Meet Carlos Castillo, Tidal Basin’s New Chief Development Officer

What we’re talking about

Tidal Basin welcomes FEMA’s former Acting Deputy Administrator for Resilience as our new Chief Development Officer. Carlos will be overseeing the growth functions of the company and operations in the Caribbean.

Building codes must be updated to minimize the impacts from major disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes. The U.S. has made progress since historic storms like Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  But there remain some areas in the U.S. that still need to improve building codes to current standards.

There are opportunities for communities to increase resilience, one opportunity is with FEMA’s Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (#BRIC) Program providing funding opportunities available to communities. BRIC supports states, local communities, tribes and territories as they undertake hazard mitigation projects, reducing the risks they face from disasters and natural hazards. BRIC is a new FEMA pre-disaster hazard mitigation program that replaces the existing Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) program. #FEMA #mitigation


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It was August 1992 and Hurricane Andrew was making landfall across Miami-Dade County. Our guests today responded to that storm and shares what it was like in the aftermath of one of the most destructive hurricanes to ever hit the U.S. Join us as we welcome the newest member of the Tidal Basin Group. This is the Disaster Recovery Roundtable, a platform to explore, engage, and educate the emergency management community. 

Our topics are timely and relevant, intended to promote the exchange of ideas and best practices. Now, here’s your host, Greg Paget. And thank you, Steve Henderson, for that introduction and welcome to Disaster Recovery Roundtable. 

In this episode, we are excited to welcome and introduce Carlos Castillo, Tidal Basin’s new Chief Development Officer. Carlos is a former FEMA Acting Deputy Administrator for Resilience. Prior to that, he served nearly two years as the Associate Administrator for Resilience. 

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In 2007, he was the Assistant Administrator for Disaster Assistance, overseeing FEMA public assistance for long-term recovery programs following hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Ike. Carlos has an extensive career in emergency management, which includes 26 years with Miami-Dade Fire and Emergency Services, serving three years as the EMA Director there and then retiring as Assistant Fire Chief. Carlos also has non-profit experience as the Regional Disaster Officer for the South Florida region of the American Red Cross and also experience in international disaster response work, which we’ll hear a little bit more coming up in this podcast. 

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Carlos, welcome aboard to Tidal Basin Group. Thanks, Greg. I’m excited to be here. 

Tell me a little bit about what’s, you know, so excited about where you’re coming from and the transition there from FEMA over to Tidal Basin. Most recently, I was with FEMA and, you know, this has been a difficult time for FEMA. As you know, COVID has been an unprecedented disaster for FEMA. 

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Every single state, territory, the District of Columbia, and several tribal areas have been declared for presidential disaster. That’s the first time in FEMA and by that, the country’s history where that’s been the case. So, we’ve been at it. 

We were at it for a long time and it tested our system, but a lot was learned from it and hopefully a lot will go into improving disaster response, not just for FEMA, but throughout the country in ways that we can support it here at Tidal Basin as well. You did announce in late July your decision to come over to the Tidal Basin Group, which by the way, you’ll be serving in a new role as the Chief Development Officer. Can you share with our listeners what kind of things you’ll be doing in this new position? Well, so as Chief Development Officer, I’m responsible for growing our business, especially support to the federal government clients in our work in the Caribbean. 

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In addition, the extensive work that we do at the state and local level all comes together. We have a very talented and experienced team at Tidal Basin and I’ve been getting to know them and a lot of their capabilities and I’ve been impressed by just the depth of knowledge and experience within our teams that are serving throughout the country in different client sites and remotely as well. I understand you know Daniel Craig, our CEO from your tenure at FEMA, and also you’ve worked with Tidal Basin’s Chief Operating Officer, Mark Mischak, who led the individual assistance divisions over there at FEMA. 

How do you feel reuniting with both Mark and Dan in this new role? It’s one of the reasons I came here, to be honest with you, and I retired from Miami-Dade County after 26 years and I went to work at FEMA as the Assistant Administrator for Disaster Assistance, since been changed back to recovery. Dan held the position just before me, so I learned a great deal from him and we’ve became friends since then and been close friends ever since and have stayed in touch and sharing you know our passion for emergency management and he has this keen ability to synthesize complex issues and develop effective approaches to deal with them that I think is been part of his success in this field. And Mark Mischak worked with me in recovery as well and he’s specifically in individual assistance and early on I realized Mark had outstanding capabilities and I promoted him as a Deputy for Individual Assistance and we’ve also been friends for a long time. 

This is back more than 12 years ago now and it’s been great to be able to work with friends and colleagues who share a mutual respect and passion for emergency management truly. You mentioned earlier that you are from Miami-Dade County, worked down there for several years and I know you’re originally from South Florida. You were there when Hurricane Andrew made impact back in 1992 and now that we’re in another busy hurricane season when you’re in Florida you still reference Andrew. 

