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.

Leveraging Co-Response Strategies to Administer Vaccines for the Influenza Season and COVID-19

The 2020 influenza (flu) season, amid the ongoing Sars-CoV-2 (COVID-19) pandemic, prompts consideration of public health capabilities that can not only respond to concurrent impacts, but optimize growth and evaluation of vaccination capabilities. Once available, 65 percent of the population is projected to seek COVID-19 vaccinations, meaning planning for a mass vaccination campaign must begin as soon as possible. These planning efforts can launch, inform, and enhance active efforts to administer the flu vaccine.

The adoption of COVID-19 community mitigation measures has decreased interseasonal flu levels to a historic low. Adopting nonpharmaceutical interventions, such as social distancing and mask-wearing, has led to decreased influenza activity in the southern hemisphere. Currently the United States (US) has a diverse range of implemented mitigation strategies. States not currently enforcing mitigation measures may see a larger influenza response. Thus should prepare for a potential co-response event between COVID-19 and the flu.

Additionally, flu vaccinations are an essential preventative measure for decreasing influenza-related morbidity and mortality. An increase in flu activity could result in higher demand and strain on testing capacity, and the potential for higher rates of severe and fatal illness. Therefore, this season presents an important opportunity for communities to exercise future COVID-19 vaccination distribution in an actual administration environment, while allowing communities to simultaneously boost flu vaccination rates. The following are key considerations and strategies for such an effort.

  • Develop Point of Dispensing (POD) plans with multiple applications. In recent years, mass dispensing for pandemic influenza has been championed through development of POD plans. As public health departments consider the dispensing and administration strategy for a COVID-19 vaccine, jurisdictions should consider using their vaccine dispensing plans for the flu season. Specifically, they should consider the use of off-site temporary vaccination clinics to dispense the flu vaccine at a larger scale, as this can serve as a pilot for future temporary vaccination clinics for COVID-19 vaccinations. Considerations adapted from these plans should include the number of individuals that are being sent to each POD (i.e., throughput), traffic patterns outside the facility, population and language considerations for the community, and staffing necessary to manage an influx of patients. As flu planning and vaccine administration continues over the coming months, real-time after-action reviews and analysis of lessons learned can alleviate similar challenges for future responses.
  • Build capacity to supply reliable access to vaccines. Ensuring a sufficient supply and capability to make vaccines readily available requires proper staffing capabilities and continuous resource assessments. As health providers consider surge capabilities for a COVID-19 vaccine — and test those capabilities through the dispensation of the flu vaccine — existing programs can be strengthened by partnering with governments and nonprofit organizations. To increase accessibility, primary care physicians that have reduced operating hours due to the pandemic may be able to support administering vaccines at the POD. Additionally, Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) may allow individuals who do not have prior authorization for vaccine dispensing, such as retired medical practitioners and dental staff, to administer vaccines during a pandemic. Creative solutions which build on established policies and procedures should be identified and exercised.
  • Integrate infection prevention and control during administration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) adjusted vaccination guidance, highlighting important considerations for dispensing plans including: physical distancing, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and efforts to increase sanitation practices so as to prevent further transmission. Additional considerations include: the integration of physical distancing and enhanced infection control measures, requirements that patients wear face coverings that cover the nose and mouth and use of PPE by providers or administrators including face coverings and gloves. These processes and requirements can be prepared for and established ahead of time, so they do not inhibit efficiency during the push to administer the COVID-19 vaccine.

As the COVID-19 vaccine continues to progress through clinical trials, active and critical efforts to administer flu vaccinations can be used to inform POD plans now. By exercising these capabilities, communities, health care organizations, and hospitals can gather vital lessons-learned to effectively streamline capabilities and enhance the impact of future COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Alexandra Koch 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of State and Local Readiness she validated Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) Cooperative Agreement (CoAg) awardee data and assisted in the rewrite efforts for the 2019 – 2024 PHEP CoAg. She also has assisted Fulton County Board of Health for their Anthrax dispensing plans by optimizing POD locations using RealOpt.

