The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Celebrating Women’s History Month

March is Women’s History Month—a time dedicated to recognizing the incredible achievements made by women throughout history and to celebrating those working to build a better future for us all. At Hagerty, we value and commemorate our female professionals who lead with integrity, innovation, and excellence while propelling the success of our team. Several of Hagerty’s Deputy Directors, Carla Decina, Nicole Morales, Vanessa Castillo, and Tanya Shannon, are four of these key figures making a difference.

Carla Decina | Deputy Director of Preparedness  

Carla Decina, one of Hagerty’s Deputy Directors of Preparedness, is a project manager with over ten years of emergency management, public health, and economic development experience, supporting state and local governments as they prepare for, mitigate, respond to, and recover from emergencies and disasters. “My roots are a little bit non-traditional in terms of my background and how I got started in emergency management…When I graduated college, I wasn’t set on a specific career path, but I knew from my experience studying abroad that by seeing more of the world, I’d gain a better understanding of what I wanted out of my professional future.”

After several years teaching English in Europe, Carla returned to the United States (US) and received an opportunity to work for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a global humanitarian nonprofit, as a Program Coordinator supporting refugee resettlement. “I learned a tremendous amount about the challenges this unique population faces—which is essentially a displaced, disaster survivor community in its own right—and how our support was a significant determinant to their success in finding employment, enrolling in education, and navigating our health and financial systems.” Ultimately, this motivated her to obtain a Master of Public Health (MPH).

“I wanted to take the public health lens and apply it to populations that were displaced from natural or man-made disasters. After I graduated, it was a natural fit for me to figure out how to apply public health to emergency management in the US.”

Upon joining Hagerty in the Spring of 2017, Carla noted that she was one of very few individuals that held a background in public health within her division. While no one questions the important role of public health in emergency preparedness now, Carla feels that this relationship has not always been understood and has only recently come into sharper focus with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given her role in supporting preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation activities at both the state and local levels, Carla is experienced in managing all aspects of the disaster lifecycle. This includes bringing diverse stakeholders together to address cross-cutting issues inherent to complex response and recovery operations across a wide range of disasters, spanning wildfire, flood, and earthquake disaster recovery coordination, COVID-19 response, and overall cost recovery within the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Public Assistance (PA) program.

Currently, Carla plays a key leadership role in managing Hagerty’s work with several clients across the State of California—her home state. “I come from an area in San Diego that is at high risk for wildfires and have personally experienced what it is like to have to evacuate, so finding an opportunity in my career where I can work within my state and support what I believe is on the cutting edge of disaster management and emergency resilience means a lot to me. I think it hits home when I am able to make a difference in the state I’ve grown up in and the communities I interact with day-to-day,” she said.

When asked about challenges she sees in the workplace, Carla reflected on the hurdles of being a young leader and underscored that leadership development is a winding path. She encourages emerging professionals to “trust your management style and what comes naturally to you—you are going to make mistakes, but each experience is an opportunity to learn, grow, and adapt to future situations.” Leadership is not about perfection, and mistakes have a lot to teach us if we let them.

Nicole Morales | Deputy Director of Response 

Nicole Morales is Hagerty’s Deputy Director of Response and is a disaster survivor turned disaster responder. As a proud native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Nicole experienced firsthand the devastating impacts of natural disasters when Hurricane Katrina hit her community in 2005. “I suspect that probably planted a seed for a path in emergency management early on,” she said. Now nearly two decades later, she serves as a leader at Hagerty by supporting local and state response efforts from coast-to-coast and leads multi-disciplinary teams in Emergency Operations Center (EOC), Command Center, and field-based environments.  

While she finds inspiration in many people around her, there are some that have shaped her role and life’s mission, “Like many, my parents have inspired me. My father was the longest-serving police officer in the country and devoted his entire life to public service. While my mother didn’t follow that same path, she taught me grit, resilience, and strength through her personal acts of community service and advocacy,” Morales said.   

She continued, “There are always moments after a disaster where you find yourself assessing the devastation and wondering, ‘Where do you even begin?’ and there is always a community member who has a vision of hope, of potential, and takes that very first step. Someone who has that resilience, that grit, that ability to see beyond the chaos and destruction right in front of you. Those individuals really inspire me.”   

On the topic of Women’s History Month and the challenges women are facing today, she said, “First, I want to underscore that women have never lacked the expertise, competence, or capability to perform in any job field or industry. We’ve possessed those traits since the beginning of time but have had barriers artificially placed, preventing our ability to fully contribute and participate.”  

“Secondly, I am honored every day to work with women who bring their very best to their jobs and then go home and do other full-time jobs as parents or caregivers. What I would say to women who are balancing all of those responsibilities is to bring those experiences into their emergency management careers. It is often the mothers and caregivers on our project teams that bring valuable perspective and point out considerations impacting those we serve, such as accessibility and childcare needs.”  

“Lastly, my existence here, my role at Hagerty, is the result of strong women who preceded me and made room for me and my voice at the table. If you find yourself at a table where there is no room, pull a chair up for yourself and pull up one for the woman behind you,” Morales said. Concluding, ultimately, the success and innovation of a team depend on its ability to respect and leverage diverse perspectives—and we all play a role in making room at the table. 

Vanessa Castillo | Deputy Director of Mitigation 

Vanessa Castillo, Hagerty’s Deputy Director of Mitigation, did not always plan on working within the emergency management industry. With a background in urban planning, Vanessa’s entrance to the field began with an internship for the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM), where she supported Local Hazard Mitigation Plan (HMP) development for counties and municipalities. This opportunity then led her to Colorado, where, according to her, “It all evolved from there.”   

Within a year, she accepted a job as the Mitigation Specialist for the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (CDEM), where she took a deep dive into implementing mitigation projects and contributed her expertise to the successful implementation of approximately $65 million in the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for one of Colorado’s largest disasters.   

When asked about what she is most proud of in her career, she reflected on a previous project supporting “wildfire mitigation in an area that desperately needed it.” According to Vanessa, her work is driven by an eagerness to see impactful mitigation projects come to completion so that communities can bounce back from future disaster disruptions and remove themselves from hazard risks.

“I like to think that what we do is preventative medicine.” Mitigation work “helps situate communities in such a way that when the next natural disaster hits, the impacts are less.”  

Since joining the Hagerty team in the Fall of 2019, she has leveraged her technical expertise to support clients nationwide in developing mitigation funding strategies and prioritization for the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, including projects for drought and heat mitigation, flood risk reduction, wildfire mitigation, and residential property elevations.   

When asked about who inspired her the most in her career, Vanessa responded, saying the women in her life, specifically her female familial members, are her greatest inspirations. “These are women that are strong and, in some cases, raised their families on their own,” Castillo said. One of the challenges she believes some women face in the workplace today is a hesitancy to “own their space” and confidently leverage their knowledge and experience to add value to a project or conversation. If she could offer any advice to women looking to advance in their careers, Castillo says, “don’t be afraid to fill your space.”

Tanya Shannon | Deputy Director of Recovery 

One of Hagerty’s Deputy Directors of Recovery, Tanya Shannon’s interest in public service began at a young age. “My family, of half-Jewish and half-German descent, is from Germany where, during World War II, they sought refugee, or refugee-like, status with the US and were denied,” she said. While, fortunately, her grandmother and great-grandparents were able to seek refuge in a nearby church, Tanya has always been inspired by their story and became motivated to serve in the humanitarian assistance space.

While in college at the University of California, Davis, she served as the Director of the Survivors of Human Trafficking Program funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) at Opening Doors Inc. (ODI). She provided direct case management to victims of human trafficking. From this opportunity, Tanya became fascinated with the natural disaster impact component of her work and soon learned that direct service provision as a case manager was not going to be something she could do long term. “I just wanted to adopt all my kids, and that was not a good move for someone that was making less than $30,000 as a 24-year-old.”

