Savita Goel serves as the Deputy Director for Hagerty’s Infrastructure Resilience Division.
Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty Consulting.
I began my career as a structural engineer in India and later worked in Malaysia for few years; this is where my desire to work on infrastructure development projects, in an international environment, began. Throughout my careers, I have been lucky to have opportunities to transition organically between engineering career fields – starting with engineering for new development projects followed by forensic engineering. These roles involved engineering services for pre- and post-disaster management such as insurance claim management, risk mitigation assessments for property insurance, risk mitigation for utility infrastructure and/ or healthcare portfolios.
Then, after the financial crisis of 2008, I decided to go to business school with the intention of focusing on corporate strategy; however, I realized my passion for finance, specifically project financing. One of my advisors shared Hagerty’s job posting. I had heard of Hagerty previously from a colleague, so I decided to apply. Since I am still here, I would say it is a pretty good match!
What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management?
Our work presents opportunities to work alongside local and state government clients as their trusted partners while they navigate the challenging path of response and recovery after a disaster. Our teams work tirelessly with clients to provide them timely information on policy and guidelines for use of federal funds which enables them to focus on their response to the disaster at hand. It is very humbling when I realize that this work has potential to make a tangible difference to a community by mitigating financial risk to their federal funding which enables their recovery as well as investment to build back in a more resilient manner.
As the Deputy Director of Infrastructure Resilience, what should communities be considering as they rebuild and recover after a disaster?
Infrastructure is the backbone of a community’s lifelines and all community lifelines are interdependent. If, at any point in time, there is a need to rebuild, communities should prioritize building back better. Doing so helps optimize the long-term costs associated with important infrastructure assets as well as minimizes the future possibility for adverse socioeconomic impacts on the community.
Often, communities struggle to justify infrastructure investments; however, while the initial investment may be expensive, it is a lot less expensive than the cost of frequent maintenance cycles and negative economic impacts associated with damaged assets and service outages. When rebuilding after a disaster, here are some key things to consider:
- Reach for resilience. Resilience planning should be based on a holistic view of the risk landscape for the region looking forward instead of limiting risk mitigation to the disasters of the past. For example, historically, building codes and standards are updated periodically to incorporate lessons learned from developments in science and technology and from natural and/or manmade disasters. Therefore, in some cases, planning for mitigation could be as simple as rebuilding per the applicable codes and standards.
- Consider the economic impacts of post-disaster rebuilding on the community. For example, when planning to repair a damaged transportation asset, consider alternatives to provide greater mobility throughout the community. In this case, perhaps a transit system will serve the community better in the long run than simply repairing the existing highway infrastructure.
- Explore the available funding resources. Multiple federal grant programs may be available to use for your mitigation projects. Further, some of the federal grant programs encourage use of public-private partnership such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC), The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT), etc.
- Extend disaster recovery efforts to the whole community. Equity in recovery is critical. Once again, rebuilding after a disaster should really be an opportunity for everyone in the community to build better than before.
- Learn from the past to be better prepared for the future. It is important to learn from previous disaster response and recovery efforts, then update emergency response, recovery, and mitigation plans accordingly. This will save you both money and time in the future.
What is your favorite food?
Tough to pick one, but I love to try anything new.
What are you passionate about outside of work?
Running and Travel – I love to travel to new places to run marathons. After running marathon in several metropolitan cities, I have come to realize that this is a fun way to travel to new places and experience their culture.
Savita Goel serves as Hagerty’s Deputy Director of Infrastructure Resilience. Savita is an experienced engineer with more than two decades of experience in management, business administration, and recovery-related projects. She is also adept at assisting firms to assess risk. Savita’s storied engineering background gives her the ability to head teams including management and hands-on engineers, often with projects that deal in millions of dollars of federal grant management and budgeting. Savita is also experienced in assessing risks posed to large urban areas from terrorist threats.