Rachel Rosmarin is a managing associate and skilled public health professional with six years of experience providing technical assistance, research, communication, and administrative support to a range of clients. Most recently, Ms. Rosmarin provided her expertise to various clients such as the Office of Population Affairs (OPA), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Emergency Medical Services for Children (EMSC). She has extensive experience coordinating research and data analysis projects and presenting recommendations and findings to various stakeholder groups for consideration in future utilization efforts.

Ashley Saulcy is a managing associate who specializes in post-disaster and post-conflict community planning and research, with experiences ranging across non-profit, government, and international development organizations. Internationally, she focused on research initiatives and governance-focused program development in West Africa and Nepal. Her current work is supporting research and stakeholder engagement to improve access to technology and forward-thinking strategies in transit and alternative housing. Her work emphasizes continuity and co-response approaches for clients seeking innovative strategies to address disruptions.

The National FFA Organization’s Living to Serve Program Provides Youth Members with Community Preparedness and Leadership Values

Today, it is estimated that children under 18 made up 24 percent of the total United States (U.S). population. In times of disaster, research suggests that youth, specifically school-age youth, tend to be more severely affected by disasters than adults and may experience disasters differently due to age and other factors. Prepared individuals and communities recover faster after disaster strikes; so, involving youth in preparedness, recovery, and response efforts today can help to ensure communities are better prepared and able to respond when faced with disasters or emergencies. The FFA Living to Serve Program does just this.

FFA Logo: link

Each year, FFA engages with over 100,000 youth and 3,000 adults (advisors, community partners, first responders, parents, and alumni) throughout their Living to Serve Grant Program. While every FFA chapter engages in service-based projects, the Living to Serve Program mainly focuses on the importance of service-learning – experiential education where learning occurs through a cycle of action and reflection. In turn, students seek to achieve real objectives for the community and deeper understanding and skills for themselves.

To FFA, service engagement is critically important to their mission. Typically, community service projects are short-term assignments managed by adults – providing an immediate need or impact. With service-learning, projects are student-led and focus on thoughtful, connected plans to meet an authentic need in the community projects can take anywhere from a semester to a full year and can be grown and expanded across the community.

Over the years, there have been many different types of service-learning projects FFA chapters have endeavored across the nation. One of the focus areas of the program is Community Safety –allowing FFA members to integrate their leadership skills and classroom knowledge into addressing real life services and needs when their communities need it most, including times of disaster.

Earlier this month, Hagerty Consulting was able to talk with Michele Sullivan from FFA to learn more about the Living to Serve Program, specifically how the program supports communities in their preparedness for and recovery from disasters.

“FFA chapters across the country are creating disaster plans to help the animals in their communities during natural disasters, ranging from hurricanes, floods and wildfires to threats to their schools. Their responses are often essential to weathering catastrophic events and rebuilding in the aftermath of a tragedy,” said Michele.

Additionally, she described some extraordinary disaster-related service projects performed by FFA chapters across the country:

  • A chapter created a plan for saving livestock during the 2017 Camp Fire in California;
  • One created disaster kits for each of its chapter’s classrooms dubbed “run-hide-fight bags” to be used if an intruder comes into the school; and
  • Another assembled tornado preparedness.

Read on for more of our discussion with FFA:

What is something you feel is often overlooked about the FFA and the Living to Serve Program?

Michele: Many people do not know that the last line of the FFA motto is “Living to Serve”. Right now, students and members are already changing the world through service, leadership, and agriculture. We do not have to wait for them to grow up to be leaders. They are already leading in their communities.

FFA is spread out across the country; so, how can young leaders/ potential members get involved?

Michele: Letting youth know about the Living to Serve Platform is the first step! We have great resources on our website that can help them get started. We have an interactive planning guide that walks them through how to plan a service project. They need to share this with their FFA Chapter to gain interest in tackling a service project. Once everyone is on board, we share ways that their chapter can get funding to support both their community service and service-learning projects.

What do you find most rewarding about the Living to Serve Program?

Michele: The most rewarding things, for me, are providing opportunities for our students to remain connected to their community. I love that there is often a paradigm shift with adult community members who once viewed youth as needing service to now viewing youth as providing service. There is nothing better than to get feedback from our programs on the positive impacts to the community, youth, advisors and even school districts.