She continued, “However, I learned I liked the puzzle pieces and bringing order to chaos, which is similar to the nature of initial response and recovery efforts.”

Ultimately, this led her to pursue her Master of Public Administration (MPA) in Emergency Management from Florida State University (FSU). Through her work at FSU, in partnership with the FDEM, Tanya designed and facilitated numerous trainings and exercises as the Program Coordinator for the FSU’s Center for Disaster Risk Policy (CDRP). As she progressed in her career, she served various roles at FEMA, including the position of PA Training Section Chief. Since joining the Hagerty team in January 2019, Tanya has supported communities across the Southeast in recovering from COVID-19 and a range of natural and manmade disasters.

When asked about who has inspired her most throughout her career, she said, “I’ve had three great mentors in my life. The first was my boss at Opening Doors, David Blicker. He helped me turn my internship into a career and essentially helped me grow up and understand what I wanted to do with my career. My second mentor was my boss at FSU, Rob McDaniel. He instilled in me the passion and respect that I have for this field. He taught me it’s not just a job; that the decisions made and actions taken have a significant impact on those around you and the larger community. Lastly, my boss at FEMA, John Wilmot, taught me how to navigate the world of politics, think strategically, and advocate for the things you believe in. I owe these three mentors more than I can express.”

On the topic of women in the workforce, she notes, “The field of emergency management has made great strides in terms of beginning to open the door to diverse perspectives. While we are seeing more women at the table, including Deanna Criswell, who is now the first female FEMA administrator, we still have a lot of work to do.”

“My advice for women in the field is to not wait for the opportunity. Something I frequently see in hiring is that women often feel that they must be 100 percent qualified before raising their hands or contributing to a conversation. Do not wait to raise your hand or wait on an invitation—pull up your own seat at the table and help others do the same.”


The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Employee Appreciation 2023

A message from our founder, Steve Hagerty:

At Hagerty, we truly believe our advantage is our people. By leveraging diverse expertise and unique perspectives, our firm can deliver innovative thinking and creative solutions to meet clients’ missions and propel organizations forward. Over the past 20 years, Hagerty’s team of emergency management and homeland security professionals have become an indispensable source of support for communities nationwide. As we celebrate Employee Appreciation Week, we would like to recognize the tireless efforts of our hardworking personnel across the nation.

Our professionals sacrifice their time and uproot from their homes and families to serve disaster-impacted areas and promote life-saving preparedness and resilience. In the face of emergencies, our team works diligently to help communities on what is often their worst day as they navigate the complex process of disaster preparedness, response, and recovery.

Our professionals’ commitment to excellence, and commitment to our clients, is unmatched. The following stories highlight just a fraction of the contributions made by the Hagerty team to their clients and their communities.

As I meet with members of team Hagerty, I am often struck by the fact that Hagerty has grown beyond my name. That is because our team members exemplify our values – innovation, integrity, teamwork, and excellence – in all their work. I am grateful for every member of the Hagerty team that chooses to share their talents with our clients and our firm each day.

Preparedness | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Preparedness, Kyle McPhee

Hagerty deeply appreciates the consultants in our Preparedness Division who not only support some of Hagerty’s first clients but also lead our work with new clients looking to prepare for future disasters. Katie Toskey and Kathryn Lhota are Senior Managing Associates and two of the division’s most respected mentors.

Katie Toskey supports many of Hagerty’s energy and infrastructure clients in pursuing and implementing federal funding programs to accelerate their disaster preparedness initiatives. With a background in government relations and federal policy, Katie helps clients make the most of their stakeholder engagement strategies and deepen their understanding of their communities and constituents. Empowered with this information, Katie helps clients develop strategic plans they can implement immediately to proactively prepare and mitigate the risks they face.

Kathryn Lhota is a profoundly experienced emergency manager who brings broad experience in disaster response to Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. Leveraging this knowledge and expertise, Kathryn helps clients navigate an after-action review process to learn from past incidents. Applying the lessons learned from a recent water contamination incident, hurricane, and ongoing humanitarian incident, Kathryn helps our clients assess their strengths, identify functions that can be improved, and develop customized recommendations to prepare for future disasters.

The past several years have demonstrated that disasters and emergencies of all types are increasing in frequency and magnitude. I am immensely proud of the work our Preparedness professionals are doing nationwide to prepare our clients for the risks they may face.

Response | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Response, Lee Mayfield

On Wednesday, September 28, 2023, Hurricane Ian made landfall in Southwest Florida, bringing extreme winds and catastrophic storm surge to an area of Florida uniquely vulnerable to these impacts. In the days that followed, dedicated public safety professionals stepped up and responded to what will be remembered as one of the worst natural disasters our nation has ever faced. Emergency managers across all levels of government and from around the country quickly mobilized to support residents and responders in Southwest Florida, working together to prioritize resources and begin a massive recovery effort.

Hagerty has a history of supporting hurricane preparedness and recovery efforts with our Florida-based clients, and Hurricane Ian provided us with the opportunity to help in the immediate response phase. Based on requests from our clients in the impact area, over 40 Hagerty response professionals were deployed across Florida to augment local and state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) capabilities. Our team members provided needed expertise in planning, logistics, operations, and field support, with roles constantly evolving based on the changing needs of a complex hurricane response. Hagerty professionals were often asked to deploy within 24 hours with limited information, sometimes sleeping on cots in recreation centers while hotel lodging was identified. Their patience, flexibility, and focus on serving our clients was apparent as our team members embedded in EOCs and tackled difficult issues with a focus on finding solutions.

In early February 2023, the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association (FEPA) recognized Hagerty by awarding us their Corporate Award, highlighting an organization from the private sector that has contributed to emergency management. Hagerty’s Hurricane Ian response was truly a “One Hagerty” effort between our response, recovery, mitigation, and preparedness teams. All who supported this event should be proud of how we assisted our clients in their time of need.

Mitigation | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Mitigation, Amelia Muccio

Given the county’s unprecedented drought and the growing toll of climate change, Hagerty’s mitigation team diligently assists states and local communities in developing climate adaptive projects that help communities become more resilient. Hagerty’s mitigation professionals are dedicated to addressing mitigation and resiliency in project planning, design, and operations with a focus on nature-based solutions (NBS) and other methods of green construction. In 2022, Hagerty managed $4.24 billion in total mitigation funding across 233 subapplications for five clients. For the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) program, we provided assistance on two subapplications for $12 million. For the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) mitigation programs, the team supported 162 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) subapplications totaling $1.5 billion, 59 Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program subapplications totaling $2.5 billion, and 10 Flood Mitigation Assistance (FMA) program subapplications totaling $275 million. Additionally, we hosted 83 webinars throughout the year, including 30 technical assistance training webinars and 53 capacity-building webinars for our clients.

Recovery | Remarks by two of Hagerty’s Recovery Project Team Leaders

The Recovery Division is an ever-growing team of highly experienced emergency managers striving to help communities on their worst days. As a division, our expertise extends to knowledge of several funding streams, including FEMA Public Assistance (PA), Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF), Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF), Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and others. We are also versed in overseeing program conformance, disaster closeout, audit preparation services, conducting unmet needs assessments, and solving problems at the policy level. Hagerty’s Recovery Division works nationwide. In 2022, our divisional team operated in 26 states with 74 total projects. In one year alone, these projects supported $35.5 billion in FEMA PA funds, $14.4 billion in SLFRF funds, and $2.1 billion in CRF funds.

