DeBRICing: Our Takeaways from FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Program’s Inaugural Application Cycle

BRIC’s inaugural application development period came to an end and potential BRIC projects are currently being evaluated by the National Technical Review (NTR) team comprised of mitigation subject matter experts who review each eligible project for cost-effectiveness and engineering feasibility. The review process will take several months meaning eager applicants and sub-applicants will not know their project’s status until July 2021 – approximately one month before the new grant cycle starts again, with the release of the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for Fiscal Year 2021.

First, you need to know that BRIC 2021 could be a significant amount of funding. In a recent New York Times article, Michael Grimm, FEMA’s acting deputy associate administrator for disaster mitigation, said the “agency’s initial estimates suggested that as much as $3.7 billion could be available for the program.” Mr. Grimm also noted that more than $3.7 billion could be forthcoming as COVID could impact the estimate and raise it to $10 billion. With the potential for billions in BRIC funding, state, tribal and local governments need to be proactively scoping projects to determine which are the most competitive for the BRIC program.

Since high impact, large scale infrastructure and neighborhood-scale projects take time to successfully develop, we wanted to jump right in with our debriefing or “deBRICing” from the 2020 grant cycle – what worked well, what may need reevaluation, and how to better prepare your potential project for BRIC in 2021.

What worked well? 

BRIC, unlike its predecessor, the legacy FEMA Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program, provides more meaningful and significant funding opportunities for high-impact infrastructure and community-based projects. In its inaugural funding cycle alone, BRIC increased the nation’s investment in pre-disaster mitigation to $500 million and the individual project cap to $50 million – a dramatic increase from the $4 million cap for mitigation projects and $10 million cap for resilient infrastructure projects under the PDM program. Moreover, the increase in project funding caps boosted the potential for high-impact infrastructure projects with cost estimates that traditionally exceeded the previous PDM caps. Some additional benefits included,

  • A streamlined application process with 100 percent digital submission through FEMA GO.
  • The qualitative scoring criteria awards points for evaluating future conditions, leveraging partnerships, and obtaining public support through community outreach.
  • Incentives in the technical scoring criteria:
    • For nature-based solutions with applicants and sub-applicants eligible to receive an additional 10 points for inclusion in project proposal;
    • For communities with robust building codes and standards with applicants and sub-applicants eligible to receive a total of 35 points for 2015/ 2018 code adoption and a Building Code Effectiveness Grading Schedule (BCEGS) rating between 1-5; and,
    • For small, impoverished communities in the technical scoring criteria with applicants and sub-applicants eligible to receive five additional points on the technical scoring criteria, in the hopes of promoting their participation in the program.
  • Period-of-performance (POP) extension for complex projects provides additional flexibility for applicants and sub-applicants if the project’s schedule justified the need for expansion beyond the traditional 36-month POP.
  • Removal of time constraint for pre-award costs provides a pathway for FEMA-selected projects to have their initial design work and feasibility studies reimbursed, if the procurement is compliant with applicable federal regulations.

What needs reevaluation?

While BRIC provided an overall more substantive mitigation investment, there are areas in its policy and implementation that would benefit from further review and analysis. Areas for reevaluation include,

  • Increasing the Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB) funding from $600,000 per applicant. FEMA should consider increasing the C&CB project scoping allocation and making a larger initial investment in BRIC’s early years to build and fund potential future projects. This would help communities build a future pipeline of shovel ready projects. Given COVID-19 and its impact on local match availability, many sub-applicants simply cannot invest in initial preliminary work needed for BRIC projects. This is further compounded in States that do not have HMGP Advance Assistance (AA) funding available.
  • Receiving additional guidance from FEMA on project phasing. While not included in the NOFO, FEMA did allow for phased projects to be submitted. A phased project has a scope of work that meets FEMA eligibility requirements, but whose complexity requires additional studies and design development to get the subapplication to the point where a full eligibility determination can be made. Additional guidance from FEMA on project phasing and when to phase a project (what level of design development or environmental analysis) could save communities time and resources on application development.
  • Extending the small, impoverished community designation. Small, impoverished communities have a reduced non-federal match, but many of these communities, who stand to benefit from mitigation activities, lack the institutional capacity or resources to implement BRIC grants. They may not have the resources to navigate the complexities of BRIC, the Benefit Cost Analysis (BCA), and the rigorous subapplication process. Currently, a small, impoverished community needs to be the subapplicant to receive the reduced non-federal cost share amount. FEMA should extend the small, impoverished community designation to the project benefitting area or project activity area to allow for more flexibility and equity in program participation.
  • Clarifying what constitutes an “overmatch.” The technical scoring criteria included five additional points for increased non-federal cost share (“overmatch”); however, FEMA should clarify what constitutes an overmatch. For example, is 26 percent, or one percent over the required non-federal share, sufficient to receive the points or should the increased non-federal cost share be more substantial. In addition, FEMA should provide guidance on how to calculate management costs when applicants and sub-applicants overmatch.
  • Implementing technical updates to the FEMA GO system. While FEMA GO allows for a full digital submission, users experienced numerous issues with the software. Key feature improvements for next year include enabling deletion of draft sub-applications and files; making a downloadable PDF of the full sub-application available; and updating the cost estimate tab so that 100 percent of management costs are captured in the federal cost share.

