why create a Continuity of Operations Plan?

Federal Continuity Directive 1 (FCD 1) and Homeland Security Presidential Directive 20 (HSPD-20) require all local, state, tribal and territorial government agencies, and private sector owners of critical infrastructure and key resources to create a COOP Plan. While this mandate does not apply to all transportation sector stakeholders, this emphasis from the federal government shows the importance placed upon the process.

Having this pre-existing structure to respond to disruptions can increase a business’s ability to quickly adapt from day-to-day operations into an elevated crisis state to restore essential functions. The faster essential services can be restored shortens the length of disruption and the time required for incident recovery.

Additionally, a COOP plan can increase organizational resilience. This is important for transportation sectors as they often play a pivotal role in recovery from large scale disasters. Without access to the capabilities that the transportation industry provides, the personnel, equipment, and materials necessary for community recovery cannot make it where they are needed most.

The Way Forward

Given the emphasis placed upon COOP Planning by the federal government, there is significant funding assistance available to transportation sector stakeholders. The recently enacted American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will provide billions of dollars in funding for the transit industry including $8 billion for airports, $1.7 billion for Amtrak, and $30.5 billion for public transportation agencies.

In addition to this one-time funding stream, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has numerous yearly preparedness grant programs that can be taken advantage of, many of which are specific to the transportation sector. The Transit Security Grant Program (TSGP) focuses on public transportation systems (which include intra-city bus, ferries and all forms of passenger rail) while the Intercity Bus Security Grant Program (IBSGP) and Intercity Passenger Rail (IPR)-Amtrak program focus on their specific method of transit. Additionally, the Port Security Grant Program (PSGP) provides funding specifically for seaports.

Hagerty Can Help

Building resilience into every facet of operations enables a harmonized response to disruptions to facilities, personnel, and resources. Hagerty has experience developing new and validating existing COOP Plans and Continuity of Government (COG) Plans; conducting business impact analysis (BIA); identifying essential functions (EFs); as well as exercising and evaluating plans, and we can do the same for your organization.

Evan Feinstein is a Managing Associate and homeland security subject matter expert (SME) in the Preparedness Division and supports Hagerty’s exercise, active threat, and continuity portfolios. Prior to joining Hagerty, Evan served as an Active-duty Intelligence Officer with the US Army.

Above Average Hurricane Season Expected, While Wildfires Could Pose Significant Challenges in the West

On Thursday, May 20, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC) released its initial 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, marking the second consecutive season to begin amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. While this year likely won’t surpass the record-breaking 2020 season that resulted in 30 named storms, the most in recorded history, scientists have indicated another above-average season is brewing; citing a combination of warmer sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced West African monsoon. 

In terms of activity, NOAA predicted a total of six to 10 hurricanes, with a potential for three to five storms reaching a major Category 3 or higher. Earlier this week, NOAA also released their predictions for the Central Pacific, pointing to a below-normal season with two to five named tropical cyclones expected through November.

News & Features: NOAA

If the past two years have taught us anything in emergency management, it’s that the days of focusing on a single incident response are over. Weather-related events are increasing in frequency and strength, the Nation’s critical infrastructure is in a dire state, and the need to address cascading impacts is becoming more and more prominent. 

Last year, the disaster workforce assembled to address new challenges associated with hurricane and wildfire season during a pandemic ‒ most notably the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) declaration of “Evacuation & Sheltering Assistance under an Emergency Declaration in a COVID-19 Environment,” and addressing disaster fatigue and burnout amongst the emergency management workforce and public. While there is hope on the horizon, emergency managers, elected officials, and the public must now be prepared to address the threat of natural disasters while ensuring vaccination efforts continue to move forward. 

Amplifying the dual threat of hurricane season and COVID-19, this year’s recent La Niña period has presented warmer, drier-than-normal conditions throughout the West and Southwest United States (US), leading to severe drought, dry vegetation, and below-average snowpack across many states and across the different regions. According to NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) and the National Interagency Fire Center, four Southwest states experienced their driest April-to-March period in over a century. All of these signs point to significant wildfire potential throughout these regions in the coming months.

Although the Atlantic hurricane season does not officially begin until June 1, tropical depression, flooding, and wildfire activity has already begun in the Southern and Western regions of the US.