Incorporated based on what we do, the Recovery team leads with the core values of teamwork, integrity, innovation, and excellence. These values, instilled in every Hagerty Employee, give our clients a meaningful experience. Our Bay County, Florida, Housing team led with innovation, fostering streamlined and effective housing recovery strategies, engaging with State and Local partners, developing the Bay County Local Housing Assistance Plan (LHAP), and helping administer the County’s First-Time Homebuyer Program. These efforts helped the Bay County, Florida, community rebuild and improve its resilience in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael. On August 31, 2022, Bay County was recognized at the Florida Housing Coalition (FHC) Statewide Affordable Housing Conference with the “Model for Outstanding Disaster Recovery Assistance” award.

The Howard County, Maryland, team’s accomplishments embody the value of excellence. The team has supported the County’s implementation and management of its $63.2 million ARPA SLFRF allocation. In February 2022, President Biden recognized Howard County for its use of ARPA funds, and in May 2022, the County received a National Association of Counties (NACo) Achievement Award in fiscal management for “Process/Engagement/Transparency Processes for ARPA Funding.”

These examples depict just some of what our division has accomplished recently, as there are many other significant achievements of the Recovery team. We recognize the importance and value of our team, as our people are what makes Hagerty so great. Thank you to our growing team for supporting our clients with integrity, innovation, excellence, and teamwork and for striving to help communities on their worst days.

Healthcare and University Programs | Remarks by Hagerty’s Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs, Jeff Bokser

The Hagerty Health and University team has helped bring more than $1 billion in FEMA Public Assistance (PA) and more than $3 billion in other federal and state funding to over 100 hospitals nationwide. This funding is vital to keeping the doors of hospitals open, creating surge capacity as needed, purchasing medical and surgical equipment for patient care, personal protective equipment to keep employees safe, and making temporary facility modifications for the care and treatment of patients throughout the public health emergency. Thanks to the hard work and tenacity of our team, who spent countless hours working to identify costs often spread out across multiple healthcare facilities, cost centers, and financial systems, hospitals and universities that engaged Hagerty were able to recover financially from COVID-19. We often receive referral phone calls from hospitals and universities seeking our assistance who tell us that a current or former client highly recommended our team. These are the best phone calls to receive and speak to the respect, work ethic, and quality our team members continue to deliver to hospitals and universities across the nation.

When Chris Justis, Managing Associate, first began recovery work with our New England-based hospital client, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) stated that if Hagerty Consulting could help identify $1 million in FEMA PA projects, the engagement would be deemed a success. To date, Chris has identified over $17 million and counting in FEMA PA projects far exceeding the client’s expectations.

When Hagerty’s Midwest-based Children’s Hospital client faced an overwhelming patient surge from Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), Flu, and COVID-19, Kara Koirtyohann, Deputy Director, helped develop language and strategy to provide information to the Governor’s office. This work prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) to write a letter to the President of the United States (US) to push for an RSV and Flu disaster declaration.

Madeline Tormey, Senior Manager, helped her Northeast-based hospital client identify eligible COVID-19-related expenses to keep American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural Hospital Funding, which they thought would have to be given back, for community-based COVID-19 preparedness, response, and vaccination efforts. Madeline made this possible.

Hannah Randolph’s, Managing Associate, contributions to the COVID-19 cost recovery operation at a Texas University-based client have been invaluable. She has prepared several FEMA projects for submission, each with detailed and supportive narratives addressing any questions FEMA reviewers might pose. She effectively leverages her knowledge of the PA process and recent client experiences to identify potential eligibility and documentation concerns proactively. Her attention to developing robust and thorough narratives has led to reduced Requests for Information (RFIs) and more efficient review and obligation of submitted projects. Her knowledge, hard work, and willingness to contribute wherever needed have undoubtedly been key to the success of the University’s cost recovery operations.

The well-orchestrated team of Senior Managing Associate Jeanne Lenz, Managing Associates Katelyn Papura and Marisa McKenna, and Associate Mackenzie Forgacas, were brought on to support a Midwest hospital client previously working with FEMA on their own. As a result of their tedious and tireless work, projects eligible for FEMA reimbursement have grown from $3 million to over $30 million, with additional project opportunities underway.

Human Resources (HR) and Talent Acquisition (TA) | Remarks by Hagerty’s Directors of HR and TA, Sheila Tria and Walter Flores

The success of Hagerty is shaped by the critical role played by its Human Resources (HR) and Talent Acquisition (TA) divisions. These professionals have a range of responsibilities, including recruiting and hiring top talent, developing, and implementing employee development programs, administering benefits packages, and ensuring compliance with labor laws and regulations. With their extensive knowledge and expertise, HR and TA division members have made incredible contributions toward supporting the organization’s mission and driving it forward. Their tireless efforts focus on keeping employees motivated and engaged in achieving company goals. The HR and TA division members have also been instrumental in creating a positive work environment that promotes diversity and inclusion while facilitating employee personal and professional growth. These contributions have played a significant role in attracting and retaining top talent, which is a crucial component of Hagerty’s long-term success. Overall, the hard work and dedication of the HR and TA division members have been instrumental in building a strong and thriving organization that is well-positioned for future growth and success.

Information Technology (IT) | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of IT, Keith Novak

Hagerty’s IT team members,  Sean Scanlon, Ryan Kelly, and Byung You,  are busy building out and ensuring the functionality of all the operational, infrastructural, administrative, and security systems and platforms that Hagerty relies on to support its departments, staff, and consultants. These resources equip the team to be more effective in serving clients and meeting their needs. Recently, the IT team successfully led a company-wide migration from a Google to a Microsoft workspace. This was an incredibly large lift that the team worked tirelessly to accomplish.

Operations | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Operations, Katie Freeman

Over the years, Hagerty has brought on key investments into our internal teams to build our capacity as we continue to grow. Hagerty’s Operations Team – which started with one other professional a decade ago – has grown to fulfill multiple internal organizational functions, expanding beyond our core business development and brand management initiatives. The Operations Team lives Hagerty’s values and brings humor, grace, and style to work with them daily. We would not be as strong as we are today without our people and the excellent work that they do every single day behind the scenes. Tori Abbott, Rachael Chambers, Quinn Musselwhite, and Alex Williams collaborate across the company as we develop proposals for our clients that address their needs across emergency management programs and are currently maintaining one of the highest submission rates in company history. Jordan Azizian, Katie Moy, and Liz Siegel support the whole company with design and graphics and were instrumental in our recent branding refresh. Zach Elkin flexes across the Operations Team, supporting our daily tasks along with integration with IT, Finance, and other corporate functions as we continue to build our internal infrastructure; he is currently focusing on how we advance into the Microsoft SharePoint environment. And our recent additions, Kate Lewis-Lakin and Michelle Masoncup are pushing us further as we advance to implement new financial systems and strengthen compliance (respectively). We truly have the right people in the right place at the right time.

Finance and Accounting | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Finance and Accounting, Keith King

The Finance and Accounting team deserves recognition for the daily excellence provided to our clients, internal employees, and subcontractors. I have witnessed the dedication, long hours, patience, difficult conversations, and decisions made over the last three years. This team continues to operate at a level that Hagerty companywide should be proud of and thankful for. Even without the shiny tools that most finance and accounting departments have, they have never wavered and are committed to excellence. Our firm’s success is a direct result of their dedication and upholding the principles of the organization.

I am proud to manage this group of individuals and would like all Hagerty professionals to celebrate their recognition for being the hidden jewels and outstanding employees they are. Please take a bow: Maura Byrdsong, Kim Cortes, Ibon Hernandez, Brittany King, Kiya Lewis, and Sabrina Taylor!

Communications | Remarks by Hagerty’s Director of Communications, Jessi Widhalm (Nalepa)

The small but mighty, Marketing, Communications, and External Affairs team at Hagerty works tirelessly to further the company’s brand and impact both internally and externally. From public relations and event management to internal communications, the team collaborates firmwide to ensure the success of our clients, our people, and our firm. Thank you, Sarah Herchenbach, Ashley Dalton, and Sydney Williams, for your creativity, diligence, and superior customer service – we could not do what we do without you!

