Celebrating Women’s History Month: A Profile in Leadership

As we near the end of Women’s History Month – a time to celebrate the social, cultural, economic, and political contributions of women around the world – we wanted to take a moment to highlight, recognize, and celebrate the growing number of female leaders in professional emergency management and here at Hagerty. As an organization, we remain committed to parity and helping break down barriers that will pave the way for the next generation of leaders within our firm and the emergency management profession.

Today, in the spirit of celebration and professional growth, the female members of our leadership team offer words of advice, encouragement, and wisdom they have gained throughout their careers.

Amelia Muccio, Director of Mitigation: Emergency management provides us with the opportunity to work with communities at their most vulnerable. As a leader, I never forget that responsibility.

Cris McCombs, Regional Client Services Director: As a female leader, my experience has shown that obstacles, challenges, and even perceived failures can be your greatest assets. The key is to choose to approach them with the proper attitude.

Judy Hynes, Resource Manager: Persistence, perseverance, and patience – hallmark nouns that define a leader, no matter the crisis.

Katie Grasty, Deputy Director of Mitigation: “It’s time to cheer on girls and women who want to sit at the table.” – Sheryl Sandberg

Katie Freeman, Director of Operations: As a young person, I learned the value of servant leadership and have carried that model forward into my career. As I apply this to the growing Hagerty team, my continued success is rooted in investing in our people and their development, expanding our team and building trust, and supporting those teams to ensure they achieve results. 

Gisele Parry, Regional Client Services Director: One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.

Meghan Tosto, Deputy Director of Recovery: During my career, I have appreciated the incredible value of mentorship. Knowing when to ask for guidance, help, or just to have a sounding board from the right person can be so critical to navigating through pivotal decision points or forks in the road.

Nicole Morales, Deputy Director of Preparedness and Response Programs: “As long as you’re living, you should try to grow, try to raise yourself up, and as importantly, raise someone else up with you.” – Chef Leah Chase, New Orleans

April Geruso, Director of Resilience: There are no easy answers in this field, critical thinking is essential — in my career it has been rewarding to build teams passionate about solving complex problems together.

Jessi Nalepa, Communications Director: As a female leader, I have learned that comfort and growth do not often coexist. Push past your perceived limits — you will eventually achieve something you once thought was impossible.

Tanya Shannon, Deputy Director of Recovery: Ultimately, my motto has been “just keep swimming.” In this field we do not have time to second guess, be indirect, or leave anyone behind. With any misstep, we learn from it but then move on, striving to be the calm during and after the storm, supporting those around us to get through the disaster of the day, week, month, or year.

Today, and always, we appreciate these valiant leaders, and their female colleagues, who collectively bring immeasurable talent and value to our firm and our clients daily.

OUR PEOPLE: Veterans Day – 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.

Meet Hagerty’s Heroes

Rich Carney | Army

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?

Teamwork, compassion, humility, and innovation. The military provided the opportunity to have and honor brilliant mentors, who demonstrated the importance of taking care of others. Additionally, the importance of passing along these attributes has been inspiring and instrumental in my career.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?

The US Army has taught me the significance of planning, the value of innovation, and the importance of flexibility. These essential tenets translate well into emergency management. The ability to “plan your work and work your plan” and swiftly respond with the changing environment are critical to the safety and security our nation’s citizens and infrastructure.

Travis Biggar | Air Force

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?

Integrity and sacrifice. I like structure and order of things. I would do anything for my comrades – you make lifelong friendships, no matter where you came from.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?

In the military, I learned to be flexible. Throughout my career, I’ve been put in positions from being a manager/ supervisor to working in broad areas of financial management; I’ve processed the vouchers, forecasted multi-million dollar programs, managed execution of those programs, and briefed at the highest levels of the Pentagon. Be it strategic or tactical, in emergency management, you must be willing to adapt and work in any post needed to fulfill the mission – my military career certainly prepared me for that.

Dustin Zabokrtsky | Marine Corps

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?

Discipline, confidence, and the ability to achieve goals and overcome adversity.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?

Working long hours in stressful environments, flexibility in uncertainty, achieving the mission, learning, and adapting to incorporating best practices.

Patrick Van Horne | Marine Corps

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?

During my time in the military, I learned that I am drawn to helping people prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. The future may be dynamic and constantly changing, but if you are surrounded by people who have committed themselves to being ready for anything that may happen, people are capable of doing some really remarkable things. Helping groups prepare and develop their abilities is something I really enjoy.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?