Preparing for BRIC 2021

Primed with the lessons from the inaugural BRIC application cycle, it is important to start evaluating your potential BRIC projects for FY21 now. To do so, we recommend the following:

  • Establish a BRIC working group comprised of diverse stakeholders. Suggestions include public works, parks and recreation, housing and economic development, utility managers, project and grant managers, and city managers. All of these stakeholders can collectively help identify potential projects. Additionally, they can collaborate and help gather basic data needed to evaluate the project through the use of existing Hazard Mitigation Plans, local and regional planning documents, planning studies, feasibility studies, capital project plans, new budgetary need requests, and climate adaptation resources.
  • Be proactive in identifying mitigation activities and developing well-documented subapplications. Take advantage of pre-award costs to start project identification and planning now.
  • Develop an early screening process to evaluate projects and determine their scope. This process should account for project eligibility, feasibility, cost-effectiveness, environmental and historic implications, and overall competitiveness. In this way, you may avoid committing resources to advanced design, engineering and application development for a project that is ultimately not cost effective or not a viable proposal for BRIC. As a part of this process, it is also important to identify what critical infrastructure or buildings and populations are being protected by this project and to what degree. Additionally, you must consider environmental and historic consultations, prepare project cost estimates, and develop BCAs. This will help as the project matures towards submission. Additional factors to consider include the likelihood of achieving the intended implementation outcome, potential duplication of programs (DOP), the project’s shovel-readiness, agency capacity to support the project through completion, and local match availability.
  • Procure support early in the process to maximize the project scoping opportunity. It is important to understand and follow the Federal Procurement and the Conflict of Interest requirements (2 CFR 200) if consultants are being utilized. Failing to properly procure consultant support can jeopardize the pre-award reimbursement if the project is selected.

Conclusion

So, now that you have been deBRICed, we extend an opportunity for you to learn more about our experiences with BRIC 2020 and our recommendations for BRIC 2021. We will continue to highlight the lessons learned from the inaugural year of BRIC and to discuss how state and local entities can better prepare themselves for the upcoming BRIC funding opportunity. If you are interested in this opportunity, please sign up to receive more details below.

Hagerty is here to help. While the cost share for this program is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, FEMA will provide 100 percent federal funding for management costs associated with the administration of a BRIC-awarded mitigation measure or project. Therefore, our professionals can help at little-to-no additional cost. Hagerty’s Mitigation Team are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact us.

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Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.

Vanessa Castillo is a mitigation and planning consultant with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, she was a Mitigation Specialist with the state of Colorado where she contributed her expertise to the successful implementation of more than $65 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Colorado’s largest disaster.

Millie Starliper is a mitigation and recovery consultant with experience in science and technology, policy, and FEMA mitigation programs. Over the past 6 years, Millie has contributed her expertise in grant management, application development, and project implementation to projects totaling more than $100 million on behalf of state and local governments, private nonprofits, and private sector businesses.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Michelle Bohrson and Michael Levkowitz

September is National Preparedness Month, and, throughout the month, we are highlighting Hagerty employees working to support our clients’ disaster preparedness needs. During this third week of National Preparedness Month, we feature Managing Associates Michelle Bohrson and  Michael Levkowitz, MPA, CFM.

Tell us about yourself – how did your career path lead you to Hagerty?

Michelle: When I joined the firm, I had recently completed my Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning. While pursuing my degree, I recognized a gap in how planners think about growth and development, and the pattern of repetitive disaster loss impacting communities across the nation. I wanted to be a part of a solution to support better and more comprehensive community planning. I have gained a lot of experience understanding how cities, counties, and states manage risk and consider ways to integrate resilience into planning efforts.

Michael: My entry into the field of emergency management began while pursuing my Master of Public Administration (MPA) degree, when I had the opportunity to work with a Tribal community to develop a strategy for mitigating ecosystem impacts from increasing shoreline armoring. Prior to joining Hagerty, I worked in positions with Washington State’s Department of Ecology, the State’s Division of Emergency Management, and supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Risk Mapping, Analysis, and Planning (Risk MAP) Program, helping me gain an understanding of hazard mitigation and resilience-building at the local, tribal, state, and federal levels.

I joined Hagerty Consulting soon after moving from Seattle, Washington to Omaha, Nebraska, where my wife and I moved to allow her to pursue her own career opportunities. Being entirely new to Nebraska, I was thrilled to find an opportunity with Hagerty through which I was able to both plug in to support work throughout the country and support a long-term recovery planning project in my new home state.

What do you find most meaningful about the work you do here at Hagerty?

Michelle: Every day, I understand the impact I am having on communities across the country. These days, there seems to be a new disaster every week; and, I can see states, cities, and even my personal friends getting overwhelmed by the frequency and scope of the disasters occurring nationwide. I appreciate waking up every day and knowing that I get to be a small piece of the puzzle that is making a difference.

Michael: People look to us for help. Across our service lines and projects, our role is consistently focused on supporting our clients to make their communities as safe, livable, and resilient as possible for all residents. Working for Hagerty provides me with opportunities every day to help other dedicated individuals around their country build capacity to help their respective communities more effectively and efficiently.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you spend it?

Michelle: I love to play with my two energetic dogs (Woody and Juniper) and care for my houseplants. If I am feeling more active, I also love to run and do yoga.

Michael: A lot of my spare time is filled with podcasts, but I do my best to multitask when listening. Cleaning out the gutters is way less boring with an episode of ‘My Favorite Murder’ entertaining me in the background.

Michelle Bohrson is a Managing Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division. Michelle primarily supports pre- and post-disaster recovery planning and hazard mitigation planning projects. Michelle earned her Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) from the University of Michigan and is based out of the Austin, TX office.

Michael Levkowitz is a Managing Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division with strategic expertise in mitigation planning and funding. Michael has served in a variety of roles supporting local, state, tribal, and federal agencies with hazard mitigation and long-term recovery planning, emergency preparedness, and risk communication. Prior to joining Hagerty, Michael served as the Mitigation Strategist for Washington State Emergency Management Division. He earned his Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Washington.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Katie Grasty

An interview with Katie to learn more about her professional background and the valuable expertise she brings to the Hagerty Team.

Tell us about yourself – what experience do you bring to Hagerty Consulting?

I am a Hazard Mitigation expert by training and, throughout my time at Hagerty, I have helped our Florida panhandle clients apply for $130M in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) funding post Hurricane Michael. I also helped Montgomery County, Texas secure a $10M Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) grant. Currently my role includes helping communities apply for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) new Mitigation Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program. During COVID-19, I have helped lead the Hagerty Team’s COVID recovery efforts for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM).