Thank you to all our professionals for your continued hard work and unwavering dedication to our ever-important mission: helping our clients prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters. 

Lessons Learned in the Wake of Devastating Earthquakes in Turkey and Syria

On February 6, 2023, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported a magnitude 7.8 earthquake, followed by a magnitude 7.5 aftershock on the Richter magnitude scale (Richter scale), in the southern region of the Republic of Turkey (Turkey). The Richter Scale uses a numerical system from 1 to 10 measuring the strength of earthquakes based on their magnitude, or the amount of seismic energy released at the source (epicenter) of the earthquake. 

The region, which nears the northern border of Syria, experienced an additional magnitude 6.3 earthquake on February 20. Collectively, these earthquakes and aftershocks have had a devastating impact on the communities in Turkey and Syria with media reporting over 47,000 casualties as of February 23. Amid overwhelming loss of life, over 1.5 million individuals have lost their homes.

Turkey and Syria, with significant international support from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the United Nations (UN) aid agencies, are providing humanitarian support to those impacted. As of February 14, Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD) told media that 195,962 residents had evacuated the area. According to NGO Concern and media reports, individuals and families who are staying in the affected area are seeking shelter in community centers, sporting venues, tents, and cars due to complete loss of their home or fear of remaining in an unstable structure. Survivors seeking shelter are lacking basic commodities including but not limited to hygiene products, infant formula, blankets, and winter clothing.

In addition to supporting sheltering operations, Turkey and Syria are responding to critical infrastructure and key resources that sustained damage during the earthquake. Restoration is underway for utilities such as gas and electricity. However, access to gas and power remains off in certain areas while Urban Search and Rescue (USAR) and Disaster Assistance and Rescue Teams (DARTs) conduct search, rescue, and recovery operations. Healthcare facilities also sustained damage during the earthquakes, decreasing regional healthcare capacity.  

In response to the earthquakes, the UN has issued a Flash Appeal so that the affected region and the international community can continue to support humanitarian and recovery efforts in Turkey and Syria.  

What can communities learn from the earthquake events in Turkey and Syria? 

  1. Enforcing building codes is critical to mitigating the impacts of earthquakes. According to media reports, building codes in Turkey are poorly enforced for retrofitting and new construction projects by issuing fines instead of requiring compliance. As a result, buildings that potentially could have withstood the gravity of the February 6 and 20 earthquakes were either destroyed or irreparably damaged. It is imperative that structures follow stringent building codes which will provide the best opportunity for buildings including government, utility, healthcare, and residential structures to absorb and withstand the shock of earthquakes which will also mitigate injuries and fatalities. 
  2. Earthquake occurrences are more likely in the weeks and months following an initial earthquake. USGS underscores that “about 1 in 20 earthquakes are followed by a similar-sized or larger quake within the first week. While the chance goes down with time, large aftershocks can still occur months after the mainshock.” Communities should remain in a state of readiness during the response following the first earthquake to maintain the safety of first responders and survivors. 
  3. Simultaneous incidents such as extreme weather, public health emergencies, and supply chain disruptions are likely to occur. The February 6 and 20 earthquakes occurred during the height of the winter season resulting in now-homeless individuals and families being exposed to freezing temperatures. The earthquakes also occurred alongside the ongoing cholera outbreak in Syria which has affected thousands of Syrian residents. Officials and emergency management departments should consider building plans around the strategies and resources needed to respond to additional incidents amid the ongoing earthquake response.  
  4. Emergency management departments should have established structures to integrate the influx of volunteers to support response. Support from around the world – the UN, international USAR and DMAT teams, NGOs – quickly mobilized and deployed individuals and resources to assist with building assessments, life-safety, humanitarian shelter and feeding, and fatality management operations. In the event of a similar incident, it is prudent to have pre-set structures in place to effectively receive mutual and volunteer aid, as well as donations, to maintain full situational awareness and efficient utilization of deployed personnel and resources.  

Integrating observations from the earthquake events into your local preparedness plans

The impact of an earthquake has no boundaries. Everything can be vulnerable, from continuity of essential services to healthcare, to having a roof over one’s head. As a result, the threat of an earthquake presents the perfect opportunity to learn from past earthquake events and update preparedness plans to address urban search rescue/ first responder activities, continuity of government, continuity of operations, disaster sheltering, long-term sheltering, volunteer and donations management, and supply chain management.  

Additionally, this is an opportunity for elected officials to consider legislation on: 

  1. Building code updates, compliance, and enforcement; as well as  
  2. Allocating additional resources to support geological surveys to inform innovative hazard mitigation actions that could protect life and property in the event of a significant earthquake. 

In addition to updating preparedness plans, educate and encourage members of the community to create a plan for themselves and their families so that they know what to do in the event of an earthquake and are aware of available resources further bolstering your community’s overall resilience. For ideas on how to best prepare yourself and your family, review the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) Ready Campaign’s earthquake readiness checklist. 


Kathryn Lhota is a Senior Managing Associate at Hagerty Consulting with experience working for public and private sector clients across the United States focusing on emergency preparedness and response, crisis communications, and stakeholder engagement. She holds a Master of Science in Healthcare Emergency Management from Boston University and Bachelor of Arts in Government from Georgetown University.


The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Marina Conner and Julia Davatzes

As extreme winter weather in recent weeks has demonstrated, critical infrastructure and energy systems are vulnerable to a host of challenges, including heavy snowfall, high wind speeds, and brutally cold temperatures. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), these conditions create a higher risk of power outages, health risks, and disruption of transportation and communication systems. Additionally, as temperatures increase, a sudden thaw of heavy snow and relentless rainfall can lead to severe flooding as the water levels of surrounding rivers and streams rise above normal. As a result, communities become faced with significant inconveniences and, if caught unprepared, potentially hazardous situations. This month, we are highlighting some of Hagerty’s Preparedness professionals to discuss their career paths, professional experiences, and perspective on how communities can strengthen infrastructure resilience and mitigate the effects of winter storms.


1. Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty.

Marina Conner: Before joining Hagerty, I began my career in emergency management as a park ranger with the National Park Service (NPS). My first real exposure to emergency management was working through the Incident Command System (ICS) structure prepping for and responding to hurricanes. This work was really exciting to me, and I felt like I was truly making an impact in a way that I hadn’t experienced before. I funneled that inspiration and decided to get as much exposure as possible while working on my master’s degree in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. After graduation, I worked in the Office of Emergency Management for the University of Rhode Island (URI). Our office covered everything from blizzards and hurricanes to the COVID-19 pandemic and large-scale music and sporting events. After a few years there, I found myself itching to expand my experience, especially in the way of energy and critical infrastructure resilience. The breadth of project opportunities at Hagerty really spoke to me and drew me to where I am today.
Julia Davatzes: My career in emergency management began at the University of Virginia (UVA), where I studied Civil and Environmental Engineering with a primary focus on learning about environmental hazards and impacts. I spent most of my time outside of class volunteering locally with nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity and Meals on Wheels, which exposed me to the network of community organizations that work together to support individuals in need. I also lived in Charlottesville during the events of August 11 and 12, and looking back now, I watched a community experience what I now see as disaster recovery. After witnessing the importance of community-led recovery firsthand, I knew I wanted to pursue a career that combined my interests in hazards and building community. I found Hagerty in early 2020, and the rest is history.


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

Marina Conner: Whether we’re working with a local government agency, a regional utility, or a major corporation, the impacts of having actionable plans in place cascade well beyond those organizations’ scope. Having lived nearly all of my life in disaster-prone rural communities, I’ve seen the impacts firsthand of what disasters can do, especially to the most vulnerable in those communities. The work that I’m so fortunate to do helps organizations consider not just their own internal preparedness but how that preparedness can impact the communities that they serve or work in. Capturing those cascading impacts and assisting organizations to close the gaps that can leave the most vulnerable behind is what helps build resilient and safe communities.   