Additional resources

While FFA is not an immediate disaster response or recovery service, they assess the needs of their community members and always encourage others to be prepared. Additionally, on their website, they feature farm safety tips to make sure that FFA members know how to respond to  rural safety hazards.


Michele Sullivan, Senior Manager of Local Engagement, National FFA, is a distinguished senior level manager with over twenty years’ experience in community engagement and development, service-learning, and grant management. In her thirteen years with FFA, she has managed a team that has provided quality programs, opportunities and resources for the over 700,000 FFA members across the country to put their leadership into action through service.

Sarah Herchenbach is a Marketing Associate and Proposal Writer with Hagerty Consulting, Inc. In this role, she has assisted on several proposals related to disaster recovery services, Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (MJHMGP), and comprehensive disaster preparedness management services. Through her role as a Marketing Associate, she has led Hagerty’s Situational and Status Blog, offering timely updates on major events and disasters impacting communities across the United States (US) and helps coordinate the firm’s larger external communication efforts.

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.


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.


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.


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: Francesca Laroche and Kris Ledins

THE HAGERTY ADVANTAGE – OUR PEOPLE: Francesca LaRoche and Kris Ledins

September is National Preparedness Month, and, throughout the month, we will be highlighting Hagerty employees working to support our clients’ disaster preparedness needs. During the second week of National Preparedness Month, we are featuring Francesca Laroche, a Managing Associate whose experience ranges from public affairs, response, and public and private partnerships to planning, as well as Kris Ledins, a Managing Associate who has over eight years of experience in emergency management and public safety.

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

Francesca: After working in local government, Hagerty seemed like a great next step in my career. I was interested in working in consulting because it would give me an opportunity to see emergency management through a different lens. Moving back to my hometown, New York, was a bonus.

Kris: Over the past decade I have had the opportunity to design, develop, and implement emergency management solutions for local, state, federal, and private sector partners. Paired with my experience as a first responder, I have witnessed, firsthand, the value in building practical, adaptable, and innovative solutions to support emergency personnel. Several years ago, I joined Hagerty because of the Firm’s reputation and continued commitment toward excellent client service, advancing industry knowledge, and integrating interdisciplinary expertise and technology to enhance the efficacy of emergency management programs. Today, I am continuously amazed, not only by the innovative spirit across the Firm, but the level of care, compassion, and professionalism that each individual brings to their work every day.

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

Francesca: I find it rewarding to see how the work I am doing directly impacts the community I’m serving. Hagerty has been instrumental in COVID-19 response efforts across the nation, and I’ve had the opportunity to be an integral part of that work. I’ve met so many people who are dedicated to serving our clients and impacted communities.

Kris: There are many meaningful aspects to the work we perform at Hagerty; however, for me, the greatest satisfaction comes when I am working on a project that forces me to balance innovation with practicality. The drive to enhance capability, improve efficiency, and reduce cost is ever-present in the field of emergency management. As such, designing scalable systems and processes that look toward the future while acknowledging the current industry landscape is something that continues to inspire me to learn, reassess, and innovate.

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

Francesca: I enjoy catching up with my friends and family any chance I get. When I’m not working, you can find me video-chatting or calling my loved ones. COVID-19 has reminded me just how important it is to make time to connect with my loved ones.

Kris: I enjoy going hiking with my fiancé and two dogs, Isem and Remy.

Francesca Laroche is a managing associate with experience that ranges from public affairs, response, and public and private partnerships to planning. Ms. Laroche has an extensive background working in local government. She has worked in the public sector in New York City, Philadelphia, and Broward County; developing plans and programs for the public. Ms. Laroche has experience presenting to diverse audiences, creating social media campaigns, and collaborating with partners to streamline recovery efforts.

Kris Ledins is a managing associate with over eight years of experience in emergency management and public safety. He has a proven record of success in developing, implementing, and managing preparedness initiatives for federal, state, local, and private-sector partners. With an in-depth understanding of preparedness cycle theory, real-world response operations, and data analytics, Mr. Ledins develops and delivers solutions that leverage interdisciplinary teams, advanced modeling and simulation technologies, data analytics, and industry-leading emergency management theories/methodologies.