My time in the Marines taught me about the need to make decisions even when perfect information is not available. Disasters, much like war, rarely provide a perfect and complete picture about the situation being faced, but if the lack of information prevents a decision from being made, it is hard to make any forward progress against your goals or objectives.

Walter Flores | Marine Corps

What did you learn about yourself by serving in the military?

I learned I valued an environment with control and structure. It showed me to have discipline in what I do and always strive to be the best at everything I do. My military experience enabled me to take those same values and skills and apply them throughout my career.

How did your military career prepare you for a career in emergency management?

Response mode is something we get used to in the Marine Corps, having to quickly mobilize and respond for deployments or missions; which has helped me prepare for EM/DR mobilizations. Also, in the military, we learn that having discipline and dedication is the key to success, and the same goes for recruiting for some of the positions we mobilize. It is essential to stay focused on the mission, by applying discipline and dedication to mission-critical functions such as sourcing and identifying the right candidates for our organization.

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


October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), and, throughout the month, we are highlighting Hagerty employees working to support our cybersecurity needs. During this fifth and last week of NSCAM we highlight Rob Denaburg, a Senior Managing Associate on Hagerty’s Preparedness Team and a Hagerty’s Cyber Team Member.

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

I came to DC after graduate school without a job lined up because I knew I wanted to be in the nation’s capital. From there, my career took me down a few different paths – counterterrorism, management consulting, cybersecurity, and, most recently, a focus on critical infrastructure security and disaster response. For nearly the past four years, I examined threats to critical infrastructure resilience and the challenges associated with responding to complex catastrophes to help clients develop and implement solutions to them.

While I learned an incredible amount, worked closely with an outstanding mentor, and developed a genuine passion for resilience-related work, I’d been doing so from a very high-level, policy-focused perspective. I recently decided that I wanted to work with organizations on the ground and directly assist clients implement the policies and procedures I had been previously recommending to further improve their disaster preparedness. I came to Hagerty at the end of September to do just that.

What is something every individual or business should know about cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is a constant and all-inclusive effort. There is no such thing as securing a system or network and being done with it. Adversaries will keep looking for new tactics and techniques to penetrate your defenses. Organizations must stay vigilant and keep looking for novel ways to counter innovative offensive strategies. Even as network security improves, attackers are increasingly targeting product supply chains and individual employees to try to gain a foothold. So, everyone within an organization must do their part to keep ahead of the bad guys.

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

For many natural and manmade hazards, the question is not “if” but “when” an organization or government agency will be affected. As a member of Hagerty’s preparedness team, I know that we’re putting our clients in a position to succeed at a time when their ability to mitigate impacts and respond to a crisis are the most essential. In many cases, our work will help them save lives and minimize other societal and economic impacts when disaster strikes.

Rob Denaburg is an experienced consultant with a concentration in critical infrastructure security and disaster response. Mr. Denaburg has worked with public and private sector clients to minimize the societal, economic, and national security impacts of catastrophic infrastructure outages. He has advised policymakers and industry leaders on how to build resilience against severe natural and manmade hazards, and navigate cross-sector interdependencies in sustaining and restoring lifeline services.

Taking “Fusion” to the Next Level: How Hagerty Supports Public-Private Sector Intelligence Coordination

Recent civil unrest across the United States demonstrates the need for coordinated information and intelligence sharing amongst public safety agencies and the private sector. To facilitate this necessary two-way intelligence and information flow, private sector entities should establish a strong relationship with their local fusion center. Hagerty endeavors to facilitate this relationship-buildinby supporting both the public and private sector with high-level strategic planning, staff augmentation for specific roles, and  multi-agency, multi-jurisdictional communications exercises.

An increasing number of fusion centers have emerged within the private sector. Often called global operations centers, these centers are associated with major corporations and gather intelligence to understand and stay ahead of the information landscape, like their public sector counterparts. These centers’ mission is to protect business operations, brand, employees, and facilities. By establishing a strong relationship with local fusion centers, the private sector can support the whole community and our country’s ability to prevent, respond to, and recover from threats to public safety.

Fusion centers provide a unique perspective on threats to their state or locality by collecting and communicating critical intelligence information across all-hazards. They also serve as the primary conduit between frontline response personnel, state and local leadership, and the federal government. Government-run fusion centeridentify and understand critical incidents as they unfoldwhich is then shared with the decisionmakers that determine the allocation of resources and communicate with the public to ensure  safety. As national responses to civil unrest have demonstrated,  the whole community  is responsible for ensuring public safety. Traditional public safety agencies (i.e., law enforcement, fire protection, emergency medical services) are no longer the only ones with significant role  To ensure a successful response, each stakeholder in the whole community is a part of the Information Sharing Environment (ISE).  