It was such a devastating storm even though it was a really small storm and it was you know south of downtown Miami, was down there in the homestead region, Florida City and those areas and just you know from that experience and seeing all that devastation, is it still the benchmark there in that part of Florida? Well Hurricane Andrew is absolutely still the benchmark and although there have been some hurricanes since, until recently Andrew was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the continental U.S. It was a category five, a strong category five and although it was compact but it packed one incredible punch and pretty much devastated the south end of Miami-Dade County and if you you picture Miami-Dade County is long and narrow, the south end was pretty much almost half, completely half of it was destroyed. A lot came from that. You know prior to Hurricane Andrew we hadn’t been affected in almost 27 years so people either forgot what it was like or they just weren’t around and the south Florida landscape had changed and the population had grown so it really brought to light a lot of things that we needed to learn. 

One of that was we thought we had a very strong building code and it was but it wasn’t as enforced as much as it could have been so that’s part of what’s necessary to keep you safe and you know I’ve believed firmly for a long time that disasters can be prevented and although we can’t prevent the hurricane, we definitely prevent it from affecting our buildings and lives more importantly. So Hurricane Andrew caused us to look at ourselves and say you know we weren’t ready for this but we were definitely going to take that motivation to be prepared and really became the benchmark in terms of emergency management across the country and in parts of the world because we knew we had to. We had to be as self-sufficient as possible and we learned and changed and tailored our plans to what the realities were and made them more effective I believe and we’ve shared that from the beginning. 

We shared that with our colleagues throughout the country in emergency management. That’s how you become stronger I think and more resilient. Do you remember that night that Andrew came on shore? I definitely do. 

I actually had gone home. I was with the fire rescue department at the time and I had gone home and waited for the storm to pass and that was one of the toughest things because my daughter was three years old at the time and we were in a downstairs bathroom and I lived right in the south end of the county where the eye of the storm or just below the eye of the storm had come through and it felt like a freight train was going through our house and then luckily we were all okay. The house was trashed for the most part but the tough part was having to go into work after that and I remember getting a call from one of our dispatchers at our alarm office and she was crying on the phone. 

She says we lost half of the county. We have no communication. People aren’t able to dial 911 because the phone lines were down and it was tough. 

It was tough to go in and see what we had but we knew there were a lot of things that we could do to help and everybody just did what needed to happen. Did you guys have damage at the house there? Yes, we did. We did. 

We had to move out for six months to rebuild which was tough because we were putting in long days obviously with fire rescue but we lost part of our roof, all our windows, even though we had shutters. I mean it was very strong wind that we got there and although there wasn’t a lot of flooding where we were but the wind was really what killed us. I was working my first job in TV back in 92 and remember some of the stories that were coming out of South Florida and one of the ones that just resonates with me still today is that people were trying to describe what it was like right there at ground zero. 

Basically, they couldn’t even recognize what street they were on because all the landmarks, the signs, everything, the homes, the structures were gone. Sure, sure and you tend to forget or you don’t realize how much you rely on landmarks whether it’s trees or even I remember driving on the expressway not long after and those large expressway, those green signs were gone. We’re on the ground and twisted metal everywhere and you know it takes a lot of force to be able to do that and it’s just incredible that that happened. 

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So much has changed since Andrew and you mentioned building codes for one and I know you’ve done some work in the Caribbean as well and Tidal Basin is doing work also with Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. When you reference building codes, there’s still a lot of places out there that are hurricane prone that don’t have the best building codes out there right now. Tidal Basin is doing some work in Puerto Rico and in Virgin Islands and you know helping with building codes and FEMA’s providing, had provided and will be providing through this new building resilient infrastructure and communities program known as BRIC. 

Money that can help areas tighten and develop their building codes because building codes and their enforcement saves lives and we’ve seen that time and time again whether it was Puerto Rico or other areas. There are a lot of areas in the country that haven’t accepted or haven’t adopted the latest building codes and I believe that that’s a mistake. It’s not easy to do in terms of its change but the truth is it does save lives and whether it’s including mitigation measures or just building codes that are tailored to your needs, we’ve proven that and Miami-Dade County especially following Andrew did a lot to improve its building codes and it’s still held as a benchmark. 

If you have a seal on whether it’s windows or storm shutters and say Miami-Dade County approve, it means something and that’s important for saving lives and when it comes down to it, it’s not the building you want to save so much as it is some prevent damage to people and injury and life and that could be definitely improved through stricter building codes. You mentioned the fact with FEMA we’ve talked about your role there and those positions that you’ve supported over your career. Also working with the Red Cross there in South Florida but you have some international work as well with disasters with USA. 

Can you talk a little bit about that? Sure and that’s one thing I wanted to share because that’s what has really formed my philosophy when it comes to disasters before, during and after. I work for Miami-Dade County and Miami-Dade is the largest county in Florida and the fire rescue department was one of the largest in the country and we were really good at what we did and we thought we were ready for anything. We had an agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to prepare first responders to be ready for disasters and to respond internationally anywhere in the world representing the U.S. Back in 1988, there was an earthquake in what was at the time Soviet Armenia. 