Hurricanes and Tropical Storms

The first tropical storm of 2021, Tropical Storm Andres, developed in the Pacific in early May. The US NHC routinely starts naming storms on June 10, but Pacific storms sometimes emerge on or before the official start of the Pacific hurricane season on May 15. This is the third time in the last five years that a tropical storm has emerged before the official start of the season. 

Despite the early start this year, NOAA predicted the Central Pacific region will experience near- or below-normal activity in 2021. The season will be followed by NOAA’s newly upgraded Global Forecast System (GFS), which uses updated weather models to advance understanding of hurricane genesis forecasting and heavy rainfall.

Tropical Storm Andres forming in the Pacific: Earth Observatory

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) Aqua Satellite acquired a natural-color image of Tropical Storm Andres in the early afternoon of May 9. For most of the day and stretching into May 10, the storm sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (mph), with gusts reaching up to 50 mph. The storm weakened by the afternoon of May 10, retreating west-northwest from the edge of Baja, California. 


Given the ongoing drought throughout much of the Western US, wildfire activity has already started to accelerate. According to incident information released by the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD), the Palisades Fire started impacting Los Angeles County on Friday, May 14. At present, the Palisades Fire is currently 72 percent contained and is expected to be fully contained by May 26. To date, the fire has burned roughly 1,158 acres of the Palisades region. The LACFD said the current focus is containment, with firefighters on the scene noting the fire could potentially spread into vegetation that hasn’t burned in over 60 years. At present, there are no reports of civilian injuries or fatalities, and no damaged or destroyed structures. 

Public Fire Information Website: National Interagency Wildfire Center


In addition to the US facing risks from hurricanes, tropical storms, and wildfires, the NOAA National Weather Service (NWS) has reported major and moderate flooding throughout coastal Louisiana and Texas since May 17. Heavy rains are forecast to continue through the evening of May 21, with 2 to 3 inches of rainfall expected.

Nazrin B-va: Unsplash 

The NWS issued a Flash Flood Watch for Louisiana and Southeast Texas through Friday evening. The NWS New Orleans extended their Flash Flood Warning for the Louisiana parishes of Southern Ascension, Northeastern Assumption, Southeastern Iberville, Southwest Livingston, and St. James until Friday evening, indicating that flooding is ongoing. Additionally, overnight, the NHC announced a 40 percent chance of development within the next five days for a tropical disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico ‒ potentially bringing more rain to the already saturated Gulf Coast region.

NWS New Orleans : Twitter

Are you prepared?

Many of the challenges we faced during last year’s hurricane and wildfire season will remain prominent throughout 2021, but there are activities the whole community can undertake to prepare for this season. So, as citizens and public servants what can you do to play your part?



  • Plan your evacuation route;
  • Visit to make a plan for a variety of disasters, including hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires;
  • Review your insurance policies and gather insurance documents to determine if you’re covered under region-specific emergencies, such as flooding or hurricanes;
  • Take an inventory of your personal property;
  • Keep non-perishable emergency supplies on hand; and
  • Take steps to protect your home or business.

Hagerty Can Help

As the emergency management workforce and the Nation as a whole are continuously confronted with billion-dollar weather and climate events and cascading impacts of other unforeseen crises, we must continue to adapt and prepare for multiple hazards, using the recent lessons learned to improve our dual and multi response capabilities. Not sure where to start? Whether it’s related to preparedness, response, recovery, or mitigation, Hagerty Consulting is able to provide expertise and tailored solutions for your community or organization’s needs before, during, and after disasters. 

Caleb Smith is a managing associate with Hagerty’s Washington, D.C. office, where he supports various workforce development initiatives for FEMA. Prior to joining Hagerty, Caleb served in roles with FEMA both as a consultant and public servant where he focused on National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) outreach, and supported individual assistance and stakeholder engagement in response to hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Florence. He is also a new member of Hagerty’s Situational Status (SitStat) Team.