What brought you to Hagerty Consulting?

Prior to joining Hagerty, I worked for FEMA for six years. During that time, I experienced firsthand the agency’s leadership under Brock Long. He made so many thoughtful improvements to the agency and was admired by everyone I worked with. I was excited for the opportunity to work at the company that Brock called home, both before and after his FEMA service. Additionally, when I worked at FEMA Region IX, I was impressed with the quality of work that Hagerty was providing in support of the State of California’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES).

What led you to emergency management and your public service mindset?

Prior to joining FEMA, I worked for the United States  Department of Transportation (USDOT) in environmental policy. A few days after Hurricane Sandy made landfall, my team received an email request from the White House looking for volunteers to go to New York and New Jersey to aid in the response, and I was on the road the next day. I led FEMA’s Intergovernmental Affairs team in Brooklyn, New York under Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) Willie Nunn. I remember how devastated the survivors were after Sandy; so, being able to make a difference and assist on the recovery of the storm was one of the most rewarding experiences of my career. It was at this moment in my career that I realized I wanted to be an emergency manager.

What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of emergency management?

I am passionate about mitigation. I specifically remember when the FEMA mitigation staff arrived after Sandy; they were out measuring high water marks and talking to the community about home buyouts. I was very intrigued by this and intentionally chose to pursue a career in the mitigation field as a result. Resilient construction can make such an impact on how a community will fare when the next disaster strikes. With the studies showing that for every $1 spent on mitigation, $6 is saved in avoided damages, the practice of mitigation just makes a lot of sense to me. Helping a community rebuild so it can better withstand the next event is the most rewarding part of this work.

FUN FACTS

What is your favorite movie?

I love Hamilton because I find it fascinating to learn the stories of our country’s founders.

How do you like to spend your free time?

I love dogs and currently volunteer on the weekends at Tallahassee Animal Services. I have two dogs of my own as well as three chickens and a duck.

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Katie Grasty is the Deputy Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and is a dedicated, committed professional with extensive federal grant program expertise and experience in program/grant management and supervision of staff. She has worked for FEMA and the US DOT, in both cases representing those agencies in the Hurricane Sandy recovery effort. At FEMA, she managed Hazard Mitigation grant applications worth more than $2 billion and led a team overseeing more than 1,200 grant applications. Ms. Grasty is outcome-oriented and recognized for her customer service skills, high quality of work, and leadership ability demonstrated through production of superior results.

Prepare for Disasters — Building Community Resilience Through Planning, Mitigation, and Insurance

Building community resilience requires comprehensive emergency management, from preparedness to mitigation, response, and recovery. Like Rome, community resilience cannot be built in a day. It requires a comprehensive approach that engages the Whole Community. Building resilience is a process that can – and should be – unique to individual communities; however, working to build a community, prepared to overcome and bounce back from disaster events, involves work in four main categories:

  • Intentional Planning for Safe Future Development and Redevelopment
    • Ideally, communities develop in ways that prevent vulnerability by avoiding or building to account for hazards present in a given area.
  • Mitigating Existing Risk
    • When community assets are found to exist within hazardous areas, communities can take action to reduce the risk through structural and non-structural projects.
  • Using Insurance to “Buy Down” Risk
    • In addition to mitigation efforts, insurance can be used to reduce the potential out-of-pocket costs of hazard events.
  • Building Resilience in Post-Disaster Environments
    • Finally, when disasters do strike, the need to rebuild can provide an opportunity to evolve and transform communities to build back in ways that are safer and more resilient.

Intentional Planning for safe future development and redevelopment

Fundamental community planning techniques can support reaching resilience, minimizing future risk through intentional land use planning, building requirements, and zoning ordinances. Additionally, communities do not have to fund their resilience alone, it is important to capitalize on all available federal funding to support community goals.

Pre-disaster recovery planning efforts are vital to guiding communities through the process of disaster recovery. Every disaster scenario is unique, but there tend to be consistent challenges, competing pressures, and common organizational and policy issues that arise in disaster recovery environments. By implementing strategic planning for operations, organization, and policy needs that may arise in a post-disaster environment during “blue skies,” communities set the stage for efficient and effective recovery efforts, regardless of the specific nature of the disaster.

Even after disaster strikes, strategic planning for recovery is vital leveraging limited and time-sensitive opportunities to bounce back and strengthen community resilience. Recovery action and redevelopment plans are the typical tools utilized to support developing a strategy for promoting effective recovery. Strategic planning also allows for communities to recognize problems that existed prior to the disaster and build a more resilient community through the recovery process.

To help communities plan for disaster recovery and enhance their community’s resilience, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) adopted the Community Lifelines concept. Lifelines are critical government and business functions and are essential to human health and safety or economic security. Supported by an integrated network of assets, services, lifelines enable all other aspects of society to function. This framework, originally adapted for emergency response, can be used to help communities think through the pillars of preparedness, recovery, and resilience. Additionally, a key aspect of the concept highlights the importance of private sector integration into community planning and infrastructure resilience. As the private sector owns and operates approximately 85 percent of the nation’s critical infrastructure, public-private partnerships are key to truly reducing disaster risk.

Mitigating Existing Risk

You may have heard that “every dollar spent on mitigation saves an average of four dollars (in losses avoided).”This figure comes from an independent study published in 2005 by the Multi-hazard Mitigation Council, and was cited for more than a decade. In 2017, Pew Charitable Trusts published findings from another independent study of mitigation actions nationwide, which indicated that the 4-to-1 ratio was in fact under-estimating the value of mitigation. Looking at mitigation activities funded through federal funding programs across all hazards, Pew Charitable Trusts estimated that the true ratio is closer to 6-to-1.