Figure 1. Whole Community Participants in the Information Sharing Environment

Hospital and healthcare facilities, public health departments and emergency management agencies, religious and community-based organizations, private sector businesses, and individual citizens are all considered whole community participants. When fusion centers receive  information from all of these participants, it helps to build their understanding of  threats or incidents.  

Figure 2. Private Sector Information Sharing During Civil Unrest Supports Public Safety 

Timely, trusted information sharing amongst all stakeholders is essential to our national security and vital to maintaining public safety as neither government nor the private sector alone has the knowledge or resources to do it alone. Private sector  information on risks and hazards affecting their business,  combined with the information shared by other whole community stakeholders, helps build a holistic national threat picture  better informing the entire federal, state, and urban-area fusion center Network to keep people safe. 

Hagerty Can Help 

Hagerty Consulting is a national leader in active threat preparedness and has carried out hundreds of exercises and resiliency-building projects for public and private sector clients that aim to build comprehensive preparedness program management, including intelligence and information sharing. Hagerty has the tools and relationships to bridge the gap between public and private fusion centers and facilitate engagement from whole community stakeholders across the ISE. 

Hunter Seeker Exercise  

Hagerty is made up of professionals who developed their expertise in diverse environments—including the private and public sectors, military, and traditional and non-traditional intelligence sectors. Rooted in this experience, Hagerty developed Hunter Seekeran exercise concept designed specifically to evaluate information sharing systems between whole community participants of the ISE. Hagerty has conducted multiple Hunter Seeker exercises, helping fusion centers and their partners develop, test, and hone their intelligence and information sharing capabilities. This exercise presents a scalable, scenario-based exercise aiming to build intelligence and information sharing relationships across the private and public sectors.  

Staffing Surge Support 

The  public and private sector can call on the Hagerty Response Task Force (RTF). The Hagerty Response Task Force consists of a cadre of emergency managers and other professionals who are willing and able to respond to affected areas nationwideThe Hagerty RTF can provide staffing surge support specifically to augment intelligence and information sharing through: 

Strategic Planning Services and Change Management 

Through strategy development, executive roundtables, leadership seminars, and workshops, Hagerty is poised to help  build an innovative and collaborative path forward. These activities will   allow for the exchange of best practices among intelligence professionals and participants will come away with contacts, strategies, and ideas about the industry’s path forward. After a thorough discovery process, Hagerty can develop a Change Management Toolkit and tailored plans to address: 

  • Stakeholder Management and Engagement 
  • Team Development 
  • Communications 
  • Operations Process Impact Analysis and Action 
  • Training and Exercise Needs Implementations Plan

Timely communication and information sharing is an enduring area of improvement across all agencies around the country for every threat and hazard agencies face. The first step to improving  is to formalize mechanisms for  sharing and strengthen relationships within the whole community, especially through public-private partnerships. 

Glossary of Terms Used 

Civil unrest: In the context of this article, civil unrest relates to recent peaceful protests and other First Amendment-protected activities that could impact public safety (e.g., traffic impacts), as well as recent riots, looting, and vandalism.

Community-Based Organizations: Organizations, often local, that work directly with community members and have a strong understanding of the needs, vulnerabilities, and desired improvements of the community.

Fusion Centers: designed to connect intelligence and information management professionals and strengthen the Information Sharing Environment. Though fusion centers have traditionally been governmental agency-owned and operated, many private sector fusion centers have been created as organizations across industries see their value in protecting their people, products, facilities, and brand.

Information Sharing Environment (ISE): network of people, programs, and organizations that support intelligence and information sharing.

Network: There are 80 government-run fusion centers around the country which make up the National Network of Fusion Centers. Collaboratively, the Network brings critical context and value to Homeland Security and Law Enforcement.

Althea de Guzmanis the Lead of the Information and Intelligence Sharing service line at Hagerty. She manages the St. Louis Regional Portfolio, which includes the St. Louis Complex Coordinated Terrorist Attack (CCTA) Program. Althea leverages her experience in healthcare and project management to support hospital and healthcare coalition initiatives in the region and around the country. Recently, Althea leveraged her expertise in the development and execution of multi-site, multi-jurisdictional, and multi-disciplinary exercises and translated it into a remote environment, leading Hagerty’s virtual exercise offerings. Althea graduated from and is affiliated with The University of Chicago, supporting emerging professionals to understand complex adaptive systems in emergency management and homeland security.  