2021 Preparedness Grants: Readying Your Community for Emerging Threats Through Prevention and Protection

On February 25, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced that as part of the newly released 2021 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Preparedness Grants, combating domestic violent extremism (DVE) would be a ‘National Priority Area’. Coupled with lone actor attacks, cyberattacks, and complex coordinated terrorist attacks (CCTA), local and state government face a profound challenge in preparing for, and potentially responding to, this known and emerging threat. Through this recent funding cycle, over $1.8 billion has been made available in competitive and awarded grants:

Additionally, Secretary Mayorkas emphasized that many of the threats our country now faces stem from homegrown extremism as opposed to threats from foreign actors. Accordingly, law enforcement and their public safety partners must be bold and innovative as they continue developing the skills required to respond to new threats motivated by dis- and misinformation as well as extremist rhetoric spread through social media and other online platforms.

Preparing for the Next Critical Incident: A Focus on Prevention and Protection

As the threat landscape continues to evolve, the prevention and protection mission areas of FEMA’s National Preparedness Goal have been prioritized. Ensuring these important capabilities are top of mind provides organizations and jurisdictions an opportunity for discovery, innovation, and perspective – hopefully strengthening their readiness for any hazards they may face.

Encrypted messaging, hyper-networked groups, and lone actor events demonstrate the span of complexity that responders now operate in. Identifying and sharing a key detail could prevent an attack or mitigate the severity of its impact. For example, studies show that 86 per cent of lone actors share their convictions with others, and 58 per cent provide indications of violent intent. Communicating crucial information between local and state partners, wherever that information may come from, could be the difference.

To properly prepare, an organization must understand the nature and complexity of the emerging threats. Often, law enforcement, fire protection, emergency management, and emergency medical services – not to mention the wider community of public and private sector partners – do not communicate consistently in the way that a multi-day, critical incident might require. Therefore, developing plans and procedures to ensure the fluidity of critical information-sharing prior to and during a crisis is a must.

Building a Preparedness Program Driven by Prevention and Protection: Hunter Seeker Exercises

While decades of planning, training, and exercise have strengthened overall response to critical incidents, the preparedness grants offers awardees a unique opportunity to develop and sustain a community preparedness program driven by the prevention and protection core capabilities.

To help build and promote an understanding of how critical prevention and protection capabilities can stop an active threat, cyberattack, or act of DVE from taking place, Hagerty has developed Hunter Seeker – an exercise hosted by intelligence operations centers (such as a fusion center or other intelligence and information sharing hub) that incorporates gaming concepts and Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) guidance to create a dynamic exercise experience like no other.

Unlike many exercises, Hunter Seeker is highly customizable – tailored to meet the unique needs of the participants. Using a phased approach that goes beyond HSEEP standards, Hagerty’s exercise designers and active threat experts conduct rigorous interviews and assessments, build organic scenarios (such as a DVE attack or cyberattack) with thousands of injects and hundreds of potential outcomes, and incorporate gaming concepts for the organizations involved in the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).

Throughout the exercise, participants are fully immersed in the scenario through simulated news, social media, and incorporation of the Homeland Security Information Network (HSIN) along with other information sharing tools. During the multi-day exercise, the decisions made by individuals and teams shape the scenario, with each outcome designed to test the identified and unidentified weaknesses in the system. Following the completion of Hunter Seeker, Hagerty experts facilitate an after-action reporting process and improvement planning effort with participating agencies and organizations.

Are You Threat Ready? Hagerty Can Help!

Hunter Seeker is a dynamic, interactive exercise and a way that Hagerty can help bolster your community’s or organization’s preparedness capabilities. As we help you find the right solution to meet your needs, it is important to note that our services are not limited to solely in-person or solely virtual conduct – a myriad of hybrid options also exist that can benefit your organization. Hagerty will work with you to determine the best scenario given your desired objectives, outcomes, and resources.

David Schuld is a Deputy Director of Preparedness Programs at Hagerty Consulting, and leads the firm’s efforts in homeland security, active threat preparedness, and Hunter Seeker. He has managed numerous public safety-related projects ranging from intelligence and information sharing, to integrated response to an active threat, to mass casualty crime recovery. 

Jonathan Davis is a Managing Associate at Hagerty Consulting and homeland security subject matter expert, most recently working for the United Kingdom (UK) Home Office.