Pew Charitable Trusts Natural Hazard Mitigation Saves: 2017 Interim Report

FEMA’s new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program represents an important change to the mitigation landscape. Funding for the program is tied directly to disaster-related damages, with approximately $500 million available in 2020. The BRIC evaluation criteria prioritizes projects that increase the resilience of interconnected infrastructure and system-wide improvements, making major mitigation projects more feasible than ever before.

A notable aspect of the BRIC program is the annual allocation of $600,000, per eligible applicant, for Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB) projects. This set-aside funding provides an avenue for funding efforts to enhance mitigation expertise and knowledge at the state and local level. For example, C&CB projects can include evaluating and increasing building codes, establishing partnerships, scoping projects, or conducting mitigation planning or planning-related activities.

USING INSURANCE TO “BUY DOWN” Risk

Commonly, risk cannot be fully reduced through planning and mitigative action. Buying down the remaining risk through hazard insurance can be an effective way to lessen the potential financial burdens of disasters. Insurance is the only option that immediately offers risk reduction benefits, which makes it uniquely valuable and an attractive option for homeowners, renters, business owners, and local governments.

  • Homeowners and renters benefit greatly from the purchase of various types of hazard insurance since it is often not included in a standard homeowner’s policy. If you live where it rains, then your house can flood. For those who live outside of designated flood zones, flood insurance is often very affordable. Homes outside the flood zone may benefit particularly from buying down their risk since these are areas often have more lenient building and development requirements and enforcement.
  • Business owners can mitigate against business interruption by purchasing insurance coverage to reimburse profits lost from service interruption. Business owners may also choose to purchase endorsements on a standard policy to provide additional coverage of unforeseen
  • Local and state governments can purchase hazard insurance to fully cover future damages sustained by public buildings.

Post-Disaster Resilience-Building

Disasters force communities to see the risk(s) hazards pose to them –setting the stage for a concentrated risk reduction and investments in resilience. Communities see aspects of their communities and life devastated, and thereby become more motivated to invest in protective measures as communities recover. Moreover, federal recovery programs, such as the FEMA Public Assistance (PA) program and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and the United States (US) Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program, provide funding for communities to not just build back, but build back better. This has inspired communities to transform in the wake of a disaster to reduce risk, better meet community needs, and increase equity.

Recovery, however, can be extremely complex. In the aftermath of a disaster event, there are numerous competing pressures on politicians and local government leadership that can hinder decision-making.

Assigning roles and responsibilities to individuals to manage the recovery of a community can be extremely important in effectively recovering from even the smallest disasters. Additionally, while federal programs provide well needed financial support, they also have strict requirements which can be difficult to understand and meet, particularly in the chaos of response and recovery. No matter how much funding is available, however, recovery also requires prioritization of funding and effort which requires management of community expectations.

Reaching Resilience Is a Marathon, not a sprint

Building resilience requires a comprehensive approach, from the individual or homeowner level on up to the government and community scale. It must be iterative, flexible, and aligned with the financial, political, and other realities of the area. Efforts will not be successful overnight. However, by taking a multi-pronged and strategic approach, communities can plan for and build a more resilient future.

HOW HAGERTY CAN HELP

At Hagerty we have the expertise, passion, and commitment to assist your community with resilience-building efforts. From supporting pre- and post-disaster recovery planning efforts to hazard mitigation planning projects and navigating funding streams and developing project applications, we’re here to help.

Please reach out to April Geruso, Hagerty’s Director of Resilience, to walk through discuss any potential support that Hagerty can provide.

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Michelle Bohrson is a Managing Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division. Michelle primarily supports pre- and post-disaster recovery planning and hazard mitigation planning projects. Michelle earned her Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) from the University of Michigan and is based out of the Austin, TX office.

Michael Levkowitz is a Managing Associate with Hagerty Consulting’s Preparedness Division with strategic expertise in mitigation planning and funding. Michael has served in a variety of roles supporting local, state, tribal, and federal agencies with hazard mitigation and long-term recovery planning, emergency preparedness, and risk communication. Prior to joining Hagerty, Michael served as the Mitigation Strategist for Washington State Emergency Management Division. He earned his Master of Public Administration (MPA) from the University of Washington.

Mitigation’s “Green New Deal”: Nature-Based Solutions

Currently, two tropical systems are eyeing the United States (U.S.) Gulf Coast for near simultaneous landfall this week. In the West, California is dealing with significant drought, extreme heat, and escalating wildfires. Each year, storms and fires continue to intensify – both in frequency and magnitude. The impacts of climate variability and disaster activity further highlight the need for nationwide investments in resilience – including a holistic, sustainable approach to hazard mitigation – to reduce continued disaster-related damages and loss.

Nature-Based Solutions

Nature-based solutions may be used in sustainable planning, design, environmental management, and engineering practices to incorporate a community’s natural features, landscape, or processes into the built environment to create a more resilient environment. The overarching goal of these projects is to provide more value to communities by mitigating hazards while also creating ecosystem benefits. This can ultimately improve a community’s quality of life and make it more attractive to new residents and businesses.

Nature-Based Solutions are categorized by both location and scale:

  • Watershed and Landscape – These typically include large-scale practices that require long-term planning and coordination, including projects with interconnected systems of natural areas and open space. Examples: land conservation, greenways, wetland restoration and protection, stormwater parks and floodplain restoration
  • Neighborhood or Site – These practices can often be built into a site, corridor, or neighborhood without requiring additional space. Examples: rain gardens, vegetated swales, green roofs, rainwater harvesting, permeable pavement, tree canopy, tree trenches, and green streets.
  • Coastal Areas – Projects that stabilize the shoreline, reduce erosion, and buffer the coast from storm impacts to support coastal resilience. Examples: coastal wetlands, oyster reefs, dunes, waterfront parks, and living shorelines

Integrated Approach to Hazard Mitigation

Planning and carrying out nature-based solutions can require an integrated approach to hazard mitigation. Since nature-based solutions provide a variety of co-benefits, a single project may be eligible for many different private, state, and federal grant programs. It is important to assess what types of nature-based projects would benefit your community, then identify available public funding opportunities, to include both federal and private investment. Additionally, pooling resources may be a cost-effective way to integrate nature-based solution practices into planned or ongoing capital improvement projects including creating or improving roads, streetscapes, stormwater management projects, parks, and parking areas. Throughout this process, cost savings may also be realized as nature-based solutions cost less than alternative investments – often lessening the necessity of standalone infrastructure projects and further reducing the expense of rebuilding and repairs after a disaster.

