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How to Avoid AEM/CEM Application Resubmissions (Documentation, 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 began new discussions on resubmissions with a focus on the essay for the CEM®/AEM® application. It was noted that the essay is one common area often requiring resubmissions. This month I will continue our discussion on resubmissions with a focus on documentation.

Documentation is the second biggest area often requiring a resubmission. This is due to a variety of reasons, such as missing documentation, non-letterhead reference letter(s), documentation that does not validate the claim being made, and documentation that is difficult to read or understand.

Missing Documentation

One area where the Commissioners often see missing documentation is in the Work History and Experience section. In the Work History section, candidates are to upload copies of their current job descriptions and a supervisor’s statement.

The application states a “candidate must submit a copy of his/her current position description.” If the candidate is seeking credit for a previous job, then he or she should submit a copy of that job description along with the dates of employment. If a job description is not available, “the candidate should attach a signed letter/statement from the current (or past) supervisor that (1) states that a position description does not exist, has been changed, or is unavailable, and (2) outlines (a) the disaster/emergency management functions performed by the candidate, (b) the dates of this service, and (c) the approximate amount of time spent in disaster/emergency management duties.”

Commissioners use these documents to verify the candidate completed a minimum of three years full-time work in comprehensive and integrated emergency management duties. If the candidate has a degree in emergency or disaster-related management, then only two years need to be documented.

Without these two documents, the Commissioners cannot validate the claims and the candidate must resubmit the required documents within 90 days to receive the appropriate credit. Some candidates claim they do not have formal written job descriptions. This could be due to the candidate being a business owner or an independent contractor. In that case, provide a description of the duties performed under various contracts and provide a copy or two of a Scope of Work. These should demonstrate work in comprehensive and integrated emergency management.

Don’t forget to include the dates of ownership or employment. The Commissioners do not need a complete and signed contract, nor do we need a list of your clients. Uniformed services candidates could provide copies of their officer or noncommissioned officer annual evaluation reports highlighting the emergency management duties.

In the Work Experience section, candidates are to upload documentation demonstrating participation in a full-scale exercise or two separate functional exercises, or “experience in the preparation, response,  recovery, and mitigation phases of an actual declared disaster or major public event such as major sporting event, state visit or special event.” Candidates will forget to upload documentation demonstrating “the candidate’s experience” in the exercises or events often citing the organization’s participation.

Sometimes the candidate will submit drills or tabletop exercise documentation while claiming credit for a full-scale or two functional exercises. Copies of exercise or EOC sign-in sheets or After Action Review reports listing the candidate’s name and position/duties would suffice to demonstrate personal participation.

A signed letter from the supervisor or exercise director also would suffice.

Non-letterhead Reference Letter(s)

The second area often overlooked is the reference letters. Recently, the IAEM-USA Board reduced the number of signed reference letters that must be included in the application. Now a candidate need submit only one signed reference letter on official letterhead paper from the current supervisor. The Commissioners know a few organizations do not use “official letterheads.” If that is the case, the supervisor should state so in the letter and include the appropriate contact information. If the supervisor refuses to sign a reference letter due to official organizational policy, the candidate should state this is the case and provide a signed reference letter on official letterhead from a second reference source.

Documentation Does Not Validate Claim

As mentioned above with the Work Experience section, candidates often submit general descriptive documentation or documentation discussing something other than the claim being made. For example, a candidate might claim two functional exercises, but upload documentation describing drills, tabletop exercises, or organizational experience rather than the candidate’s personal experience.

Candidates have mistakenly submitted job descriptions for positions unrelated to emergency management. In the Professional Contributions section, candidates sometimes submit documentation under the Professional Membership category for organizations that are not emergency or disaster-related management. The Commissioners consider the organization’s mission statement rather than its name to determine if it meets the specified criteria for credit.

Under the Professional Conference category of Professional Contributions, candidates often will forget to include documentation validating a minimum of 40 contact hours at emergency and/or disaster-related management conferences. The Commissioners often will see 30-39 hours properly documented.

Remember, you must demonstrate the actual hours for the content being claimed, or the Commissioners will credit only a maximum of six hours per full day of the conference. The mistake here is that the candidate assumes an eight contact hour credit per day instead of the six allowable hours. Commissioners use the published agenda/schedule to count the contact hours for general and breakout sessions and meals with a speaker. Other conference time is not counted.

Under the Course Development category of Professional Contributions, candidates often will submit a PowerPoint slide deck as validation of a course he or she developed. The application specifically states that a copy of “PowerPoint slides does not demonstrate a candidate’s role in developing or revising a course of instruction.” The application does say to upload a copy of the lesson plan or other documents validating the candidate’s role in developing the course.

Documentation Is Difficult to Read

If the documentation is large, include only the necessary sections that will demonstrate your claim to the Commissioners reviewing it. Highlight the appropriate sections or tell the Commissioners on which page they can find the required information in your narrative. Do not include unnecessary documentation as it wastes the Commissioners’ limited time available for your review.

When scanning your documents for uploading to the application, ensure that the final copy is readable and clear. If necessary, rotate the file and resave it so that it reads upright. For documentation that contains “buzz words” or terms specific to your niche in emergency or disaster-related management, provide explanations so the reviewing Commissioners can better understand what you are presenting. This saves review time and makes the reviews more accurate. Don’t receive a resubmission letter because the Commissioners could not understand what your documentation was telling them.

Final Words

Do a final review of your application and all of its associated documentation before submission. Check to ensure that the documentation you upload is complete, accurate, and validates the claims being made. It is your responsibility to ensure that your application is correct and complete. Don’t expect the Commissioners to do your work for you.

This is your professional certification application. Make sure that your application reflects your professional status. Then you should be recommended for certification by the Certification Commission the first time rather than receiving a resubmission letter due to poor or missing documentation.

Next Month

Next month I will discuss the training requirements and associated documentation errors that result 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.

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