Sample Certification Exam Questions – Planning, Part 3

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

This month we continue our discussion of the certification examination topic of Planning. In November, we discussed Part 2 of the Planning topic, with an emphasis on Resource Needs Assessment followed by an analysis of a couple of examples of examination questions. This month we will
discuss Part 3, with a focus on Performance Objectives.

Performance Objectives

Emergency managers often work with both goals and objectives and sometimes get them confused. To refresh our memories, goals are broad general statements that indicate desired results or an end state. Objectives are specific actions that lead to achieving the identified goals and are translated into activities and procedures.

We use both goals and objectives for various activities throughout our emergency management program – prevention, preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation – and should be somewhat familiar with the process. But let’s see what the standard calls for us to know and do.

NFPA 1600 version 2013 requires all entities to “establish performance objectives that address the results of the hazard identification, risk assessment, and business impacts analyses.” The standard also requires the entities to “define and address both short term and long term needs.” So there are two components to this topic – well-developed performance objectives that meet our program’s short- and long-term needs.

Performance objectives, when linked to human performance, assist us in measuring and evaluating our program to determine if we are achieving our program goals. Without well-written performance objectives, it is impossible to measure and evaluate performance against established criteria to determine if the performance meets expectations. To make this possible, our performance objectives should contain three essential parts: performance that is observable and measurable; observable conditions, and specific criteria.

One common method we use to develop performance objectives is called the SMART method. According to NFPA 1600 version 2013, the SMART method is defined as the following.

  1. Specific. The wording must be precise and unambiguous in describing the objective.
  2. Measurable. The design and statement of objectives should make it possible to conduct a final accounting as to whether objectives were achieved.
  3. Action-oriented. An objective must have an action verb that describes the expected accomplishments.
  4. Realistic. Objectives must be achievable with the resources that the entity can allocate or make available.
  5. Time-sensitive. Time frames should be specified (if applicable).

Our performance objectives should be developed following the SMART method so they are effective and usable for evaluating performance and the attainment of our established program goals.

Short- and Long-Term Performance Objectives

The first thing we need to do to develop short- and long-term performance objectives is to define exactly what we mean by short- and long-term. Simply, short-term means a short period of time. It could be weeks, months, or a couple of years.

Long-term means a longer period of time, which could be a few years to more than 10 years. Different entities define short- and long-term
differently within these general guidelines. They could even further differentiate with mid-term, meaning more than short-term, but less than long-term. Oftentimes, entities will define short- and longterm by fiscal years. That is OK too.

NFPA 1600 version 2013 does not specify how long each is, but does state the entity must define it. Once the entity defines what short-term and long-term time frames mean, the second step is to develop short-term and long-term performance objectives. NFPA 1600 version 2013 provides us with some examples of short-term objectives.

Short-term objectives “might include ‘stabilize the incident’ and ‘support entities that are responding to and stabilizing the incident,’ while long-term objectives might include ‘prevent environmental damage’ and ‘comply with regulatory requirements.’”

Notice these are generic objectives and do not follow the SMART format. You need to develop effective and appropriate short- and long-term objectives that follow the SMART format so you may evaluate your emergency management program.

Practice Questions

For core examination purposes, candidates should know the difference between goals and objectives, the difference between short- and long-term objectives, and how to identify objectives that follow the SMART format. Here are two core-type questions for our analysis in this article.

  1. Which one of the following objectives is considered short-term?
    a. The Chamber of Commerce will work with local businesses to implement the economic revitalization strategies developed and approved by the community leaders.
    b. City departments will work with the whole community to develop permanent housing solutions for people and their families who were left homeless by the wildland fires.
    c. City departments will work with local businesses to establish temporary or interim infrastructure to support business reopenings.
    d. The public health department will work with local hospitals to rebuild disrupted/damaged health care facilities damaged by the earthquake to current medical standards.

    This question is asking you to decide which objectives would take a lot of time to complete versus which objective may be accomplished in a short time. The responses provided all appear to be recovery objectives following some disaster. So we are seeking a short-term recovery objective. The first response calls for the implementation of economic revitalization strategies. It took a long time to develop and approve these strategies, and it will take a long time to implement them to see if they are successful. So this is a long-term objective.

    The second response calls for the development of permanent housing solutions. Creating new and permanent housing in any community
    takes a long time, so this is a long-term object too.

    The third response calls for temporary or interim infrastructure. Being a temporary solution, this is a short-term objective.

    The fourth response calls for reestablishing health care facilities. Like the permanent housing objective in response number two, this
    too is a long-term objective. Therefore, the correct response is c, because it is the only one that may be completed in the short-term.
  2. Which one of the following exercise objectives follows the SMART format?
    a. Deliver an approved points of distribution delivery route to the designated incident commander.
    b. Demonstrate the ability to assemble, supply, and support a complete flash flood response team to pre-position for imminent response.
    c. Emergency management staff will initiate and complete a call-back of EOC personnel within 30 minutes of notification as described in the Emergency Operations Plan.
    d. Finance staff will identify and begin working on short-term financial objectives.

    In this question, we are asking you to identify an exercise objective that follows the SMART format. While all the responses are considered good objectives, only one is SMART. So we have to know what SMART means and what a SMART objective look like. We want our objective to be specific, measureable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-sensitive. Analyzing the first response, we see that it is specific as far as the task, but not as to who is to perform the task. It is measureable and action oriented. It appears to be realistic too, but it does not contain a time-sensitive measure.

    A close inspection of response two shows that it is similar in design to response one. Now many might perceive “immediate response” as a measure of time, but it really is not. The objective does not specify when the team must be “assembled, supplied, and support for an immediate response” or who is responsible to see that it is done.

    Response three includes all of the SMART elements. Response four, like the first two responses, is not very specific nor is it time-sensitive. Therefore, the only correct response is c.

Looking Forward

That completes our discussion of Planning. Next month we begin a new topic area of Implementation with a focus on Common Plan Requirements. We also will analyze some practice exam questions. 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, March 2016

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