Fight Back with Preparedness

Disasters are unpredictable. Even with prior warning, we are rarely, if ever, prepared for the mental and emotional tax excised on us individually and collectively as a community. Right now, we find ourselves in the middle of a global health crisis, an economic shift felt by millions, and in the throes of battling a series of back-to-back natural disasters. Amidst these trying times, we must remember – disasters do not stop, and we cannot sit by idly, becoming victims of circumstance. The best way to fight back against the unknown is by being prepared.

Devastation strikes without discrimination and it is never clear when it will impact you and your community. It is often said that the best offense is a good defense, preparedness is just that. Financial preparation for emergencies can save you and your family tremendous heartache and stress after disaster strikes. The simple actions you take, or do not take, today can greatly affect your future and way of life. Recently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recorded that more than 25 million Americans were impacted by a natural disaster in 2017; and, in the past three years alone, natural disasters have accounted for nearly $500 billion in damage and losses.

While it is not possible to control the disruptions that nature can sometimes bring into our lives, we can control our response to them through financial literacy. Financial literacy is the cornerstone of preparedness; the two go together. When you understand the mechanics of money and resources – and how it can be leveraged to bring you to your desired future – you attain a sense of control and empowerment you may not have had before.

Many times, individuals can tend to focus on what they do not have as a reason for delaying emergency preparations. Rather than focusing on what you do not have, think about shifting your focus on what you do have and maximizing its output and potential. Remember, consistently taking small actions yields big results over time.

Here are a few things that you can do to be prepared for any kind of financial emergency you may find yourself in:

  • Make saving a priority. It is important to understand that federal disaster assistance will not make you whole after disaster strikes – you must make saving and proper insurance a priority.For your savings, consider creating an additional “cash-on-demand” savings account that you add to periodically that you can take with you in case you are required to evacuate in a hurry.
  • Maintain insurance. After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, the average flood insurance payout to homeowners who flooded was $120,000. Conversely, homeowners who took on water and applied for FEMA for federal financial assistance through FEMA received $4,000 to 7,000 on average. Therefore, it is important to understand your risks and ensure your assets have the proper level of coverage. Review your policy options, policies, and other relevant paperwork consistently to ensure that information is up to date.
  • Have a written plan. A comprehensive financial plan serves as your road map reminding you of your desired destination and the actions required to get there.
  • Make copies of all important financial and legal documents. Many times, when disasters strike, property is severely damaged or destroyed. Unfortunately, for many, they lose access to important documents like mortgage information and birth certificates which are helpful in applying for recovery assistance.Additionally, in today’s technological environment, make sure your important documents are available digitally by storing them in the cloud, email, or mobile device.

If you need assistance in this process, Operation HOPE may be able to help. For nearly three decades, Operation HOPE has been empowering Americans through financial literacy with a standing commitment to prepare individuals and families for financial disasters, of any kind, and seeing them through to recovery. Through the HOPE Coalition America (HCA), the organization provides preparation coaching, at no cost to clients, to help them get back on their feet should they be adversely affected by disaster – be it natural or manmade. Additionally, their financial wellbeing coaches are trained to walk alongside clients in their most vulnerable times to help them regain a sense of dignity and normalcy in their lives. They can help clients build emergency financial plans, negotiate their mortgage payments, apply for eligible post-disaster FEMA assistance, speak to lenders concerning the terms and condition of their loans, and more.

Life is an adventure, plan for it and be ready for the unexpected. September is National Preparedness Month and it is the perfect time to make a commitment to ensure you and your family are financially prepared – by doing so, you are investing in your future. For more resources, visit the Ready Campaign and the Financial Literacy and Education Commission.


John Hope Bryant is an American entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and prominent thought leader on financial inclusion, economic empowerment, and financial dignity. John is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, Inc. a provider of financial literacy, financial inclusion and economic empowerment tools and services in the United States (US) for youth and adults.