Anne Armstrong is an Associate at Hagerty. While pursuing her Master’s degree in Washington, D.C., Anne worked on federal policy and strategy in the non-profit space and at the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Policy. Anne has contributed to a diverse portfolio of projects, including a federal strategy to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure and a recovery plan for an international NGO in the wake of violent conflict. Prior to joining Hagerty, Anne was living and working in Amman, Jordan, as a Boren Fellow. 

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Katie Grasty

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

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

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

What brought you to Hagerty Consulting?

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

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

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

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

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


What is your favorite movie?

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

How do you like to spend your free time?

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


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

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.

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.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Jeff Bokser

Jeff Bokser serves as the Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs at Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty). The Disaster Discourse Team conducted an interview with Jeff to learn more about his professional background and the valuable expertise he brings to the Hagerty Team.

How does your previous experience contribute to your role as the Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs?

I have obtained a vast amount of experience throughout the past two decades of my career in all aspects of healthcare operations, finance, crisis management and recovery. I started my career in a New York City hospital in healthcare administration three months prior to September 11th, 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 attacks.  Throughout my career, I have advanced performance in clinical and non-clinical settings and led innovation in daily operations and care delivery processes.

I have since led hospital staff in planning, executing, and responding to significant emergency events including Ebola, Hurricane Sandy, 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 Hagerty is providing during COVID-19. It is my experience in running complex healthcare organizations, deep understanding of public health and my passion in emergency management that contributes to my role at Hagerty and ability to help advise and shape healthcare organizations, universities and public health departments across the country as they respond to the most significant multi-faceted public health disaster in recent history.

In our country’s current COVID-19 environment, what do you believe are the most important steps to help clients in the healthcare industry?

Right now, hospitals and healthcare systems are facing significant financial challenges from the effects of COVID-19 testing, treatment, and care.  In addition, to the cost incurred for caring for COVID-19 patients, hospitals face a loss in revenue from a drop in non-COVID-19 patient visits. They are dealing with recovery in the midst of what is going to be a prolonged response. Normally there is a time when an emergency ends and recovery begins; right now, they seem to be blending. Hagerty is unique – we have vast experience in disaster response and recovery, and we are bringing them both to the table for our clients during COVID-19. Currently, the most important role we are helping with in financial recovery is identifying ways to work with federal and state funding streams to help with short-term cash liquidity and positioning for long-term financial recovery. We are also starting to see a shift to work in preparedness including After-Action Reports (AARs) for hospitals and healthcare associations, emergency operation plan enhancements and response work for planning of field hospitals, testing sites and vaccination planning.

Most of our hospital clients are still in the heat of battle with COVID-19, but we need to have a paradigm shift for the future. This Public Health Emergency (PHE) comes down to the recognition that we all have to adapt to this new normal, while recognizing that even if it doesn’t affect you as an organization now, at some point it will. We all have to work together to make a strategic change and build a stronger public health infrastructure. Historically hospitals have operated independently; we need to have a collective goal to take care of people across the country.

We also need to understand that this PHE is not just about the immediate aspects of caring for COVID-19 patients or caring for COVID-19-related job loss. We are seeing the economic impact and social isolation results that will play out for years. We are going to see individuals during this time who are putting off their health needs. It is far greater than just the immediate threat of COVID-19. This PHE has societal impacts; the faster and better we can help all those components, the better off we will be.

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

 I have always felt that helping others is a huge part of who I am and is embedded in my DNA. My appreciation for emergency management was born out of tragedy. As a teenager, I was involved as a passenger in a serious car accident and lost a friend. The accident set in motion my desire to make a difference in others’ lives.

In times of crisis, I have always been someone who has remained calm, which is key when stress steps in during an emergency. I always try to be prepared for whatever might come next and what needs to be addressed in advance to be threat ready. There is no such thing as complete preparedness, yet each day we need to be thinking through plans and requirements for whatever emergency we may face next. As emergency managers, we can never fall into the mindset of “we just responded to the biggest emergency,” there is always something new on the horizon. In this job, you can never become complacent.

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

You have to enjoy what you do. Because of my passion and connection, I have always gravitated towards community management. I’ve always felt that when you work in our field, the work you do contributes to the fulfillment of a larger and more meaningful purpose. Our work at Hagerty – with our healthcare partners and universities across the county – is contributing to helping society and is enhancing individuals lives during what will likely prove to be one of the most trying times in our nation’s history.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love to spend time with my daughters and wife, travel, golf, and work on projects around the house. Last summer I built a deck on my yard. It has come in handy with all the time we have been spending at home.