Nature Based Solutions in BRIC

In the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) recent Building Resilience Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), the agency encourages communities to consider environmentally friendly, green infrastructure solutions as eligible project types. While nature-based solutions have many hazard mitigation benefits, they can also enhance resilience by helping a community meet its social, environmental, and economic goals.

In FEMA’s BRIC NOFO, the agency outlines two evaluation criteria for BRIC projects: technical criteria (all or nothing scoring) and qualitative criteria (gradient scoring scales). The technical criteria specifically promote sustainability, giving sub-applicants the potential to secure an additional 10 points when proposed projects include nature-based solutions. In addition, if a project addresses infrastructure and has an increased non-federal cost share due to private investment or other pooled state, local, or private resources, a sub-applicant may earn an additional 25 points. As written, we think the use of nature-based solutions provides applicants a competitive advantage for BRIC funding prioritization. This critical funding will provide leaders across the country with a more integrated way to mitigate against the impacts of disaster; while also encouraging communities to invest in our nation’s long-term sustainability, security, and strength.

 Hagerty is here to help. While the cost share for this program is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, FEMA will provide 100 percent federal funding for management costs associated with the administration of a BRIC-awarded mitigation measure or project. Therefore, our professionals can help at little-to-no additional cost.

Hagerty’s Mitigation Team are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact us.

___________________________________________________________________________

Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.

Sara Harper is a civil engineer and certified floodplain manager with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, she was a project manager for Dewberry Engineers Inc., managing environmental and historic preservation compliance task orders for FEMA Region IX.  Prior to Dewberry, she was a water resources engineer working on complex water systems in California, Oregon and Nevada for local, state, and federal interests.

Building a Pipeline of Shovel-Ready Mitigation Projects: BRIC’s Focus on Capability and Capacity Building

Disasters cause substantial damage and disrupt socioeconomic activities in ways that we cannot fully measure. It is difficult to predict when disaster will strike your community next, but it is possible to prepare for it. To successfully enable large-scale infrastructure and mitigation projects, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) new Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, required a mechanism to create a steady pipeline of eligible, shovel-ready projects. Capability and Capacity Building (C&CB) – a new project type eligible for funding under FEMA’s BRIC program— does just that.

According to FEMA, the BRIC program seeks to fund effective and innovative projects that will reduce risk, increase resilience, and serve as a catalyst to encourage the whole community investments in mitigation. To support this goal, BRIC sets $600,000 in C&CB funding aside – per eligible applicant – to enhance mitigation expertise, knowledge, and practice at the state and local level. Eligible expenditures can include building code activities, partnerships, project scoping, mitigation planning, and planning-related activities. This funding is designed to result in a resource, strategy, or mitigation product that will ultimately reduce or eliminate risk and damage from natural hazards.

In the recent BRIC Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), FEMA offers a broad definition of C&CB project eligibility. This will enable greater flexibility for states and local communities as they look to fund the development of mitigation solutions under the BRIC program as well as other federal mitigation programs, such as FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA), and HMGP Post Fire. Given that BRIC is expected to be a significantly larger grant program than PDM; C&CB funding provides the necessary seed funding to jump start development of future projects and it appears FEMA is willing to provide the space for communities to appropriately identify their needs and do so.

UnSplash: Scott Graham

Additionally, when endeavoring on a new mitigation or infrastructure project, public awareness is key to highlighting the co-benefits of the project, such as environmental and economic impacts. Therefore, FEMA allows for up to 10 percent of a C&CB activity or mitigation project to be used for public awareness and education, such as: brochures, workshops, and videos.

C&CB projects will not require a Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA). Generally, projects will be subject to a 75 percent federal, 25 percent state and local cost share; however, impoverished communities may be eligible for an increased federal cost share of up to 90 percent. While the $600,000 per applicant maximum award may not provide all the funding required to analyze, coordinate, design, and engineer a jurisdiction’s large infrastructure project, it is the first step in the process of building greater capacity to do so.

The BRIC application period opens on September 30, 2020 and closes on January 29, 2021; however, BRIC project applications will take a significant amount of time and resources to complete. We encourage potential applicants and sub-applicants to begin their planning efforts as soon as possible.

Hagerty is here to help. While the cost share for this program is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, FEMA will provide 100 percent federal funding for management costs associated with the administration of a BRIC-awarded mitigation measure or C&CB project. Therefore, our professionals can help at little-to-no additional cost.

Hagerty’s Mitigation Team are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact us.

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Scott Baldwin is a Senior Mitigation Manager at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in natural hazard mitigation in both the pre and post disaster recovery environments.  With over 10 years of experience in FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Assistance and Public Assistance (PA) programs, Scott has worked closely with states and communities in Colorado and California to identify, develop, and implement mitigation and recovery solutions tailored to meet their needs.

The Building Blocks of BRIC: Investing in Our Infrastructure

America’s infrastructure is in dire need of repair. One out of every five miles of highway pavement is in poor condition; and, one in nine bridges in the United States (U.S.) is rated structurally deficient. Moreover, the average age of the nation’s 614,387 bridges is over 50 years old. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) estimates that by 2025, “aging and unreliable” infrastructure will cost American businesses $7 trillion in lost  revenue. In addition, large scale disasters further exacerbate America’s aging infrastructure, especially critical infrastructure.

