Application Tips – Documentation Required for your AEM and CEM Initial and Recertification Applications

Application Tips – Documentation Required for your AEM and CEM Initial and Recertification Applications

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By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, MEP, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission, and Chair, IAEM-Global Communications Work Group

Last month we completed our discussion of Training and Education. Before we begin a new discussion on the topic of Exercises and Testing, I want to discuss documentation required for your CEM and AEM initial and recertification applications. Having finished reviewing the applications submitted for review this period, the Commissioners noted deficiencies with documentation resulting in resubmission letters being sent to many candidates.

Credential Review

Approval of an application is based on an in-depth credential review. During a credential review for the CEM, Commissioners make their recommendations solely based on the documentation provided by the candidate. Commissioners rely on the documentation to:

  • Verify the candidate’s work history and experience;
  • Review the candidate’s submitted references;
  • Verify the candidate’s completion of a bachelorette degree;
  • Verify the candidate’s completion of emergency management and general management training;
  • Verify the candidate’s contributions to the profession; and
  • Verify the adequacy of the written essay.

AEM applications follow a similar process, but it is limited to references, training, and the essay. The process for recertification applications is limited to training and professional contributions.


When reviewing a candidate’s application, the Commissioners expect to see documentation that is relevant, is independently produced, and is a contribution rather than an attribution. They also expect the documentation to be readable online and that the documentation is complete to validate the candidate’s claim based on the specific requirements of each individual section.

  • Relevant. Documentation being relevant means it supports the specific claim made by the candidate and that the documentation is uploaded to the correct section in the online application. If the claim is that the candidate completed a full-scale exercise, do not include documentation that states it was a tabletop exercise. That document, though important to the candidate, is not relevant to the requirement and claim of a full-scale exercise. Place emergency management training completion certificates or transcripts under the emergency management training section. Do not anticipate that Commissioners will search back and forth between sections to locate the relevant documentation. Duplicate submissions of the same document is acceptable as long as it provides details to support each claim being made and is relevant to each section where it is uploaded. Highlighting the appropriate supporting part of the documentation helps ensure that the Commissioners reviewing the documentation do not miss it.
  • Independently Produced. Commissioners expect the candidate to submit documentation that was obtained from an independent source – not a document that was produced by the candidate. Some examples are a document produced by another agency or department, an official document, or a publication or website not under the control of the candidate. This requirement does not prevent a candidate from drafting a supporting document for a supervisor or person from another department or agency. As long as the document is finalized and signed by the other person, not supervised by the candidate, it usually will be considered to be independently produced.
  • Contribution, Not Attribution. By this we mean the documentation needs to prove that the candidate actually completed the activity being claimed (contribution) rather than proving that the candidate was scheduled or was going to perform the activity (attribution). For example, an appointment letter only proves the candidate was going to perform the activity he or she was appointed to perform. A training schedule showing the candidate was scheduled to teach a course of instruction does not prove the candidate actually taught the course of instruction. The Commissioners want a document that indicates the candidate actually performed the claimed activity. Relevant documentation would be a copy of meeting minutes listing the candidate’s name and activity performed, or a pay stub, thank you letter, official evaluation form, etc., that indicates the candidate actually taught the course of instruction. The same applies to professional conference attendance. The Commissioners use conference agendas to validate the number of contact hours awarded when the certificate or other documentation does not. Without an agenda or other supporting documentation, the Commissioners award no more than six hours per full day of attendance.
  • Readable. Documentation is no good if the Commissioners cannot read it. Electronic files work well, but scanned documents are acceptable too. Before you scan a document or photo, ensure that it is clear and readable. Clean the scanner window too. After scanning, ensure that the scan is readable on the computer screen and that it is right side up. If the document is difficult for you to read, it will be difficult for the Commissioners to read. A document that cannot be downloaded or read will not be accepted and will result in an incomplete application. When scanning documents for submission, saving them in the .pdf format seems to work best. Commissioners also can download and read .jpg, .bmp, and .zip files. Do not use some exotic file format, as many Commissioners will not have the proper program to open your document. Do not scan the documents in the highest quality as that will result in some very large files. Normal quality and sometimes draft quality will suffice, as long as the file is readable under normal circumstances. Make your application easy for the Commissioners to review so they can find the data to validate your claims, move on to the next section, and successfully complete your application review.
  • Complete. Many sections have specific requirements such as the number of years of comprehensive and integrated emergency management experience, number of contact hours, years of professional membership, and number of speaking engagements. For example, the professional contribution section under Professional Conference requires a minimum of 40 contact hours. According to the instructions, there is no requirement on how many conferences a candidate must attend to achieve the minimum number of contact hours, just that at least 40 contact hours be properly documented. The Commissioners will actually count the number of hours submitted and count the contribution as incomplete if less than 40 hours are approved.

Another example is the professional contribution of Speaking. The instructions require a minimum of three separate speaking engagements of at least 20 minutes each. The Commissioners will look specifically for three different engagements (same topic, different audiences; same audience, different topics; or different topics and different audiences). They also will check to see if the documentation indicates the candidate actually spoke (relevant) for a minimum of 20 minutes each time. If it was a panel session, Commissioners will check the time – with four people speaking a total of one hour, the candidate will receive credit for 15 minutes (60 minutes/four speakers). That speaking engagement then will not be accepted as it is less than 20 minutes.

IAEM provides many hints throughout the application to help ensure that the candidate understands exactly what the Commissioners are looking for under each section. Please read them, and be sure to follow the specific instructions under each section and subsection. As a professional seeking professional certification, it is the candidate’s responsibility to ensure that the application is complete and the documents are relevant, independently produced, correct, complete, and uploaded to the appropriate section(s). Doing so will greatly speed up the review process and result in a successful application for certification.

Next Month

Next month we will return to our examination discussion on the new topic of Exercises and Tests. We also will analyze some practice exam questions. As usual, please send any questions you have about the examination or the certification process to me at info@iaem.com, and I will address them in future articles.

IAEM Bulletin, April 2017

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