JEFF BOKSER is Hagerty Consulting’s Vice President of Healthcare and University Programs and has strategic expertise in all aspects of healthcare operations, finance, crisis management, and recovery. Jeff currently leads Hagerty Consulting’s Healthcare and University practice focused on COVID-19 response and financial recovery and is working with public health departments, hospitals, healthcare systems, and universities across the country. 

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Jing Luo

How has your background growing up in China contributed to your interest in disaster recovery?

My hometown in China is on the South East coast, where it is prone to severe typhoons. In 2006, Typhoon Saomai, one of China’s strongest recorded storms, made landfall near my hometown. My entire city became flooded with contaminated water, and lifeboats were used to rescue people and take them to safety. My family and I, who had recently moved to a new apartment, realized one of our windows would not close as Typhoon Saomai was fast approaching. It was almost impossible to fight the wind and close our window. If we tried, the window would break, allowing heavy rain to enter our new apartment. Luckily, the management team helped us with setting up a temporary window cover that prevented any flooding to our apartment. When Typhoon Saomai finally passed, broken trees and debris remained everywhere. Recently, Typhoon Lekima, equivalent to a Category 2 hurricane, landed near my city, causing a high death toll and several billion dollars in damage.

The devastation and panic these typhoons caused my family and community are why I became interested in disaster recovery. I received help from others during a time of disaster, and now I want to use my skills to help communities through their disasters.

How does your previous banking experience contribute to your role as a Financial Management Consultant assisting clients after a disaster?

My previous work revolved around keeping clients informed throughout the mortgage process and coordinating with various parties to facilitate the lending process. I have learned to interpret complicated terms into graphs, numbers, and examples so clients can easier understand the different parts of a complex program. My teaching fellow experience in college also contributed to my development in solving problems multiple ways. It is why, in my role as a Financial Management Consultant, I am able to digest a disaster recovery program and create tools or databases that allow for easier data interpretation for clients who might not know all the program’s intricacies.

What grant funding challenges have you solved through database systems?

With the help of the Intuit QuickBase System and Microsoft Business Intelligence software, my team and I can build grant management systems based on our clients’ needs. Specifically, I have implemented solutions so clients can better track their project costs, maintain project work queues, and automate financial reports.

In a recent project, a client was frustrated with how their existing financial grant program information was lumped together, complicating the allocation of funds for different recovery programs or beneficiaries. I created an itemized database system consisting of the grant funding details, the specific grants funds are tied to, beneficiaries, costs, and reimbursements. I also created an operations system that allowed our client to perform the grant management steps in sequence from procurement and contracts to revenue realizations. The itemized database system allowed the client to track their budgets and grant funding streams, while the operations system sent auto notifications of tasks for a more efficient workflow.

What led you to join the Hagerty Consulting, Inc. (Hagerty) Team, and what do you think makes Hagerty unique?

My experience growing up in a disaster-prone area led me to think about opportunities in the disaster recovery area. Hagerty is well known in the industry so when a job was posted on Columbia University’s career website, I instantly applied for it. I believe supporting clients after they are in a vulnerable position is meaningful work, one I am grateful to be a part of.

The teamwork at Hagerty is phenomenal. My team consists of individuals from different areas and expertise who work together to achieve our clients’ recovery goals efficiently and in a timely manner. The years of managing major disaster projects across the country also allow Hagerty to have a unique impact on helping our clients’ implement recovery policies for their purposes.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Reading and traveling! There is a Chinese proverb which says, “Read 10,000 books and travel 10,000 miles,” meaning learn as much as you can and travel as far as you can. In terms of reading, I have loved reading ever since I was able to hold a book, and now I read every day because it brings me peace and inspiration. As for travelling, my parents took me to many different cities in China where I had the chance to see different customs, food, clothes, and dialects within my country. I chose to attend college and live in the United States (US) so I can continue traveling, meet new people, and learn new perspectives. I believe reading and traveling make me a better, caring, and passionate person.

Jing Luo joined Hagerty 5 years ago as a Financial Management Consultant and systems expert advising New York City and Florida clients on their grant management processes and California clients with their systems management. Jing graduated from Columbia University with Bachelor of Sciences degrees in Mathematics and Operations Research. Jing grew up in a disaster-prone area in China and now currently resides in New Jersey.

The Hagerty Advantage – Our People: Carver Struve

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two strong lessons that I learned:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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