Brock Long is the Executive Chairman of Hagerty Consulting. Brock re-joined Hagerty last year after serving as the Administrator of the FEMA from June 2017 – March 2019. With Hagerty, Brock provides strategic advisory using lessons gained from his time as FEMA Administrator and in his previous work as both a consultant and public servant leading local, state, and federal emergency management programs.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Caleb Smith and Jessica London

September is National Preparedness Month, and, throughout the month, we will be highlighting Hagerty employees working to support our clients’ disaster preparedness needs. During the first week of National Preparedness Month, we feature Caleb Smith, a Managing Associate who supports disaster workforce readiness initiatives across the country and  Jessica London, an Associate who supports the equitable development of emergency management plans and the inclusion of the disability and access & functional needs populations throughout all areas of emergency management.

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

Caleb: I first took interest in a career with homeland security following the Boston Marathon bombing. A few years later while in graduate school, I was evaluating various Department of Homeland Security (DHS)/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) programs as part of my coursework, and my home state of Louisiana was hit by back to back flood events that devastated much of my community. During the second flood, I was helping remove damaged carpet from a family friend’s home and had recently been communicating with local DHS officials for a project related to the Emergency Management Performance Grant (EMPG). I think at that moment, all of these things coincided and I knew I wanted to work on improving emergency management programs and policies at a national level.

Six months later I was starting a career with FEMA and had no idea that I was about to get a crash course in hurricane season. First came Harvey, then Irma, then Maria…all within my first nine months. My work with FEMA took me all over the Southeast in a short amount of time and eventually led me to pursue consulting in Washington, DC.

I was familiar with Hagerty’s work at the state and local level and it seemed like the place to be if you really want to make an impact in the field and work on meaningful projects. Now some of my earliest projects with FEMA have come full circle and I get to apply that experience every day at Hagerty.

Jessica: When I found Emergency Management, I realized this was the field I had been searching for and discovered a passionate group of professionals fiercely committed to helping others. Similar to many people who find their way to the Emergency Management field, my path was far from linear. At a young age, I started volunteering with Special Olympics Oregon. My passion for supporting individuals with disabilities and access and functional needs pushed me towards the public health sphere.

Following a year working in the tech industry, I enrolled in Georgetown University’s Master’s of Emergency and Disaster Management to further my exploration into the field. Soon after I began my studies, I became a Preparedness Division Intern and Homeland Security Fellow at the District of Columbia Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency (DC HSEMA) and National Capital Region Threat Intelligence Consortium (NTIC). These experiences allowed me to engage in both the academic and practitioner sides of Emergency Management.

Once I received my Master’s, I set my sights on Hagerty Consulting. I had previously worked with Hagerty employees on various projects and was continually impressed by their caliber, creativity, and devotion to helping others. I was specifically attracted to Hagerty because I wanted to experience working on and with a wide range of projects and clients. After only a year at Hagerty, I had supported local, state, and federal governments, private industry, and non-governmental organizations on everything from running exercises to developing doctrine.

Through my work at Hagerty, I have been able to achieve my dream of helping people.

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

Caleb: Much of my work revolves around assessment, training, and development for the federal disaster workforce. With the increasing number of threats Americans face today, I think a highly trained and qualified disaster workforce is more important than ever. At the end of the day emergency management is about the survivor. A capable workforce is only going to improve assistance to individuals and communities whether that’s through preparation or recovery.

Jessica: One of the most meaningful aspects of my work is to tangibly see the impact that we have on our clients, communities, and nation. Every day our actions help build a more prepared and resilient world. Hagerty has continued to encourage me to bring my knowledge of and passion for disability and access and functional needs (AFN) inclusion into my work in order to continue to help spread awareness among our clients. As individuals with disabilities and AFN are disproportionately affected by disaster impacts, it is critical that emergency managers effectively address the needs of these populations throughout all operations. I feel honored to work at a firm that is actively working to meet this need.

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

Caleb: I like to find a good trail with my dog and put some headphones in.

Jessica: Some of my favorite downtime activities are playing board games, particularly Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, and 7 Wonders. During COVID-19, I have also had the chance to rediscover my love of puzzles!