Julia Davatzes: A significant focus of my job is to guide communities to identify and consider the populations that are most at risk of hazards, which often overlays with historically underrepresented populations. We then encourage communities to identify and implement projects to better protect those individuals, increase their accessibility of programs, and improve the delivery of post-disaster services. It is a real privilege to help bring historically underrepresented populations to the forefront of the discussion and promote equity in pre-disaster planning in this way.

3. As critical infrastructure across the nation becomes increasingly vulnerable to environmental adversities, what do you believe are the most important steps to help improve resilience and mitigate risks of future disruptions?

Marina Conner: Interagency cooperation is key to improving resilience and mitigating future disruptions. No organization wants to find itself with its back against the wall on the other side of an emergency or incident, unsure of its next step to recovery. By working now to assess existing interdependencies with other organizations, government offices, and stakeholders, organizations can answer the question of “What do we do?” before the question is ever asked. Incorporating other organizations into emergency planning processes and training is also an excellent way to foster strong relationships between groups and increase overall resilience. Strong relationships amongst organizations, even those that are competitors, can help organizations recover more quickly and be overall more resilient. True resiliency has no losers, only winners, and has space at the table for everyone to win. 

Julia Davatzes: Two important steps to improving our infrastructure resilience are accurately understanding our risks and vulnerabilities and implementing a holistic strategy to address those risks. We must consider the future conditions of climate change-enhanced disasters as the conditions of now. The “100-year floods” are happening more often, and there is an opportunity to utilize more advanced risk modeling systems to determine resilient standards that infrastructure should withstand. Additionally, resilience does not exist in a vacuum. A project manager at Hagerty once told me that effective mitigation requires a layering of actions to build a culture of resilience. While the traditional mitigation methods of structural hardening and retrofits are important, public education programs, local ordinances, zoning requirements, and programmatic changes are just as valuable in improving resilience.

4. What are some simple precautions you take to personally prepare for severe winter storm weather?

Marina Conner: Even though I live in South Carolina, where severe winter weather isn’t super typical, living in Rhode Island gave me some perspective on winter storm prep. My biggest takeaway is that having well-invested infrastructure, including plows, salt trucks, and other equipment, can greatly reduce the severity of winter storms’ impact on a community. In South Carolina, the infrastructure is only needed every few years and generally isn’t available to prepare for a storm, so even a little snow or ice can feel like a blizzard did in Rhode Island! That being said, my personal prep list includes the following: 

  • Before a winter storm arrives, I prepare resources for everyone in my household, including measures for food, warmth, water, and general safety. This includes prep for my two dogs, who will need their own food, water, and blankets during the storm. Additionally, I make sure all pets have their collars on before the weather hits, and they stay on until the storm passes. I also have little lights that hang from their collars, and I turn them on so I can see them in the dark.  
  • Secondly, I set out flashlights and lanterns before the storm to prepare for possible power outages. These areas are usually: my nightstand, by my front and back door, on the kitchen counter, in the bathroom, and in the garage. There’s nothing worse than stumbling around a dark house trying to find a flashlight. 
  • Lastly, I salt early! Especially if ice is in the forecast, pre-treating sidewalks, driveways, and steps is a way to prevent injuring myself and others. I also ensure my vehicle is backed into my driveway and angled towards the road. This allows for easier control in slippery conditions. 

Julia Davatzes: I view winter storm preparations as being ready for “winter camping,” which means I pay attention to the news, prepare early, write down all important public safety and personal phone numbers, and keep an extra external battery charged. Additionally, I make sure to store a supply of potable water and easy-to-prepare food items (PB&Js sustained me through Winter Storm Uri).

5. What are you passionate about outside of work? 

Marina Conner: Outside of work, I’m big on gardening. I’m fortunate to have great year-round growing seasons where I live. I focus a lot of my garden on local, in-season produce, and I also try and grow everything from seed or scrap where possible. One of my dogs is big on carrots, so he’s really thankful that carrots are in season in the garden right now. I don’t think I’ve actually enjoyed one of my carrots yet this season! 

Julia Davatzes: I enjoy hiking, rock climbing, and spending time with friends. I have a weekly Sunday potluck with a group of friends that is often the highlight of my week! I’ve really loved getting to know Austin better over the last few years and am on a quest to experience all the live music I can and find the best breakfast tacos in the city. 

To learn more about Hagerty’s work supporting infrastructure resilience and emergency preparedness planning, visit our Preparedness page here

Marina Conner is a Managing Associate for Hagerty’s Preparedness division with seven-plus years of experience in preparedness and response programs. She holds a Master of Science (MS) degree in Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management from Arkansas State University (ASU) and has experience supporting a range of project subjects, including Continuity of Operations Planning (COOP), Crisis Communications, and Emergency Action Plans (EAP). 

Julia Davatzes is a Managing Associate for Hagerty’s Preparedness division with a background in civil and environmental engineering and demonstrated experience in local jurisdictional planning. In her role at Hagerty, she has supported plan development and implementation initiatives related to Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Sustainment, Multi-Jurisdictional Hazard Mitigation Plans (HMP), and Disaster Recovery and Redevelopment Plans.  

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Jeff Bokser and Kara Koirtyohann

Family gatherings and celebrations with friends are joyous traditions for many during the holiday season. However, as the threat of COVID-19 lingers and cases of the flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) surge nationwide, it is important that we plan for safe gatherings with friends, family, and loved ones. This month, we are highlighting some of Hagerty’s healthcare subject matter experts (SMEs) to discuss their career paths, professional experiences, and perspective on how to safely navigate the holiday season.

Tell us about yourself and how your career path led you to Hagerty.

Jeff Bokser: Before joining Hagerty Consulting, I built my career working in academic medical centers in New York and Connecticut, where I gained experience in leading healthcare operations, finance, crisis management, and disaster recovery. I started my career in a New York City (NYC) hospital in healthcare administration three months prior to September 11, 2001. I was quickly placed in the hospital command center and helped the hospital respond to the events and the aftermath of the World Trade Center (WTC) attacks. I have since led hospital staff in planning, executing, and responding to significant emergency events, including Ebola, Hurricane Sandy, the H1N1 pandemic, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), anthrax scares, mass-casualty surge incidents, and deploying disaster response teams and telemedicine nationally. This has prepared me for public health emergencies, and the response and recovery capabilities Hagerty is providing across the nation. 

Kara Koirtyohann: Prior to joining Hagerty, I worked as an architect, overseeing the design and construction of urban, institutional, commercial, and residential projects. During this time, I had the opportunity to manage the design of a local government library. This project, in particular, was a favorite of mine as the work was designed to meet the needs of a diverse community within the city’s infrastructure of public space. I found my way to Hagerty when I learned they were working with that local government, helping the city recover from a significant hurricane event, and looking for architects to work with the public departments, including the libraries, on long-term reconstruction. Since then, I have led wildfire and flooding recoveries, and as the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, I pivoted to meet the needs of our healthcare and other private non-profit clients.

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

Jeff Bokser: I am inspired to work with a truly dedicated team at Hagerty Consulting that looks every day to make a difference in the lives of others. In addition, having the opportunity to work with healthcare organizations across the country, I am amazed by the heroic efforts and innovative solutions that healthcare workers have developed to meet the unique patient needs in all corners of our country. It is incredibly rewarding to be able to help people and organizations in the midst of a crisis and then months later look back and realize how the collective team’s effort played a role in helping people in their most difficult of times. 