Critical infrastructure is defined as the assets, systems, and networks essential to societal and economic functions. In 2017, after heavy rainfall, 180,000 California residents were evacuated due to spillway damage at the Oroville Dam. The following year in California, aging PG&E hardware broke loose during heavy winds and resulted in the 2018 Camp Fire. On the East Coast, New York City is still recovering from Hurricane Sandy in which more than 8 million customers lost power and more than half a million homes were destroyed, resulting in more than $65 billion in damages.

For decades, short-term or minimal repairs have served as band aids that keep our aging bridges, tunnels, subways, and electrical grids in operation – but this is not a cost-effective long-term solution.

Tyler Nix: Source

Investing in our infrastructure and lifelines

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program creates an annual funding opportunity to make critical investments in infrastructure systems and create system-wide improvements that will help communities withstand the impacts of more frequent and severe natural disasters.  BRIC replaces the Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program and refocuses mitigation efforts on strengthening core infrastructure sectors, such as water and wastewater, transportation, energy, communications, public health and several others. BRIC’s funding structure will enable high-impact investments with a focus on public infrastructure and critical services and facilities.

As outlined in FEMA’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), eligible applicants states, territories and federally-recognized tribes may submit an unlimited number of mitigation project subapplications, each valued up to $50 million in federal share (75 percent of total project cost). This is a significant increase from the $10 million federal share cap under FEMA’s PDM Resilient Infrastructure program in 2019. Moreover, the BRIC NOFO creates a $600,000 state/territory and tribal set-aside for Capability- and Capacity-Building which includes project scoping activities. This set-aside alone is a crucial funding source for communities that have identified weaknesses in their infrastructure systems but require financial assistance with the technical studies, engineering, and alternatives analyses needed to support project development.

The technical criteria identified in the BRIC NOFO further solidifies the program’s prioritization of public infrastructure projects and focus on bolstering community lifelines –   systems that enable continuous operation of critical government and business functions within a community. A project that addresses infrastructure and mitigates risk to one or more community lifelines may earn up to 35 points of 100 points enumerated under the Technical Evaluation Criteria for the National Competition.

BRIC NOFO: Source

A time for action

Now is the time for communities to invest in their future. Events such as the collapse of the Interstate 35W Bridge in Minneapolis in August 2007 stand as stark reminders of the need to invest in aging public assets and the potential consequences of decades of neglect. These are the systems and lifelines that transport communities, provide potable water to families, support health networks, ensure local and global communication, and power homes, schools, and other critical services.

Eligible applicants should start planning how they will promote the BRIC program to potential subapplicants. This includes developing solicitations for project applications (i.e. a Notice of Interest or Intent), publishing fact sheets and training material, and hosting webinars to review programmatic requirements and priorities.  Interested subapplicants should review recent feasibility and planning studies to identify potential BRIC projects. Read more on identifying and screening projects on Hagerty blog on BRIC.

The BRIC program will provide communities with a funding source to proactively address deficiencies in their public infrastructure and community lifeline systems. Timely investments to rehabilitate infrastructure with an objective of creating a “resilient community” can result in an even higher return on investments. As John Roome, the World Bank’s Senior Director of Climate Change noted, investing in resilient infrastructure is not about spending more, but about spending better.

Hagerty is here to help. While the cost share for this program is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, FEMA will provide 100 percent federal funding for management costs associated with the administration of a BRIC-awarded mitigation measure or project. Therefore, our professionals can help at little-to-no additional cost.

Hagerty’s Mitigation Team are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact us.

VANESSA CASTILLO is a mitigation and planning specialist with experience in the implementation of the FEMA mitigation programs. Before joining Hagerty, she was a planner with the City of Denver where she specialized in environmental compliance. Prior to Denver, she was a Mitigation Specialist with the state of Colorado where she contributed her expertise to the successful implementation of more than $65 million in Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for Colorado’s largest disaster.

FEMA’s BRIC Program: A Timely Lifeline

Yesterday, as the East Coast was pummeled by strong winds and numerous tornadoes from Tropical Storm Isaias, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) unveiled the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for its new mitigation program, Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC). Amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Tropical Storm Isaias caused millions to lose power – there were nearly 1.4 million power outages in New Jersey alone – and power restoration is anticipated to take several days. The current outages are about half of the more than 2.7 million customers who lost power at the height of Hurricane Sandy in 2012 – the largest outage in the state’s history. Events like this often cause communities nationwide to contemplate the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters and what solutions are available to help us become a more resilient nation; BRIC is one of them.

BRIC’s New Focus

Disasters cause substantial damage and disrupt socioeconomic activities in ways that we cannot fully measure. Additionally, climate variability is causing more frequent and powerful storms that are responsible for unprecedented devastation and costly disaster recovery operations. BRIC aims to categorically shift the current federal focus away from reactive disaster spending towards research-supported, proactive investment in community resilience. BRIC, which replaces FEMA’s legacy Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program, supports states, local communities, tribes, and territories to become more resilient through capability and capacity building and development of large-scale hazard mitigation projects designed to break the repetitive cycle of damage and loss.

