How to Avoid AEM/CEM Application Resubmissions (Essay, Part 1)

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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 on the program elements making up the AEM/CEM examination. It has been a long road, but a success- ful one. This month I will begin new discussions on the essay for the AEM/CEM application, as that is one common area often requiring resubmissions.

Write What You Would Do

The first part the Certification Commissioners often find deficient is that a candidate will write about what the organization did to solve a problem rather than what he or she would or did do. The instructions are clear. They state, “You are the new emergency manager for an organization. After reviewing existing plans, after action reports, and training records, your first task is to develop and present a written description of a specific problem and how you would solve it to enhance resiliency and provide for continuity.” The key words being “…develop and present a written description of a specific problem and how you would solve it…” – not how the organization solved it!

Write as if You Are Presenting your Discussion to an Interviewer

Remember the essay “qualitative in nature and designed to assess the candidate’s knowledge and abilities (not the organization’s) of disaster/emergency management and skill in written communication. Candidates should equate this section to an “interview” when the candidate is asked to describe a problem and solution in disaster/ emergency management.” Write the essay as if you are presenting your discussion to an interviewer to demonstrate your Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities (KSAs) in emergency management and your problem-solving process.

Mission Areas

  • Prevention. Out of the nine KSAs, the one most candidates forget to include is that of Prevention. NFPA 1600 version 2016 defines Prevention as, “Activities to avoid or stop an incident from occurring.” While it doesn’t apply to natural hazards, it does apply to all the remaining ones. Some activities that may apply to your problem and solution would be physical and IT/ cybersecurity, intelligence opera- tions, background checks, land use restrictions, uninterruptable power supplies/backup generators, crime prevention, safety controls, emergency lighting, and personnel management. Some techniques NFPA 1600 recommends for a Prevention strategy that may apply to your problem and solution include: “Ongoing hazard identification and threat assessments, risk assessments, analysis of impacts, operational experience, and incident analysis, information collection and analysis, intelligence and information sharing, and regulatory requirements.”
  • Recovery. A second mission area often overlooked is Recovery. NFPA 1600 defines Recovery as “activities and programs designed to return conditions to a level that is acceptable to the entity.” Recall that Recovery covers both short- and long-term activities, such as restoring critical services (power, water, etc.), relocating or rebuilding destroyed property, and reconstituting operations and services.
    Recovery programs also include “mitigation components designed to avoid damage from future incidents.” So you could use your Recovery discussion to lead into your discussion on Mitigation, the third mission area often forgotten.
  • Mitigation. Mitigation is defined as “activities taken to reduce the impacts from hazards.” Mitigation activities include “relocating out of hazard areas, building codes and regulations, eliminating or reducing the hazard, modifying the hazard, controlling the rate of release of a hazard, protective systems and equipment, hazard warning and communications, redundancy and diversity or resources, insurance, and protection of information.” If your problem and solution does not allow for any of the listed mission area activities, you will need to explain why those particular ones do not apply so that the Commissioners know you know about them and their associated activities. Be sure to review the Frameworks for additional details about the various mission areas. They will provide additional details to help you prepare your essay and properly cover the required KSAs.

Missing an in-depth discussion of the three mission areas requires you to obtain a maximum score on all the other essay components. Since that rarely ever occurs, including them in your essay will increase the chances you earn a passing score.

Other KSAs

There are two other KSA’s that candidates seem to overlook in the essay. Those are: developing a solution for the stated problem; and demonstrated knowledge of codes, legislation, regulations, plans, policies, or procedures which impact the disaster/emergency management function.

  • Developing a Solution. When developing your Necessary Actions discussion, be sure those actions actually achieve your objectives and solve your problem. Too many times a candidate would write a very good essay, but the necessary actions described never solved the problem thus earning a zero. Stay focused on your problem and your solution. Using an outline of key points for discussion helps tremendously.
  • Demonstrated Knowledge of Codes and Legislation. The last KSA here, codes and legislation, is also often overlooked. Simply listing a couple of plans, regulations, or codes in the essay is not an adequate demonstration of your knowledge of them. Do not simply list them – describe how they apply or constrain your solution. You don’t need to be all-inclusive, but do be sure to discuss a couple that apply.

Then as always, read your essay again. Correct all spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Ensure that the essay is properly formatted. Finally, sign your essay as required by the instructions prior to posting for Commission review.

Next Month

Next month I will discuss documentation, because poor or missing documentation results in resubmission letters to candidates. 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 2018

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