Juggling Priorities: The Impact of COVID-19 on Exercises for PHEP Awardees

Health departments across the country are facing the most strenuous public health challenge of our time. The COVID-19 pandemic is currently in its deadliest phase in many regions of the United States (US). Many of the health departments currently engrossed in COVID-19 response have relied on Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) funding from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to fund their emergency preparedness efforts since the program began in 2002. As health departments remain focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, Hagerty is prepared to help PHEP awardees meet their award requirements so that they concentrate on supporting those who are ill, their families, essential workers, and healthcare workers at the front line of the pandemic response, as well as those who are distributing and administering COVID-19 vaccines.

The PHEP cooperative agreement is a CDC funding source for state, local, and territorial health departments. Awards provided through the PHEP program help health departments across the US plan and prepare for the unexpected, including natural hazards, man-made disasters, technological incidents—and pandemics. The goal of the program is to advance preparedness of the nation’s health departments across six functional areas, “[modernizing] jurisdictional all-hazards public health preparedness and response strategies” to prepare for emerging health threats.

As part of the PHEP cooperative agreement, awardees are required to carry out multiple planning, training, and exercise efforts over a five-year performance period, the most recent of which began in 2019. Health departments benefiting from PHEP funds are also required to carry out specific requirements each 12-month budget period. The CDC has waived or extended the deadline for some of the requirements for the current budget period, Budget Period 2 (mid 2020 – mid 2021), due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are multiple exercises and action plans that PHEP awardees are still required to complete in the five-year performance period, including the annual PHEP exercise and numerous tabletop exercises (TTXs), functional exercises (FEs), and full-scale exercises (FSEs).

Upcoming Requirements for PHEP Awardees

In the last several months, public health awardees may have delayed conducting PHEP-required exercises and trainings to concentrate, understandably, on pandemic response. But pushing these activities to the end of the PHEP performance period may leave many health departments rushing to develop and conduct multiple exercises in a short timeframe to meet the PHEP requirements.

Hagerty Can Help

As health departments remain focused on their primary mission—responding to the increasingly complex COVID-19 pandemic—Hagerty is poised to support the development of the exercises that are required of PHEP awardees. Hagerty is experienced in designing and executing exercises that meet the standards of the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) and exceed those of clients. The following summarizes how Hagerty can support the nation’s health networks:

  • Hagerty has successfully transitioned exercise design and execution to the virtual environment. Though the pandemic has made in-person trainings and exercises unfeasible, Hagerty’s experience in virtual exercise design has allowed our clients to continue to benefit from the dynamic, interactive nature of multi-player exercises. Hagerty has delivered virtual seminars, trainings, workshops, TTXs, and FEs across major virtual platforms—including Zoom, Adobe Connect, Teams, and the client’s platform of preference—for clients across the country.
  • Hagerty has experience working with health departments, healthcare associations, and emergency management agencies to prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hagerty has recently designed trainings, seminars, and exercises for these groups to validate and improve their public health preparedness processes. These activities, conducted virtually, have enabled clients to explore potential challenges surrounding public health efforts like vaccine administration and Point of Dispensing (POD) management, proactively identify gaps in preparedness, and collaborate with stakeholders to build the partnerships needed for effective problem-solving. Through careful design and innovative content development, Hagerty delivered a series of virtual activities that were easily adopted by the client and of enormous value to the target audience.
  • Hagerty personnel have the subject-matter expertise to develop nuanced, actionable After-Action Reports (AARs) for health departments and healthcare systems nationwide. While the real-world experience of the COVID-19 pandemic may be used to support PHEP requirements, Hagerty’s analytical experts can support the development of AARs that result in meaningful change. Hagerty’s in-house experts have significant knowledge and experience in topics—including workforce resilience, continuity of operations, and anthrax and pandemic influenza response—and have created COVID-19 response AARs for healthcare entities, cities, and counties across the country to identify lessons learned and improve planning tools. Our team will leverage this knowledge as well as the situational intelligence gathered from Hagerty’s nationwide presence to formulate next steps that are impactful and specific to health departments.

Beyond exercises, Hagerty can also help support the development of health departments’ Operational Readiness Reviews (for more information, see our previous blog post on the topic) or Jurisdictional Risk Assessment (JRA).