Kara Koirtyohann: Every disaster is unique to the circumstances of its place, time, and context, which means that each disaster brings new challenges and problems to solve. In my work with clients, it is thrilling to get to work side-by-side with different cities, states, and private nonprofits across the country, to get to know the particulars of that organization, and to understand how we can best solve the specific problems they are recovering from, preparing for, or responding to. This might include interpreting and arguing new federal policies, assisting in developing local community priorities, or learning the operation of a client’s financial management system. Regardless, the work makes you want to bring your best, working with clients who are fully invested in their organization and knowing that our efforts to help them recover, prepare, and respond are truly appreciated.

As our nation faces a tripledemic threat of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 this winter, what do you believe are the most important steps to help clients in the healthcare industry?

Jeff Bokser: Hospitals across the country are at their highest capacity of patients in over a year. Pediatric hospitals are full, and patients are waiting hours in emergency departments for treatment. Some hospitals are postponing elective surgeries and reopening COVID-19 triage tents and surge space to care for the overflow of patients. Healthcare organizations are once again in crisis. What makes this crisis different from the surges seen during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is that most healthcare organizations have less staff than they did a year ago and, therefore, cannot operate as many beds. 

The next few months will be incredibly challenging for the healthcare industry. We need to reactivate some of the mechanisms which resulted in the federal and state governments providing staffing, medical supplies, and financial support to healthcare organizations. Some states have started to do this and declared a public health emergency for RSV and flu. A public health emergency already exists for COVID-19. Emergency preparedness activities required to respond to the tripledemic are not covered in patient reimbursement. Therefore, healthcare organizations should track their costs during this ongoing response in the event that future reimbursement is made available to offset unreimbursed expenses. Healthcare organizations that normally compete for business and patients must once again come together and share resources and “load balance” patient volume from one facility to another to match where resources may be available to best treat patients with RSV, flu, or COVID-19.

Kara Koirtyohann: Our healthcare systems are struggling to recover from the impacts of COVID-19, much less the new threats faced by an increased RSV and flu seasons. While the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced that certain regulatory flexibilities allowed for COVID-19 can also be applied to the flu and RSV, many systems are still seeing staff and bed shortages and skyrocketing contract labor costs. Compounded with the fact that existing healthcare-specific funding programs are drying up and new programs have been slow to materialize, our healthcare clients are looking to capture and maximize every available recovery fund. 

As we continue to navigate this continuously changing environment, our advice to clients is to always ensure all expenses are documented. Ideally, at this moment, costs for COVID-19, RSV, and flu should be identified and tracked separately where possible. Should new funding programs be introduced or policies changed on current programs, having these costs identified and tracked will best position them to align scope and recover costs as fully as possible. Secondly, I encourage healthcare systems to leverage their collective voice. Unlike our government clients, healthcare systems may not have a direct line to policymakers and need to band together to advocate for the resources they need. We have already worked with various state and national hospital groupings to identify current needs, processes, and opportunities for adaptation to assist in their advocacy. 

What are some simple precautions you take to personally prevent the spread of illnesses and ensure a healthy holiday season?

Jeff Bokser: This holiday season, and always, I never leave home without hand sanitizer in my pocket. Given the high level of respiratory viruses and increased levels of hospitalizations in my area, I try to avoid crowded indoor spaces with a lack of ventilation as much as possible. At the same time, I am living my life and going to important gatherings with family, friends, and colleagues to celebrate special occasions. I wear a mask when on public transportation or in crowded indoor spaces when I don’t know the vaccination status of others. If a family member in my household or I feel sick, we try to isolate and join events virtually. This holiday season, I think it is important to gather with friends and family. Most importantly, I feel strongly that the updated COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine are good matches for this year’s strains, and I know that being up to date on your vaccines is the best defense to enjoy a safe, healthy, and prosperous holiday season. 

Kara Koirtyohann: First and foremost, I make sure to stay up to date on vaccinations and booster shots. As COVID-19, flu, and RSV cases rise in my area, I will continue to mask up in crowded and public places, and I will be sure to stay home if I am feeling ill. For me, the holidays are about appreciating the gift of family and friends, including taking action to protect my health and the health of others.

What are you passionate about outside of work?

Jeff Bokser: In my free time, there is nothing more I enjoy doing than being with my family. My teenage daughters keep me active and current on pop culture and occasionally get me to learn a TikTok dance with them. I enjoy watching and cheering them on from the sidelines at their dance recitals as well as field hockey and lacrosse games. On weekends, during warmer weather, I enjoy handy work around the house and am continuously in pursuit of the “perfect” golf game. 

Kara Koirtyohann: I love all things culture, but I am particularly passionate about opportunities to escape the office and go into nature on a hike.

To learn more about Hagerty’s work supporting healthcare systems, visit our Public Health and Medical Support page here


Jeff Bokser is Hagerty Consulting’s Vice President of Healthcare Programs with strategic expertise in all aspects of healthcare operations, finance, organizational resiliency, institutional preparedness, and recovery. Jeff has over 20 years of experience as a senior leader at NewYork-Presbyterian and Yale New Haven Health and served as Incident Commander guiding 40,000+ employees through numerous internal and external emergency response and recovery operations.

Kara Koirtyohann is a Deputy Director of Recovery for Hagerty Consulting. At Hagerty, has supported clients on recovery projects in response to various federally declared major disaster incidents, including hurricanes, flooding, wildfire, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to working at Hagerty, she managed the design and construction of public and private institutional, commercial, and residential buildings and interiors from preliminary design through construction closeout.

Moore County: Preparing for and Responding to Attacks Against Critical Infrastructure

On Saturday, December 3, two electricity substations in Moore County, North Carolina were damaged by gunfire, leaving 45,000 customers without power. In response to the attacks, Moore County declared a state of emergency with a 9:00pm to 5:00am curfew until Friday, December 9. State authorities and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) are still investigating the incident.

While this risk is not new, it does appear to be growing. At least five physical attacks on substations have been reported in Oregon and Washington over the past month. Further, nine physical attacks and 60 acts of vandalism occurred between January and August of this year, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). Those numbers represent a 64 percent increase in the number of physical attacks and acts of vandalism as compared to 2015. This latest incident demonstrates that energy security is not just a global issue – emergency managers, utilities, and energy offices should take note.

Considering the Impacts

During these incidents, responding entities need to effectively coordinate with a wide variety of stakeholders and across various levels of management quickly and accurately. Whether it is prioritizing the restoration of critical facilities such as hospitals, 911 dispatch centers, and water treatment plants or supporting the life safety needs of those within your community with access and functional needs, knowing who you need to coordinate with and what information they need to quickly execute their operational responsibilities is vital.

For example, utility incident management professionals will be coordinating with their operational teams to identify restoration priorities while simultaneously working with local emergency management and public safety agencies to manage and mitigate downstream impacts. The speed with which power is safely restored and a community is back on its feet can be decided by the community’s level of preparedness.

How can you prepare?

Whether you are an emergency manager, a utility provider, or a state/local energy office, there are several steps you can take to help better prepare for an attack on energy infrastructure in your area:

  • Energy Security and Incident Response Planning: Emergency managers and energy offices do not own the grid, but they are often responsible for managing response efforts when things go wrong. Conversely, while utilities own the infrastructure, they often rely heavily on public and private sector partnerships to restore normal operations. Energy security and incident response planning efforts are an effective way to coordinate with utilities and public safety agencies to address cascading impacts and enhance relationships with critical partners ahead of an incident.
  • Training: Conducting regular training, across all levels of management, including field operations, incident management, and executive teams, ensures employees are comfortable with their role in a response environment. Conducting joint trainings with public and private partners at the regional, state, or local level can also improve mutual understanding, response procedures, and restoration priorities.
  • Exercises: Delivering annual exercises with both internal and external partners helps test capabilities and identify areas for improvement or additional training. Exercises provide an opportunity to test new functions, give inexperienced employees opportunities to practice, as well as build or renew relationships with your key stakeholders.
  • Risk Assessments: Developing risk assessments will help you identify your threats and vulnerabilities and determine the likelihood and consequence of them occurring. Additionally, it can help you anticipate what cascading impacts may occur that pose a risk to not only your organization but the wider community. Engaging internal and external stakeholders with public safety partners, including fusion centers, can help you better understand roles and responsibilities as well as what information needs to be shared to aid with decision-making. It is only through this collaboration that an entire community will be better prepared to respond to your next emergency.