More than 25,000 people died as a result of this six-point magnitude earthquake and our team was activated to help with search and rescue which basically to look for victims trapped in the rubble and extricate them with heavy tools and equipment. Once we arrived, we realized we weren’t ready for this. There were freezing conditions. 

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We had to bring whatever we had. There was not going to be any support from anywhere and the freezing conditions for those of us coming from South Florida in December was a wake-up call for us but we really learned that none of the other teams were prepared either from any country that had responded. So after returning to the U.S., the U.S., United States and OFDA and the State Department convened a large meeting that brought together representatives of all countries that had responded to the Armenian earthquake and that was really the beginning of a large initiative to basically revamp humanitarian assistance and I’m proud to have been a member of it and formed an integral part of it from the beginning because we determined recommendations on how to ask for assistance and how to provide assistance by countries into things like being self-sufficient when you come in to help and how to ask specifically for what you need which has definitely has some ties to what we do here. 

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So we know that having those capabilities and improving the way that the world really responds are some things that we’ve been able to adapt here. You know, I realized working with even in Latin America where most of the countries speak Spanish but there’s enough difference from one country to another in terms of terminology for equipment and their processes as there are between English and Spanish speaking countries just like the same difference between a large municipality here say New York City comparing it to a small town somewhere. Their needs are going to be different and you know you have your goals that you determine but the truth is when it comes down to it it has to be tailored to their reality. 

So we would do the training for them there and incorporate their comments and their input into what we were applying and what we were training them on and they help them develop their own training programs and that’s what you know I’ve brought to both not just working at FEMA and at the Red Cross but also previously and I worked for five years as a consultant and in another large consulting firm and that’s what we did whether it was federal, state or private sector clients is listening to what they need and what they have and what their realities are and that’s one of the things that I appreciate working with Dan Craig because he feels the same way. He feels that we need to be flexible to the client’s needs and be able to to help them get to where they want to be because when it comes down to it that’s what we’re doing is to help them to be better at what they do whether it’s in emergency management or or getting reimbursed for something that’ll help them protect their their citizens. That’s part of what we’re doing in our and what I think a big part of their role is. 

We’re chatting with Carlos Castillo, Paddle Basin Group’s newly appointed Chief Development Officer and former FEMA Acting Administrator for Resilience. We’ll be right back with Carlos right after this. You’re listening to Disaster Recovery Roundtable. 

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Now here’s a preview of our next episode. We welcome back Colorado State Hurricane Forecaster Dr. Phil Glatzpach to hear his predictions for the remainder of the hurricane season. You know as we move into the peak of the season there are certainly very conducive conditions in for the for the for this year’s hurricane season I suspect. 

Well right now the number of hurricanes is low. I expect the number of hurricanes is going to start ramping up here fairly shortly. Now back to your host Greg Paget. 

And welcome back. We have a lot of clients down in the Caribbean in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands and I understand you’ll be doing some support down there in this new capacity with Tidal Basin Group. What are you expecting to come out of all that and how is your work with resilience and in that area and working with disaster is going to be applicable to what you’ll be doing for us at Tidal Basin Group? It’s difficult for for jurisdictions either at the county and city level or even at the state or territory level to make some of the changes to help prevent and to be more resilient to prevent the disasters because they know what their risks and hazards are. 

But sometimes either it’s the political will isn’t there or the funding isn’t there. I think between Irma and Maria having affected the Caribbean and the area that we cover, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, I think this is an excellent opportunity to build back stronger, to build back with resilience in mind and to build back using mitigation measures and a lot of funding that’s available that we’ve been helping them to incorporate in their rebuilding strategy. And it’s not just hurricanes, you know, since Maria there have been several earthquakes that have caused some damage and there’s other risks and hazards there that I think mitigation is a way for them to prevent some of these disasters from occurring in the future. 

And we’ve been working with them almost since the beginning in different programs, programs that help get, you know, tens of thousands of homes back online that people can stay in their home now and without having to worry about finding a place to live, which is typically one of the toughest challenges following major disasters is housing, you know, temporary housing or intermediate housing. You know, a lot of places where you see there’s a housing crisis today without even a disaster, you know, so now you take away some of the housing stock and what happens. So I think part of their rebuilding stronger will help prevent some of this in the future. 

And they’re doing this. They’ve taken a lot of steps to fix it and to rebuild that way and rebuilding, as I say, rebuilding stronger to make it more resilient. And being ready for the next disaster is so important, especially when you consider the current predictions for this season. 

You just never know when that next storm is going to hit. Thank you, Carlos, for taking time to share with us your insight into this new role with Tidal Basin Group. We are excited about the experience and expertise you’ll be sharing with our team and most importantly, with our clients as we help them prepare, respond and recover from disasters. 

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You’ve been listening to Disaster Recovery Roundtable, a platform to explore, engage and educate. For more information on this episode, visit our podcast page at You can download previous podcasts, learn more about the programs we discussed, and suggest a topic for a future episode. You can also find us on your favorite podcast provider. 

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This has been a Tidal Basin production. Thanks for listening.