The BRIC program will support community resilience in four tangible ways:

  1. Provide larger monetary investment in pre-disaster mitigation to reduce future disaster risk. Last year, FEMA’s PDM program allocated $250 million for mitigation and resiliency activities. That level of investment was historic in its own right, as it was the highest level of funding awarded in the history of the legacy PDM program; however, BRIC’s first-year funding doubled that investment, making $500 million available to eligible state, tribal, and territorial applicants.
  2. Place a greater emphasis on capability and capacity building to promote a culture of preparedness. BRIC sets $600,000 in funding aside – per eligible applicant – to enhance mitigation expertise, knowledge, and practice at the state and local level. Eligible expenditures can include building code activities, partnerships, project scoping, mitigation planning, and planning-related activities. This funding is designed to result in a resource, strategy, or mitigation product that will ultimately reduce or eliminate risk and damage from natural hazards.
  3. Increase project caps to allow for larger-scale infrastructure projects. BRIC changes the national competition cap for mitigation projects, which increased from $10 million to $50 million per project. This increased project cap allows for larger-scale projects that invest in public infrastructure and harden community lifelines. These projects will undergo additional programmatic review, which will evaluate not only technical merit but qualitative criteria such as the population impacted, outreach activities, future conditions, and resiliency effectiveness.
  4. Expressed commitment to nature-based solutions that promote sustainability. BRIC encourages communities to explore nature-based solutions that can serve as eligible project types and mitigate hazards such as riverine flooding, urban drainage flooding, coastal flooding and storm surge, landslides, and drought. Unique, nature-based solutions can provide short- and long-term environmental, economic, and social advantages that improve a community’s quality of life and make it more attractive to new residents and businesses. Potential project types include land conservation, greenways, wetland restoration, stormwater parks, floodplain restoration, rain gardens, and more.

FEMA BRIC and Nature-Based Solutions Presentation: Source

Next Steps

In preparation for the application period opening, FEMA will host a series of webinars to further discuss the grant program details, the agency’s funding priorities, common application pitfalls, and the new system for grant submission (FEMA GO). More information on the upcoming webinar dates and times can be found here. Registration information will be available soon.

The BRIC application period opens on September 30, 2020 and closes on January 29, 2021; however, BRIC project applications will take a significant amount of time and resources to complete. We encourage potential applicants and sub-applicants to begin their planning efforts as soon as possible.

Hagerty is here to help. While the cost share for this program is 75 percent federal and 25 percent non-federal, FEMA will provide 100 percent federal funding for management costs associated with the administration of a BRIC-awarded mitigation measure or project. Therefore, our professionals can help at little-to-no additional cost.

Hagerty’s Mitigation Team are experts in navigating the pre- and post-disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact us.

___________________________________________________________________________

Amelia Muccio is the Director of Mitigation at Hagerty Consulting and a subject matter expert in disaster recovery. With over 15 years of experience in public health, disaster preparedness, mitigation, and financial recovery, Amelia has helped clients obtain $5 billion in federal funds after major disasters, including Hurricane Sandy, the California Wildfires, and Hurricane Harvey.

Katie Grasty is the Deputy Director of Mitigation for Hagerty Consulting. Katie has over 10 years of experience with federal grant management with FEMA and the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT). Prior to Hagerty, Katie was the senior program lead for Hazard Mitigation with FEMA Region 9, where she managed over $2 billion in federal funds for flood, fire, and earthquake risk reduction projects.

Hagerty’s Brock Long Calls for Comprehensive Mitigation Strategy

Imagine that you are the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Hurricane Maria has just devastated the United States (US) territory of Puerto Rico. There are two military airplanes cleared to deliver supplies to the survivors. Only two. What do you fill the airplanes with?

Hagerty Consulting, Inc.’s (Hagerty’s) Executive Chairman, and former FEMA Administrator, Brock Long posed this question to the captive audience at the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) National Disaster Resilience Conference in Clearwater, FL on November 20, 2019 during an interview with former CNN correspondent, John Zarrella, on the topic of “Resilience Leadership through Emergency Management 2.0.

John Zarrella (left) interviewing Brock Long (right) at FLASH’s National Disaster Resilience Conference

Most audience members exclaimed, “Water! Food! Medicine!” Mr. Long admits that he similarly prioritized water, food, and medicine; however, he quickly found that “communications personnel should be on these first flights” to ensure that supplies reach the survivors. Mr. Long further elaborated, “What we at FEMA didn’t realize at the time was that by not including the communications personnel [cellular phone company responders] on those first flights, FEMA had a large quantity of supplies, but no way of communicating to the survivors where it was located.” FEMA continued to mobilize food supplies without realizing that the root cause of the problem was not a lack of food supplies on the island, but rather the breakdown of communications infrastructure supporting food distribution operations. This very experience is why Brock helped FEMA to create the FEMA Community Lifelines. The Lifelines construct simplifies the approach to response and recovery by highlighting the integral components that any community needs to regain its footing post-disaster. As Mr. Long stated, “Mitigation is the cornerstone of Emergency Management,” and applying the Lifelines lens to mitigation can help communities identify critical assets whose risk of damage during a disaster needs to be mitigated.

Source: FEMA.gov

Use of Lifelines to Identify Vulnerabilities to Mitigate

The FEMA Community Lifelines construct can also be used to think about disasters before they happen and for activities like hazard mitigation. Lifelines offers a unified approach to reshape potentially disjointed or redundant coordination efforts across various federal, state, local, tribal, private, and non-profit entities during the response to an event. Applying this approach to mitigation and other pre-disaster efforts would involve a whole community approach to identifying vulnerabilities in lifelines that should be mitigated. For example, a community may identify a power plant at risk of flooding that can be mitigated by elevating key electrical components to ensure continuous power supply during a flood event.

Coordination of Mitigation Funding

The complexities of recovering from a disaster can prove to be a daunting task, especially for smaller communities. Therefore, it is critical that grant managers find ways to coordinate efforts among funding streams and simplify the processes to obtain funding for the communities they are serving. Increased coordination at the local, state, and federal level to align, layer, and maximize funding resources is imperative to successful mitigation. A comprehensive database that includes all mitigation funding opportunities would be a highly valued tool in recovery efforts.

FEMA reports that $8.2 billion is available across the nation in funding through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) alone from 1989-present. There are also mitigation opportunities available through Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Federal Transit Administration (FTA), and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), just to name a few. The Disaster Reform and Recovery Act (DRRA) created a new Pre-Disaster Mitigation funding program, entitled Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC). Given the new mitigation funding sources available and the complexities of implementing mitigation projects, Mr. Long’s call for a whole community look at mitigation, and for identification of streamlined approaches to implementation, is especially timely and pertinent.