PHEP awardees play a critical role in updating the nation’s public health preparedness, a mission that demands significant effort and attention in the best of times. As health departments in every state fight to lessen the impact of the pandemic on society, the preparedness professionals at Hagerty stand ready to support exercise, AAR, and other PHEP needs.

Additional Resources

Exercises 2.0: Virtual Tabletops as Part of the “New Normal”

Hagerty’s Exercise Services (one-pager)

About the Authors

Amanda Wight is the Lead for Hagerty’s Exercise Portfolio and Lead for Hagerty’s Active Threat Portfolio. Amanda has supported communities nationwide on developing, delivering, and assessing exercises on a wide range of subject matters. Having conducted more than 35 exercises in the past five years that vary in size and complexity, she has expertise in the development and execution of large, multi-site, multi-jurisdictional, multi-discipline exercises.

Alexandra Koch, MPH is a Managing Associate and public health emergency management professional with strong knowledge and experience in public health emergency preparedness and response. As a ORISE Fellow at the CDC and Prevention’s Division of State and Local Readiness she validated PHEP Cooperative Agreement awardee data and assisted in the rewrite efforts for the 2019 – 2024 PHEP Cooperative Agreement. She also has assisted Fulton County Board of Health for their Anthrax dispensing plans by optimizing POD locations using RealOpt.

Anne Armstrong is an Associate supporting Hagerty’s Exercise, Active Threat, and Continuity portfolios. Anne has worked with public and private sector clients across the country to improve their disaster readiness, business resilience, and continuity capabilities. Prior to joining Hagerty, Anne worked on federal policy and strategy in the non-profit space and at the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Policy and completed a Boren Fellowship in Amman, Jordan.

Going Virtual: Conducting Complex Exercises and Workshops Virtually

Public organizations have adjusted to the “new normal” of operating in an environment with COVID-19. Typical, preparedness operations such as trainings and exercises, often conducted in-person, are increasingly being delivered virtually to account for social distancing. This is especially challenging in the world of Complex-Coordinated Terrorist Attack (CCTA) preparedness which thrives on complex exercises simulating attacks, response tactics, and procedures.

Considering client and employee safety amid COVID-19, Hagerty has had to leverage virtual technologies to create engaging and valuable exercises for clients.

This blog post discusses one of these recent success stories working in support of the Mid-America Regional Council (MARC). MARC is an association for local governments in the Kansas City metropolitan area comprised of nine counties and 119 cities spanning Missouri and Kansas. Hagerty’s continued work with MARC has often stressed the importance of regional coordination especially when agencies are communicating and coordinating across county and state boundaries.

A Successful Case Study: MARC Joint Information Systems Functional Exercise

Hagerty was originally scheduled to conduct a year-long series of CCTA exercises starting in the summer of 2019. After the initial impacts of COVID-19, the exercise planning was paused before resuming in late summer 2020. One of the first activities planned was a Joint Information System (JIS) functional-exercise (FE). As the exercise was initially planned to be in-person, it needed to be adapted to a virtual environment. The project team worked with MARC to ensure the shift in delivery of this exercise still provided a high level of engagement and value for participants using nothing but their computer screens and phones.

The objectives of the JIS FE were to establish and develop a coordinated information collection, sharing, and dissemination processes through the establishment of a JIS or Joint Information Center (JIC) in response to four simulated attacks within the region.

FEMA defines a JIS as a structure that integrates incident information and public affairs into a cohesive organization designed to provide consistent, coordinated, accurate, accessible, timely, and complete information during crisis or incident operations. Additionally, a JIC is a location where public information functions such as crisis communications and public affairs are coordinated.

After exploring the many virtual platforms that Hagerty has used prior to and during the pandemic, the project team determined to execute FE through Zoom. The following describes some of the key exercise design features the project team used to replicate a complex FE in a virtual setting which would still meet the target exercise objectives.

  • Meeting Rooms: The exercise utilized a combination of large and small meeting rooms which allowed all participants to collaborate in one group or in smaller breakout groups. Larger briefings such as the player briefing, module brief-outs, exercise hot wash, and context setting presentations from the 2-1-1-United Way of Greater Kansas City and the Kansas City Police Department were conducted with the full group of participants. Three smaller breakout rooms were utilized during three modules of exercise play. Each room had approximately 10 to 15 players and three to five exercises staff including exercise controllers and simulators.

