Selecting or Identifying Training Course Topics

Back to CEM Corner

Selecting or Identifying Training Course Topics

By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM

How Courses Are Listed

Recall that the Sample Global AEM/CEM Training Course Allocation Table does not list topic areas for the courses. What it does list is a sample of training courses, by course title. The CEM Commission does not list “approved” topic areas for those courses, because the commissioners wanted to allow candidates some level of flexibility in determining topic areas based upon course content and not simply the course title. That is one reason why the application form asks for a course description or syllabus.

Topic Areas

The first sheet in the Sample Global AEM/CEM Training Course Allocation Table and the training section of the application packet lists sample topic areas that are applicable to emergency management and to general management training. Other topic areas can easily apply to both emergency management and general management training. The list is not all-inclusive.

The choice of topic area depends upon the actual content of the training course and, to some extent, the needs/desires of the applicant. For the majority of courses, the course title can be the topic area.

For example, An Introduction to Hazardous Materials is clearly about hazardous materials. So the topic area would be Hazardous Materials and it would apply to emergency management because knowledge of hazardous materials is something an emergency manager needs (a threat or hazard). Various courses describing hazardous materials would fall under the same topic area.

For other courses, the topic area may differ from the course title. For example, FEMA’s Independent Study Course Hazardous Materials Contingency Planning could be under the topic area of Hazardous Materials or Planning. So which topic area should you choose? The course content “focuses on the need for members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) to analyze their local plan to identify gaps and their overall preparedness for an event involving Hazardous Materials.” Thus the topic area should be Planning instead of Hazardous Materials.

A Variety of Topics in a Single Course

Some courses cover a variety of training topics in a single course. This is especially true of military courses and various certificate programs. Those courses may be addressed in two ways.

  • The first way is to claim all of the training hours (up to the 25 contact hour maximum) under a single topic area.
  • The second way is to claim multiple topic areas, with reduced contact hours for each based on the course description.

For example, the U.S. Coast Guard course, Basic Preparedness and Exercise, covers a variety of topics. The candidate may choose to claim the topic area of Preparedness for 25 contact hours in emergency management or divide the 25 contact hours into four different topic areas based on the course syllabus (e.g., 5 hours Planning (EM); 10 hours Preparedness or Exercises (EM); 5 hours Decision Making (GM); and 5 hours Public Relations (GM). Both ways of accounting for the training are correct, even though 10 of the available hours were reallocated to general management.

The CEM Commissioners reviewing the application rely on the documentation the candidate provides to verify his or her claims. As long as the documentation verifies the claim, the CEM Commissioners accept the allocation and award the appropriate credit.

Why the Options?

As I mentioned above, it is your choice on how you allocate a training topic to your training based on the course content or syllabus rather than simply on the course title. This allows the flexibility necessary to meet the training requirements in both spirit and intent. The IAEM-USA Board placed the 25 contact hour limitation on a single topic area so that certification and recertification candidates take a variety of continuing education training courses and do not concentrate all the training on a single topic. Providing a choice on topic area selection allows you the ability to potentially receive more credit for training courses that exceed 25 contact hours and to allocate certain courses to a different topic area that has less than 25 contact hours claimed.


I cannot say this often enough. Documentation you provide is what the CEM Commissioners refer to when determining if your application packet meets certification requirements. Select a topic area for your training that either reflects the course title or the course content. Provide an accurate course description with allocated hours per topic area, a course syllabus, or a course schedule that will verify your topic selection, and you will receive the appropriate training credit.

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

Back to CEM Corner