Hagerty Can Help

Hagerty has worked with state and local government, public utilities, investor-owned utilities, and membership organizations to prepare for threats to the energy sector across North America, including cyber and physical attacks. Our expertise in both emergency management and the energy sector has allowed us to support our clients in building relationships with government and private industry partners, strengthening our clients’ readiness.

Our professionals are experienced in performing risk assessments, developing meaningful planning processes, and delivering training and exercises that strengthen organizational and regional resilience. From state energy security planning and utility exercise initiatives to intelligence and information-sharing exercises with fusion centers, Hagerty can help. Contact us below to learn how we can help you.


Agnieszka Krotzer is a Managing Associate in Hagerty’s Preparedness Division. In this role, she works with Hagerty’s clients on energy resilience, continuity planning, and security and threat management projects, with an emphasis on executive-level decision-making and effective stakeholder engagement across all of the projects she supports.

Patrick Van Horne is a Deputy Director for Preparedness at Hagerty Consulting. In this role, he supports government and private sector organizations across the country by helping them prepare for an uncertain future through adaptable crisis management planning, meaningful training and exercises, and thoughtful program and event assessments. Prior to Hagerty, Patrick was an emergency manager for Boulder County, Colorado, where he responded to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple wildfires, and a mass shooting. Additionally, he previously co-founded and ran an online education company, The CP Journal, and served, for nearly seven years, in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry officer. 

Getting a Flu Shot this year could save your life

Flu season is in full swing and the worst it has been in over 13 years. With Americans gathering this holiday season, numbers are only expected to rise.

It is not too late to get your flu shot! Although this year’s severe flu season arrived early, it usually peaks in February and can continue into May. During this National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), December 5-9, 2022, you can do your part to protect yourself, your family, and those most vulnerable in our communities by not only getting a flu shot, but also by talking about the importance and value of vaccination with others.

Here are some of the most important reasons why you should get your flu shot today:

  1. It can save your life. Over 33 states are currently experiencing high or very high flu activity, which in some cases is leading to an increase in hospitalizations and even deaths.
  2. It can prevent you from getting the flu altogether. The flu shot changes each year and this year, it has proven to be a good match thus far. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data indicate that the 2022-2023 flu vaccine formulations are a good match to protect against the currently circulating flu viruses.
  3. Getting the flu shot helps to protect yourself and those most vulnerable. This includes newborns, those 65 years and older, and those with compromised immune systems.
  4. Flu shots are free and readily available. Most local pharmacies and healthcare providers across the country are administering the vaccine at no charge.
  5. Flu shots can help you avoid illness resulting in disruptions to your daily routine. The flu accounts for 111 million lost workdays and nearly $7 billion in lost productivity and sick days annually.
  6. It can reduce your sickness if you have a breakthrough case. Vaccinations help protect from getting the flu but if you do get sick, the vaccine will reduce your severity of illness and avoid hospitalizations.
  7. It’s not just a shot, nasal mists are available too. If people are afraid of needles, there is a nasal spray that can be given to healthy individuals ages 2-49.

Getting the flu from the flu shot is a myth. The flu vaccine is not a live virus and therefore cannot give you the flu.

Spending time with family and friends is an important part of the holiday season. This is especially true coming out of previous years of the pandemic where many families and friends were unable to safely gather. With a quick trip to a local pharmacy, you can avoid the flu or at a minimum prevent severe illness and enjoy your holiday season.

Jeff Bokser is Hagerty Consulting’s Vice President of Healthcare Programs with strategic expertise in all aspects of healthcare operations, finance, organizational resiliency, institutional preparedness, and recovery. Jeff has over 20 years of experience as a senior leader at NewYork-Presbyterian and Yale New Haven Health and served as Incident Commander guiding 40,000+ employees through numerous internal and external emergency response and recovery operations.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Honoring Hagerty’s Heroes


Each year on November 11, the Nation pauses to honor those who serve and have served in the United States (US) Armed Forces. Veterans Day is a time to thank them for the sacrifices they have made on our country’s behalf. Here at Hagerty, we are proud to work alongside veterans who lend their talent and energy to the ever-important task of helping our clients prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against disasters.

This year, a few of our veteran service team members paused to reflect on their personal experience in the military and how it prepared them for a career in emergency management.

Bryan Cochran  |  Navy 

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?
I learned that teamwork is the key to accomplishing anything worth doing.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?
As a Special Operations Officer (SOO), I learned how to deal with uncertainty and constantly changing environments. Additionally, I was trained to prepare and plan for known hazards and to adapt and overcome unknown challenges. These situations prepared me for a career in emergency management.

Jeff Ewaldt  |  Navy 

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?
In my 20 years of service, I learned the meaning of perseverance, confidence, and integrity. In the end, integrity is something that cannot be taken from you, only given away – and this is something that I am not willing to do.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?
In many ways, my military career taught me how to provide the mental and physical tools to adapt to the ever-changing emergency management environment.

Walter Flores  |  Marine Corps 

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?
I learned that I don’t like to quit. In the Marine Corps, “never quit” is one of the fundamental principles they instill in all recruits during basic training. We were conditioned to have the unwavering grit to continue on when others quit. I have learned that this principle often carries over into my career and personal life, enabling me to get through tough times with an even tougher resilience. 

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?
In the Marine Corps, we always had to be prepared for numerous response scenarios, including preparedness as a quick reaction force and occasionally providing support in many other operational areas. This translates very well to emergency management because we always have to be ready for the unexpected and capable of quickly reacting to the circumstances around a disaster. 

Mike Sprayberry  |  Marine Corps and National Guard

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?
I learned that I have a competitive streak and love to take on a challenge to see how I will perform. The military presents challenges every day no matter what your job or rank is and I really enjoyed trying to see how well I could do whether it was physical fitness, marksmanship, or working inside a team construct to accomplish a common goal.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?
While serving, I met many people with many different backgrounds and learned the value of being inclusive and listening to others to come up with the best solution possible. A common assumption that many people make is that in the military, the officers solely give orders, and everyone just follows them. The American military teaches all servicemembers how to think on their own, be self-reliant and, of course, be a part of a strong team and follow orders when needed. The core values I learned in the military transferred easily to emergency management, where success depends on your ability to collaborate within the team. Whenever the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) was activated, as the State Emergency Response Team Leader, I would tell everyone that with the talent assembled in the Situation Room, we could solve ANY problem! It’s really true!

Tyler Struwe  |  Navy

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?
I learned that I had a lot more that I wanted to accomplish than I previously thought, and I became instilled with a foundational discipline that truly amplified my ability to succeed. Before joining, I had few career goals outside of becoming a firefighter, and I never thought I would attend college because I did not particularly enjoy school. After working in emergency management while in the Navy, however, I found enjoyment in my work and a desire to pursue further education. Ultimately, this led to more disciplined study habits and a master’s degree in Emergency Management and Homeland Security.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?
I have had the opportunity to support numerous emergency management projects of varying capacities and understand the importance of effective communication across entities as we collaboratively work together to accomplish universal goals. Most recently, I was deployed to the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, as a Navy reservist during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, I worked in the base emergency management office, supporting various preparedness exercises to mitigate risks for nuclear fires, active shooters, natural disasters, and COVID-19—a task that involved contact tracing for over 10,000 shipyard workers daily.

