Certification Application Packet Review Observations

Back to CEM Corner

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

Since the CEM Commissioners recently completed their reviews of the AEM and CEM certification and recertification applications this past year, I wanted to use this month’s article to provide my observations on their content. Next month’s CEM Corner article will resume our discussion of the examination with practice questions.

Personal Observations: Successful Candidates

The majority of applicants follow the process and the instructions for each section of the application. This includes providing all the required documentation in a form that validates the specific claims made. They upload the required independently produced documentation in the appropriate locations, making it easy for the commissioners review- ing the application packets to provide appropriate credit. The documentation files are provided in a form that is clear and easy to read on a computer screen, with specific areas highlighted to draw the reviewer’s attention to that information. Finally, they provide an extra Professional Contribution when they are not sure the ones documented will satisfy the require- ments.

Successful applicants write complete essays following the instructions. They ensure that all of the design elements and Knowledge, Skills and Abilities areas are discussed in detail. The discussion clearly demonstrates to the commissioners reviewing the essay they know what activities apply to each KSA and how the KSA applies or does not apply to their individual problem and stated objectives. The essays are signed, dated, and formatted properly with all spelling and grammatical errors corrected prior to posting.

Applicants recertifying provided the proper documents and amounts of Emergency Management and General Management Training and Professional Contributions for the years of their recertification.

Personal Observations: Unsuccessful Candidates

Sadly, we had a large number of applicants who had to resubmit because of two common errors.

  • The majority of errors had to do with the lack of appropriate documentation, regardless of the specific area of the application.
  • The second largest number of errors occurred in the essay, where the applicants did not adequately discuss each of the required Knowl- edge, Skills and Abilities areas. Fortunately, once these oversights were pointed out to the applicant, each was able to make the sug- gested changes and provide adequate documentation, thus earning their certification or recertification.

Documentation Oversights

Regardless of the area, the biggest issue with documentation this year has been with attribution instead of contribution. Attribution means the documentation indicates an applicant was supposed to do something rather than that the applicant did something. For example, documentation provided indicates the applicant was sched- uled to teach a class, and the applicant even provided a class schedule to validate the claim.

Neither of these documents validates the claim of actually teaching a course of instruction in emergency management for a minimum of three platform hours. They merely indicate the applicant was supposed to teach a class and not that he or she actually taught it – an attribution and not a contribution.

A second issue is with missing documentation. For example, applicants for the CEM need to document three years of comprehensive integrated emergency management experience. They also need to provide a current job description, particularly when the job title is not indicative of emergency management duties.

Another example is in training. When a training class is listed on the Training Allocation Chart, then a course syllabus or course description document is not required. When the training course is not on the Training Allocation Chart, then a course syllabus or course description document is required, as well as the box checked on the application indicating the course is not listed and a course syllabus is uploaded.
The third major documentation issue is with items not uploaded in the appropriate section.

For example, not providing documentary evidence of three years com- prehensive integrated emergency management experience or actual disaster/exercise experience in the Experience section, but expecting the commissioners to look for it elsewhere in the application, such as in the References or Professional Contributions section, is not a sign of professionalism, does not meet certification requirements, and the commissioners will not accept it, resulting in a resubmission require- ment. Upload appropriate documents in each section, even if you have to duplicate some documents.

Essay Oversights

Discussions of various KSAs appear to be related to the identified problem statement and objectives. For example, a problem statement related to planning or training or equipping the emergency operations center fits in well with the KSA of preparedness. It could easily relate to prevention, response, mitigation, and recovery too, but many applicants’ discussion is too narrowly focused, and they forget to address them adequately. Applicants should explain how these KSAs apply or do not apply and why, or they should discuss appropriate activities in each KSA as they relate to achieving the stated objectives. The discussion should demonstrate the applicant’s knowledge of the KSAs. Merely stating that these KSAs are important or critical to success, must be considered throughout the project, or something similar, does not demonstrate an understanding of the KSAs.

One additional KSA often overlooked is the one on laws and authorities. Commissioners are looking for a discussion about the various laws, authorities, regulations, policies, etc., that impact or influence your problem statement and objectives. Describe more than one rather than simply listing various laws and regulations. Commissioners want to know you know how the specific law, authority, policy, etc., applies.

Remember, to pass the essay section, an application must earn 75% of the available points (18 out of 24). KSAs earn 0-2 points each, while Design Elements earn one point each. Nine KSAs can earn a maximum 18 points and six Design Elements can earn a maximum of six points. Skipping a couple of KSAs will require you to earn maximum credit on the remaining KSAs and all design elements to earn 18 points and pass the essay requirement. Not many applicants can achieve this, so ensure that you cover all nine KSAs.

Before hitting the submit button on your application, please review your documentation. Ensure that the documentation is independently produced, clear and easy to read, and actually validates your claim rather than an attribution. In your essay, ensure that your documentation adequately discusses all the KSAs, paying particular attention to the areas of preparedness, prevention, response, recovery, and mitigation. Doing so will increase your chances of receiving credit for all areas of the application – and earning your certification or recertification the first time!

Next CEM Corner

Next month we will continue our discussion on Exercises and Tests, as mentioned last month, with a focus on exercise development and an emphasis on generating corrective actions listed in the Improvement Plan. 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, December 2017

AEM® and CEM® are registered trademarks of the International Association of Emergency Managers.

Back to CEM Corner