Caleb Smith is a managing associate who has public and government affairs, and emergency management experience in both the private and public sectors. Mr. Smith’s experience has primarily focused on National Preparedness with an emphasis on external affairs, stakeholder engagement, communications, and training development for FEMA.

Jessica London is an associate who has diverse, client-facing experience across government and non-governmental entities. She has experience facilitating collaboration with stakeholders to establish and achieve common goals related to developing exercises, identifying areas of risk, and building resilience. As part of her work, Ms. London focuses on the equitable development of emergency management plans and the inclusion of the disability and AFN populations throughout all areas of emergency management.

National Preparedness Month Series: Preparing for Concurrent Disasters

Yesterday marked the start of National Preparedness Month. Observed each September, National Preparedness Month stands to encourage preparedness for disasters that could happen at any time. As our nation continues responding to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, disasters and emergencies will continue to pose a threat to the country.

Ensuring readiness to manage simultaneous incidents can seem daunting. Yet for many jurisdictions, preparing for a multi-incident scenario is an ever-present threat as new hurricanes make landfall, wildfires ignite, and severe storms and tornadoes make impact.

Today, the pandemic continues to strain emergency response personnel in cities, counties, and states across the country. Increasingly reliant on virtual capabilities, volunteer organizations have also struggled to maintain their typical level of disaster-time support causing crucial disaster response positions to go unfilled. While emerging guidance is helpful to inform new response strategies, many communities continue to share concerns about how the realities of this pandemic will affect response operations and delivery of critical services during concurrent disaster events.

To ensure continuity of operations, communities are having to think outside the box by identifying, developing, and integrating non-traditional response personnel into surge responder roles. With planning, emergency management professionals can identify creative solutions to fill existing gaps so that –in a multi-incident scenario — critical services continue to be delivered to those in need. The following guidelines can be used to assist communities in this process.

  • Identify non-essential personnel to support response operations. Non-essential personnel can be temporarily re-assigned without resulting in catastrophic failure for the organization. Readying non-essential personnel allows organizational leaders to invest in their pre-existing talent while simultaneously bolstering emergency response support.
  • Offer just-in-time training to quickly develop and educate surge personnel. After surge personnel have been identified, it is important to quickly train them to ensure successful integration into response operations. By using the recent past as a foundation, responders will be well-equipped to continue delivering mission-essential functions and services.
  • Capture lessons-learned to promote continuous improvement. Documenting operations and how they could be improved is critical to ensuring community needs are met throughout the response. This allows leaders to adjust capabilities and needs, as necessary, in preparation for future response events.

While disasters will not wait, you can make your plan today. As COVID-19 continues to impact the number of emergency managers available to support response efforts across the country, having a comprehensive plan for quickly creating, mobilizing, and integrating a surge response force is critical to ensuring disaster readiness. Reflecting on the very recent past, cities and counties can leverage recent lessons-leaned to better prepare for the very real threat of concurrent disaster response.


Patrick Van Horne is a senior managing associate and an experienced project manager with a proven record of successful leadership in emergency and disaster management. Mr. Van Horne co-authored the book, Left of Bang: How the Marine Corps’ Combat Hunter Program Can Save Your Life and leads the development of Hagerty Consulting’s continuity of operations service line.

Ashley Saulcy  is a managing associate who specializes in post-disaster and post-conflict community planning and research, with experiences ranging across non-profit, government, and international development organizations. Internationally, she focused on research initiatives and governance-focused program development in West Africa and Nepal, with a particular focus on government capacity for serving rural populations. She supports research and stakeholder engagement to improve access to technology and forward-thinking strategies in transit and alternative housing. Her support extends these and other approaches to developing continuity and co-response approaches for clients seeking innovative strategies to address disruptions.

Streamlining the Disaster Planning Cycle

Tropical Storm Imelda’s historic rainfall in Texas last week is the latest indicator of the potential impacts of climate change. With frequent and severe disasters, jurisdictions must often respond to one disaster before fully recovering from previous incidents. This trend has prompted communities to streamline their emergency management processes between phases of the disaster management cycle (prepare, mitigate, respond, recover) to bolster their resilience to future disasters. This post, the third in our series for National Preparedness Month, will highlight examples of jurisdictions that are streamlining all phases of disaster related efforts.