Patrick Van Horne  |  Marine Corps 

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?
During my time in the military, I learned how much I enjoy working with mission-driven professionals. It is incredibly rewarding to serve alongside people who believe in the organization’s goals and who come to work every day with creative ideas about ways to achieve them. After I left the military, it was exciting to find that same dynamic working in emergency management and supporting communities before, during, and after disasters.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?
Military units deploying overseas and communities responding to disasters share numerous similarities, including an overarching desire to have been more prepared. I feel lucky to have been a part of teams in the Marines that didn’t stop their preparation efforts once they deployed but embraced a commitment to training, growing, and improving during their time overseas. In this way, it is similar to emergency managers’ daily work, leading communities through incredibly challenging times. We might always wish that there had been one more exercise or a few more training sessions for those in the EOC before the incident occurred, but we can also appreciate those who volunteered to respond despite not being fully ready. If we dedicate each day in response to making each person and each team just a little bit better, we can continue to grow our profession and better serve the communities we work in.

Today, we thank our colleagues, all those who have served, and their families for their bravery, courage, and service to our Nation.

Hurricane Nicole Makes Landfall in Florida as a Category 1 Hurricane Before Weakening to a Tropical Storm


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC), Hurricane Nicole made landfall on the Eastern coast of Florida at 2:27 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) on North Hutchinson Island just south of Vero Beach. Nicole made landfall as a Category (Cat) 1 hurricane and then weakened into a tropical storm. As of 7:00 a.m. EDT, Nicole was located over central Florida about 30 miles southwest of Orlando and 55 miles east of Tampa moving west-northwest at around 14 miles per hour (mph). Maximum sustained winds speeds have decreased to nearly 60 mph; however, due to Nicole’s size, tropical-storm-force winds may extend out up to 450 miles from the center of the storm. Nicole is expected to continue to weaken as it moves overland and is projected to be picked up by a cold front as it passes over southern Georgia.

Tropical Storm Nicole- GeoColor: NOAA

According to NOAA’s database, Nicole is the fourth November hurricane to make landfall in the United States (US) in records dating to the mid-19th century and the first to do so in nearly 40 years. Nicole is the 14th named storm of the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1 and officially ends at the end of this month on November 30. As of 7:20 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), more than 33 million people were under some storm-related warning, and over 230,000 customers have reported power outages across Florida. 

Following President Biden’s approval of an emergency declaration for the state of Florida on November 9, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal aid and coordination support had been made available to the state, supplementing state, tribal, and local response efforts for areas impacted by Tropical Storm Nicole. As of November 10, 45 of the state’s 67 counties are under a state of emergency.

Twitter: NWS Melbourne

FEMA provides guidance to individuals preparing for, experiencing, or being affected by hurricanes. Tropical Storm Nicole brings the potential for life-threatening storm surges to many coastal communities. Individuals should heed the warnings of local authorities. It is imperative that individuals seek higher ground and avoid walking or driving in flood waters. Additionally, FEMA encourages individuals to take the necessary precautions and prepare for flash flooding. Individuals at risk are encouraged to remain up-to-date with information from their local National Weather Service (NWS) office and local government/emergency management office and follow guidance issued by local officials.

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates.


Midwest Experiences Intense Storms Over the Weekend as Tropical Storm Nicole Moves Towards the United States


According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Hurricane Center (NHC), Tropical Storm Nicole has been declared a large tropical cyclone with storm-force winds extending outward up to 380 miles and maximum sustained winds of 50 miles per hour (mph). As of 10:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST), Tropical Storm Nicole was located about 350 miles northeast of the Northwestern Bahamas and moving west at nine mph. Due to the size of the storm and the uncertainty of its path, the NHC discourages focus on the storm’s exact track as anticipated hazards are expected to extend outside of the forecast cone. A hurricane warning is currently in effect for the Abacos, Berry Islands, Bimini, and Grand Bahama Island in the Northwestern Bahamas, where dangerous storm surge and hurricane conditions are expected on Wednesday, November 9. According to National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) Director Stephen Russell, 28 shelters will be activated in Grand Bahama and Abaco today as officials begin evacuating local residents from the Grand Cay and Sweetings Cay areas.

Subtropical Storm Nicole- GeoColor: NOAA

After exiting the Bahamas, Tropical Storm Nicole is forecast to make its second landfall along the southeast and east-central coast of Florida as a hurricane or strong tropical storm Wednesday night, November 9. As the exact track of the storm remains uncertain, hurricane warnings have been issued along the east coast of Florida from Boca Raton to the Flagler/Volusia County Line. On Monday, November 7, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an Executive Order to declare a state of emergency for 34 counties in the potential path of the storm, where projected impacts include heavy rainfall, strong winds, prolonged coastal flooding, life-threatening surf and rip current conditions, and storm surge levels of up to five feet above ground level. The NHC warns that severe flash and urban flooding is likely along the St. Johns River, with possible flooding risks extending in Southwest Georgia and portions of South Carolina Thursday, November 10.


On Saturday, November 5, several Midwest states experienced a strong storm system, which included thunderstorms and intense wind gusts. Officials in Chicago issued high wind warnings, and gusts exceeded 60 mph in some areas. National Weather Service (NWS) Chicago reported peak winds across the region ranging from 40 to 77 mph, including 77 mph at Dupage Airport and 60 mph at Chicago O’Hare Airport. NWS Chicago confirmed that a tornado scoring an EF-0 on the Enhanced Fujita (EF) Scale of Tornado Intensity touched down in Kendall and Kane counties around 10:00 a.m. EST on Saturday, November 5. The tornado traveled approximately four miles and produced wind gusts estimated at 80 mph. In West Michigan, winds reached 64 mph in Kalamazoo and 53 mph in Grand Rapids. NWS Northern Indiana reported gusts of 72 mph in Roann and 66 mph at South Bend International Airport.

Twitter: NWS Chicago

The storm system caused widespread power outages across the region, and 170,000 customers were without power as of 4:00 p.m. EST on Saturday, November 5. According to the latest update by, around 10,000 customers in the Great Lakes region remain without power. Additionally, the Chicago region saw several delays and disruptions at airports and train systems due to halted service. The severe weather also caused infrastructure damage in the Chicago area, including lifting off the roof of an apartment building in Elk Grove Village, Illinois. No injuries have been reported as the result of the damaging winds or EF-0 tornado.

Twitter: Readygov

The NWS offers advice and guidance for those about to experience, currently impacted by, or previously affected by tropical storms and hurricanes. Individuals at risk are encouraged to secure their homes, remain up-to-date with information from their local NWS office and local government/emergency management office, and follow guidance issued by local officials. Storm surges that cause major flooding are especially dangerous and life-threatening impacts of major storms, so it is crucial to know how to stay safe during a flood. Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) encourages individuals to take the necessary precautions and prepare for dangerous storms. It’s imperative to remember that flash floods can occur during storms with little to no warning, quickly changing the surrounding area. FEMA suggests individuals seek higher ground, avoid walking or driving in flood waters, and heed the warnings of local authorities. FEMA also reminds individuals experiencing flooding to “Turn Around, Don’t Drown!” –  six inches of moving water is all it takes to knock a person down, and vehicles can be swept away by just one foot of water. Major flooding also increases the likelihood of landslides and debris flow, which may pose severe risks to human life, land, and property. FEMA urges individuals to stay alert to instructions from their local emergency management agency, and to evacuate the area and move uphill as quickly as possible if in the path of a landslide. It is important to understand the warning signs, risks, and safety guidance associated with both fast- and slow-moving landslides. 

The Hagerty Blog Team will continue providing information and updates.