Screenshot of Exercise Play

  • Simulation: Exercise simulation plays an integral role in the execution of a FE. During this type of exercise, many real-world procedures and communications are simulated rather than acted out. The project team strived to create engaging and robust exercise simulation using a simulation cell (simcell), a group of exercise control staff who simulate entities during the exercise to provide realism and context. Each breakout group in the exercise were assigned two to three simulators who would interact with participants through multiple avenues such as phone calls or chat messages to send mock emails and messages for participants to respond to. During an in-person exercise, a simcell may be sharing a room where exercise tracking, challenges, and questions are coordinated by the simcell lead. During this exercise, the simcell maintained communication through text and phone calls to make sure communications were delivered promptly and any potential issues in exercise delivery were addressed. In addition, the simcell lead was able to easily cycle through the breakout rooms to monitor exercise simulation.
  • Social Media Environment: Hagerty leveraged its proprietary social media tool EM Social Simulation to provide exercise participants a no-fault simulated social media environment to review and make posts related to the exercise scenario. As the scenario was unfolding, mock organizational Facebook and Twitter pages from participants were receiving posts from concerned and affected citizens. They then used these posts to gather incident information and push official public messaging. Adding this additional environment provided exercise participants an additional avenue for engagement and realism in a virtual exercise.

Screenshot of Hagerty’s EM Social Simulation Tool

  • Platform Features: Multiple functions of Zoom were used for materials delivery, exercise facilitation, and coordination between participants. These include:
    • Screen Sharing: Presenters shared content such as briefing materials, agendas, and discussion questions with participants. Players also used screen sharing to collaborate and share planning documentation.
    • Chat: The chat feature allowed for private or group conversations between participants and provided them an avenue post a public messaging for review. In addition, participants were able to use the chat feature to flag messages they would like to save and share files.
    • Recording: The FE was recorded using the platforms native recording function. Recording the exercise allowed both Hagerty and MARC to review exercise conduct to inform after-action reporting and future virtual and in-person exercise conduct and delivery.


The JIS FE was attended by 38 participants across 30 agencies including local, state, and federal first responders, emergency managements, and nonprofit partners. Despite participants conducting an exercise in an unfamiliar virtual environment, feedback was overwhelmingly positive. MARC felt that this delivery method allowed them to meet their exercise objectives and is confident in the continued transition to virtual methods of training and exercise delivery.

As the impacts of COVID-19 continue and organizations begin resume planning or training efforts in this unique environment, Hagerty is committed to work with clients to leverage virtual technologies and continue to create engaging emergency management trainings, exercises, and meetings this firm is known for.

Stay tuned!

Later this week, we will provide another case study examining how Hagerty has leveraged additional online platforms to execute successful training and exercises as part of a Virtual Exercise Blog Series.

Hagerty Can Help

Whether you are designing a new exercise or want to convert an existing one into a virtual environment our team at Hagerty looks forward to supporting your needs. Hagerty’s Exercise Planning Team is comprised of HSEEP-certified personnel and Master Exercise Practitioners (MEPs) that understand the importance of a thorough planning process, including read-ahead and logistics handouts with instructions for navigating the event. Our team will work with you to determine the best exercise solution given your desired objectives, outcomes, and resources.

To learn more about Hagerty’s services and how we can support your exercise needs with a customized approach, please contact us at

Additional Resources

The following exercise and training resources are intended to support your organization in the search for a new normal.

About the Author

Tylor Headrick, CEM supports Hagerty’s exercise portfolio using simulation tools. He manages Hagerty’s EMSS platform and coordinates its inclusion in exercises. In addition, he has developed interactive mapping simulation tools for exercise scenarios and planning meetings. Tylor also develops planning documentation for clients and supports their implementation through tabletop exercise facilitation.

Tylor previously worked at the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Management as a planner, WebEOC administrator, and GIS technician. He has participated in emergency response and recovery deployments supporting mapping in his time in Santa Barbara and Hagerty.