Hagerty is here to help. Our professionals are experts in navigating the post disaster funding world. We are available to talk about your recovery needs, including how to get the right people in the room and access all funding available through federal grant programs. To learn more, contact Hagerty’s Mitigation Team.


Katie Grasty is the Deputy Director of Mitigation for Hagerty Consulting. Katie has over 10 years of experience with federal grant management with FEMA and USDOT. Prior to Hagerty, Katie was the senior program lead for Hazard Mitigation with FEMA Region 9 where she managed over $2 billion in federal funds for flood, fire, and earthquake risk reduction projects. Katie earned a Masters in Environmental Management from Duke University and a Bachelor of Science in Geography from Radford University.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Carver Struve

Carver Struve serves as a Senior Mitigation Manager in Hagerty Consulting, Inc.’s (Hagerty’s) Recovery division and as a Hazard Mitigation Task Force Lead. The Disaster Discourse Team conducted an interview with Carver to learn more about his professional background and the valuable expertise he brings to the Hagerty Team.

How did you first become involved in the fields of Disaster Recovery and Emergency Management, and what led you to Hagerty?

My background is in urban planning, and, early in my career, I became involved in providing technical assistance to communities under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). From there, I became the State Hazard Mitigation Officer (SHMO) in Maryland (MD), and as a SMHO, I worked for a number of years with the MD Hazard Mitigation Plan, which helped me to understand how mitigation projects worked from cradle to grave and the importance of integrating mitigation plans into the recovery process.

As my hazard mitigation career grew, I served at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) headquarters working with remote sensing (both satellite and airborne asset data) for disaster response and recovery. One of the things I learned from working at NASA is the importance of understanding a geographic area’s hazard profile. Once you understand how certain elements all fit together to create a region’s hazard profile, you can make better mitigation decisions and forecast areas where mitigation actions should be focused.

Through NASA, I provided assistance to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) and the California National Guard (Cal Guard) during the Camp Fire and, in the process, found Hagerty.

What do you find most rewarding about working in the field of Emergency Management?

It’s a matter of being of service. Whether as a civil servant or a contractor, I am able to give back to the community. Working in emergency management allows me to apply my abilities in a way that, I hope, is going to make the world a better place by building it up and helping communities adapt to changing conditions. These disaster events are getting larger and larger and affecting more people. At the end of the day, my goal is to feel good about my answer to the question “how are you impacting people’s lives?”

I recently discovered that my grandfather helped kick-start the Soil Conservation Service in Nebraska during the Dust Bowl. I found old newspaper articles that discussed him doing outreach and communication on soil conservation, which was a solution to an environmental disaster. It was a technical, political, and governmental solution that enabled people to come together and undo the damage that had been done during the Dust Bowl. I found it interesting that I naturally gravitated to this field of hazard mitigation not knowing that he had done this work year before.

What lessons did you learn about the working relationships between local, state, and federal partners? How do you see these relationships changing, such as some of the new programmatic changes to push responsibilities “downward” from federal to state and local levels?

Two strong lessons that I learned:

  • Relationships are everything in emergency management. If you don’t have strong relationships and trust between levels of government, you’re going to have a harder time succeeding.
  • Understanding those relationships and their roles is critical to success. The model of roles and relationships between federal, state, and local governments is like that of a lever. The lever could be sketched with the federal government on one end, the local government on the other end, and the state government in the center as the fulcrum. The federal government will provide the bulk of the funding and high-level guidance for these programs; the state acts as the conduit and even the interpreter of this information; and the local government is where the work really occurs.

Without proper support in place, Instead of simply pushing responsibility downward, we should be focused on increasing capacity across the board because of the increasing frequency of major disasters. Without increasing capacity, we run the risk of burning out resources all the way down the line to the point where some at the local level may believe that mitigation is not worth it. If the federal mitigation programs are too complex, if the administrative requirements are too burdensome , or if eligibility is not clearly communicated, the local government may expend a lot of political capital for a mitigation project that ultimately fails. When this happens, the local government may be reluctant to attempt mitigation projects in the future.

To keep this burnout from happening, it’s necessary to make sure that the whole program (and chain of governmental relationships that support a program) is adequately resourced. Moreover, it’s critical to provide state and local governments with the latitude to make decisions in ways that fit their needs better, or the program won’t succeed. The relationships between these levels of governments are complicated, and I’m really grateful for my years of experience in state government working with federal and local partners to have a better understanding of how this relationship works. I bring this knowledge to my work at Hagerty.

As a mitigation expert, how do you recommend minimizing risks to events like wildfires in a place like California?

It’s very challenging since many of the mitigation projects funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) may not be completed before the 2019 fire season began. As a result, the state and local governments must not shift out of mitigation mode and into preparedness mode. Preparedness means being aware of the risk, taking actions to reduce likelihood of ignition, making sure that firefighters are prepared, and ensuring that people who live in high-risk areas know their risk and have a plan to escape if disaster strikes.

For individuals and communities, wildfire risk reduction mitigation projects need to happen. These projects can include fuel load reduction, removing or thinning out vegetation, and creating defensible space. Defensible space is essentially a 100-foot barrier around a building or facility where there is no combustible material. Focusing on these mitigation steps, particularly preparing for impacts of wildfires on vulnerable communities, is critical.


Carver Struve is Senior Mitigation Manager for Hagerty. He is a hazard mitigation expert with over 20 years of planning, emergency management, and program management experience. Before joining the Hagerty Team, he served as the State Hazard Mitigation Officer for the Maryland Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) and Principal Planner for the State of Tennessee Local Planning Assistance Office. Carver earned a Master of Science degree in Planning from the University of Tennessee and is a Certified Floodplain Manager (CFM).