The Certification Examination Framework

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By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, Lead Trainer for the CEM Commission

Last month we reviewed why the examination is a requirement for certification and discussed some of its administrative procedures. This month we describe how the examinations are constructed.

The Standards

Each examination is organized according to United States’ National Fire Protection Association (NFPA®) 1600 – Standard on Disaster/Emergency Management and Business Continuity Programs. The current examination is based on the 2007 version. Beginning in January 2014, the examination will be based on the 2013 version.

We chose the NFPA® 1600 standard because it defined the only existing standard for emergency management programs at that time. Also, the standard was officially adopted by both the United States and Canada.

You do not have to know NFPA® 1600 to prepare for the examination. You do not have to know the individual program elements that make up the examination. You do not even have to read the standard. You do, however, have to know the details, the process, and the procedures that support the program elements described in the standard. For example, you do not have to know what the standard says about risk assessment, but you do have to know how to conduct a risk assessment to develop required strategies and plans.

So if you do not have to know NFPA® 1600, what do you have to know, what are the objectives the examination is testing, and where do you get the references to study? The quick and simple answer is the NFPA® 1600 standards themselves and on the Internet.

Each program element provides the objectives for what constitutes a good emergency management program. For example, one objective for risk assessment is to identify hazards and monitor those hazards and the likelihood of their occurrence in three categories – (1) natural hazards (geologic, meteorological, and biological), (2) human-caused events (accidental and intentional), and (3) technology-caused events (accidental and intentional).

The References

The standards do not provide the details necessary to meet the objectives. Therefore, IAEM had to go to other sources for that information. In 2006 the IAEM Board wanted to ensure that all of the references used for the examination would be readily available to candidates anywhere in the world without having to pay a lot of money to obtain them. The Board also wanted a variety of reference materials rather than relying on a single source or two. FEMA’s Independent Study courses fit the bill. IAEM uses those courses as the basis for developing the specific questions and answers.

Using FEMA’s Independent Study courses provided the added benefit of allowing candidates to take the courses for training credit and to apply them to the training requirement for the AEMSM and CEM® credential. The only problem with this solution was that candidates originally had to supply a USA social security number to take the courses for credit. Collaboration between the IAEM Board and FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute now allows for non-USA candidates to obtain a special account or identification number to take the FEMA Independent Study courses for credit.

The Exam Framework

When putting the examination together, IAEM took the 14 NFPA® 1600 standards and divided them into Core and Country-specific standards. The Core standards are:

  • Hazard ID, Risk Assessment and Impact Analysis
  • Mitigation
  • Resource Management
  • Planning
  • Direction, Control and Coordination
  • Communications and Warning
  • Operational Procedures
  • Logistics and Facilities
  • Training
  • Exercises, Evaluations and Corrective Actions
  • Crisis Communication and Public Information
  • Finance and Administration

The Country-specific standards are:

  • Laws and Authorities
  • Mutual Aid
  • Resource Management
  • Direction, Control and Coordination
  • Finance and Administration

The 2013 standards version adds Records Management, Resource Needs Assessment, Prevention, Business Continuity and Recovery, Employee Assistance and Support, and Continuous Improvement. The 2013 standards version changes Direction, Control, and Coordination into Operational Procedures, Incident Management, and Emergency Operations Centers. These additional standards will become part of the Core standards as well as some Country-specific standards in 2014.

After dividing the standards (program elements) into Core and Country-specific categories, IAEM then determined which FEMA Independent Study courses provided the necessary details and discussion to support the standard. For Country-specific objectives, IAEM uses other references. For example, some questions on Direction, Control and Coordination come out of NIMS, ICS, and other USA-centric references for the U.S. examinations.

In the following months, we will describe each standard and the objectives in greater detail. We also will outline which FEMA Independent Study courses and/or other country-specific references to study for the examination.

IAEM Bulletin, October 2013

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

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