Sample Certification Exam Questions – Program Management, Part 1

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

Previously, we ended our discussion on leadership and influence in emergency management, emphasizing techniques for facilitating change. We followed with a discussion of the revised recertification requirements. This month we resume our discussion on the certification examination under the topic of Program Management, emphasizing the Program Manager, followed by an analysis of a couple of example examination questions.

In a previous article last year, we said the Program Manager requirements fall under the major topic area of Program Management. Other topic areas include: Laws and Authorities, Records Management, and Finance and Administration. We will cover those areas in subsequent articles.

Emergency Management Program Components

As a reminder, NFPA 1600 version 2013 specifies that “the scope of the emergency management program shall be determined through an ‘all-hazards’ approach and the risk assessment.” It goes on to state the emergency management program “shall be applicable to prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response, continuity, and recovery.”

The only part missing to make these requirements mirror our definition of comprehensive and integrated emergency management is that the program must also include all actors/stakeholders. This is necessary because the emergency program manager cannot implement the entity’s emergency program singlehandedly. It is a collaborative effort requiring a lot of coordination and communication.

Emergency Management Program Manager

So who is this person who manages the emergency program? IAEM recognizes that different entities and organizations call the person who manages, oversees, and/or implements their emergency management program by different forms, names, and titles. A common name many of us recognize is that of “emergency manager,” particularly for the public sector. Many in the private sector use the title of “business continuity manager.” Still others use emergency management coordinator, emergency management specialist, emergency planner, or similar titles.

NFPA 1600 version 2013 uses the term “program coordinator” as a generic title. Regardless of the title used, the important issue here is the authority of the person in the position and the associated roles and responsibilities. NFPA 1600 states the person in the position must be “authorized to develop, implement, administer, evaluate, and maintain the program.”

For purposes of the certification examination, the questions use the term “emergency manager.” FEMA’s independent study course IS-1A states, “There is no single model for emergency management, either in organization or in size.” We also know there are wide differences in legal duties of the emergency manager. In addition we know that, “Regardless of organization type and size, or legal responsibilities, an emergency manager wears many hats – including leader, alliance builder, communicator, planner, administrator, coordinator, educator, problem solver, and protector.” This means our examination questions have to be designed to account for this variety.

Since emergency managers do more than respond to emergencies, be prepared for questions that might cover the core functions of pre-incident, incident response, and post-incident recovery as well as “the day-to-day emergency management program activities that enable the entity to build and sustain needed capabilities and maintain a state of preparedness.”

Sample Core Questions

So what would some core questions look like on the certification examination? Here are a couple of questions with a simple analysis of each one to help you prepare.

1. The emergency manager’s role for media relations is to:
(a.) Ensure plans for this function are in place and up-to-date.
(b.) Make all contacts with the media.
(c.) Review and approve all releases.
(d.) Serve as the primary spokesperson.

Analysis: This question uses media relations to determine the role the emergency manager has during the core functions of pre-incident and incident response. To correctly answer this question, you must know the authorities and roles of the emergency manager. Response (a.) appears to be the correct answer, because it reflects the coordination responsibilities of the emergency manager and leaves the details for the procedures to the appropriate subject matter experts.

Response (b.) may be correct, especially for a few entities. However, for the majority of emergency managers, they have neither the authority nor the time to make all of the media contacts. If the emergency manager were to do so, who would be doing his or her tasks of coordinating and supporting the response activities and managing the emergency operations center? The same issues arise with Response (c.). The emergency manager certainly needs to be aware of approved media releases, but does he or she have the authority and responsibility to review and approve media releases for the entity?

The last possible answer, Response (d.), of being the entity’s primary spokesman has the same issues associated with it as the preceding two responses – lack of appropriate authorities and responsibilities as well as subject matter expertise. Emergency managers need to understand how to respond to media inquiries, but the primary spokesman responsibilities should be left to the experts – such as the public information officer – and the elected /appointed officials with the authority to speak for the entity. Therefore, the correct response is the first one.

2. If the community already has an emergency operations plan, the emergency manager should:
(a.) Assume the plan is probably outdated, and proceed to develop a new one.
(b.) Consider this part of the job done, and focus on other activities.
(c.) Coordinate a unified effort with all those responsible to keep the plan updated.
(d.) Let the people responsible for the various sections decide when and if changes are needed.

Analysis: This question is a variation on the first question above. It uses the emergency operations plan to identify the role of the emergency manager during “the day-to-day emergency management program activities” of preparedness. To correctly answer this question, you must not only know what role the emergency manager performs during preparedness, but also know what role the emergency manager has in relation to the emergency operations plan.

Response (a.) is a viable option at first glance. However, do you really want to develop a brand new emergency operations plan to replace the existing one? The response does not say it is invalid or doesn’t work as designed, so this may not be a good choice.

Response (b.) is also a viable option, but then the plan may not be effective or reflect current operational procedures. Therefore, this may not be a good choice either. Response (c.) is a viable option too. It addresses the key activities of what an emergency does in the planning process, and it includes all stakeholders. This may be the best option so far. Let’s see what the last response says before we decide.

Response (d.) is a viable option. This one defers the updating process to the subject matter experts. While this option seems good at first glance, allowing each responsible party to decide if and when changes are needed could easily prevent the emergency manager from having a fully coordinated plan that accounts for internal and external interdependencies as well as appropriate resource sharing.

All four options appear to be viable ones. However, our analysis indicates that only Response (c.) has the least potential negatives and has all positive consequences for the emergency management program. Therefore, Response (c.) is the correct answer.


These two sample questions require more than rote memorization. They require all of the higher learning skills of knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation. This makes what seems to be a simple question one that really taxes your understanding of emergency management and roles and responsibilities of the emergency manager as well as the associated stakeholders.

Next Month

Next month we will continue our discussion on the Program Manager, with a focus on Records Management and Finance and Administration. 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, August 2015

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