State of California – The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services is performing recovery and preparedness initiatives at the same time. This is evident in their recovery from the 2018 Camp and Woolsey Fires, in which Recovery Support Functions (RSFs) are enhancing their plans and standard operating procedures for future recoveries. In addition, their Mitigation team is actively coordinating the use of mitigation funding as part of the recovery process.

City of Panama City, Florida – The City of Panama City is increasing their recovery capacity in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. In addition to creating a Recovery Action Plan, the City of Panama City is developing both a Pre-Disaster Recovery Plan and Redevelopment Plan to improve the city’s resilience and preparedness before the next disaster. These tools can be adapted to serve as templates for the City’s recovery during future events, expediting post-disaster planning activities.

Montgomery County, Texas – In August 2017, Montgomery County was struck by Hurricane Harvey. During their recovery, the County prioritized mitigation projects to reduce the impacts of future disasters. While recovery was still ongoing, the County analyzed communities that routinely flood and pursued Hazard Mitigation Grant Program funding to implement mitigation projects to improve resilience and preparedness.

California, the City of Panama City, and Montgomery County found strategies to streamline their emergency management processes because conditions demanded it. Other jurisdictions can take steps to streamline their emergency management even when a disaster is not imminent. Streamlining the emergency management process enables:

  • Smoother recoveries – When jurisdictions consider the disaster phases as a whole, they find ways to ensure that work in one phase supports work in the next phase. Aligning work between phases eases the transition between phases.
  • Faster recoveries – Integrating preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery efforts reduces duplicative work between phases, accelerating a community’s recovery.
  • Better recovery outcomes – During the recovery process, jurisdictions can increase their emergency management capacities by identifying strengths and vulnerabilities to address in future preparedness planning. Increased emergency management capacities allow jurisdictions to better-serve constituents and improve their recovery outcomes.
The Phases of the Disaster Management Cycle

What Can Your Jurisdiction Do?

The following are recommendations for jurisdictions looking to streamline their emergency management process:

  • Encourage staff collaboration – Create opportunities for employees that work within each disaster phase (prepare, mitigate, respond, and recover) to collaborate. This may include inviting field personnel who implement recovery actions to review/update pre-disaster plans or involving pre-disaster planners and policymakers in post-disaster recovery operations.
  • Continually assess your processes – Review your jurisdiction’s emergency management procedures and identify ways to make recovery smoother in future disasters. An example of this is drafting what California calls a “mid-action report” — an after-action report completed midway through the recovery process.
  • Record lessons learned immediately – Document lessons learned, complete after-action reports, and update preparedness initiatives (e.g., plans, trainings, exercises) during recovery efforts instead of waiting until recovery is over.

Over the past several weeks, Hagerty’s NPM Blog Series presented a reflection on evolution in the emergency preparedness field specifically highlighting transition and innovation in our preparedness practice related to the FEMA Community Lifelines and through our work related to hazard mitigation planning and recovery planning. With diverse experience, Hagerty is well-equipped to help jurisdictions innovate in their preparedness practice and support future recovery efforts. To learn about other work Hagerty has been involved in, visit our Preparedness home page.

Emily Preziotti is an Associate within Hagerty’s Preparedness Division, supporting mitigation and recovery planning efforts. Prior to joining Hagerty, Emily served as the project manager for the Resilience Adaptation Feasibility Tool (RAFT), a project that assesses coastal communities’ resilience to flooding. She graduated from the University of Virginia with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Urban and Environmental Planning, and currently resides in Virginia. In her free time, Emily enjoys reading mystery and thriller novels.

Sean van Dril is an Associate within Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Most recently, Sean supported the state of California in their long-term recovery from the Camp and Woolsey wildfires of 2018. Previously, he worked on Hagerty’s Massachusetts Housing Mission which came in the wake of the Merrimack Valley Gas Explosions. Sean earned his bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Political Science from Northwestern University and currently resides in the Washington D.C. area. In free moments, Sean enjoys finding creative ways to engage young people in the political process.