By Daryl Lee Spiewak, CEM, TEM, Lead Trainer for the CEM® Commission
In Common Application Packet Errors, Part 1, we discussed a few of the common problem areas the CEM Commissioners noted during the January review. These common problem areas included failure to follow instructions, documentation deficiencies, and sloppy application packets. This month we continue our discussion of common problem areas and focus on the emergency management essay.
The most common reason for incomplete or unsatisfactory essays was that they did not meet the scenario requirements. Foremost was that the essays submitted were based on previous scenarios as opposed to the new one. The current scenario states, “Provide a detailed description of the organization, and how you would design, develop, and implement an emergency/disaster management program that enhances resiliency, provides for continuity, paying close attention to implementation challenges and identifying some potential solutions.” Here your task is to describe how you would put together an entire program. It no longer allows for a subset of a program. Still, under the previous application forms, Commissioners noted candidates did not follow that scenario either. Candidates failed to describe how the chosen subset supported the entire emergency/disaster management program.
A second reason for incomplete or unsatisfactory essays was that the proposed solution did not solve the stated problem. The first design element is to Identify the Problem. The second design element is to Identify the Objectives that will solve the problem. Your Necessary Actions design element should naturally flow from and support the first two elements. If the Necessary Actions section does not support the objectives and solve the problem, then go back and rewrite the essay until it does. Staying focused on solving the problem – and eliminating extraneous data and discussion – will make your essay clear and concise and will demonstrate your Skill in Written Communication.
Last year the IAEM-USA Board approved a revision in the grading criteria for the essay. Under the old criteria, there were six design elements and 12 KSAs (Knowledge, Skills and Abilities). To pass the essay, candidates needed to achieve 57% (24 out of 42 points) of the available points. The new criteria increased the passing score to 75% (18 out of 24 points) and reduced the number of available KSAs.
The six design elements have not changed. Candidates earn one point for each one included in the essay. The KSAs were reduced to cover: the Solution to the Problem, Prevention, Preparedness, Response, Recovery, Mitigation, the Organization and its environment, Codes and Legislation, and Written Communication. The purpose of the revision was to streamline the KSAs and to emphasize the four phases of emergency management.
First, the Commissioners noted that candidates were writing for the old criteria and expecting to pass with a 57% score. Even so, the essays failed to cover all six design elements, did not solve the problem, were poorly written, and missed many of the old KSAs. Second, candidates using the new criteria still did not cover all six of the design elements, submitted poorly written essays, and missed many of the revised KSAs.
Commissioners recommend candidates write from an outline. The first paragraph is the introduction where you establish the purpose of the essay, provide some background, and maybe discuss the problem to be solved. The middle paragraphs should cover the remaining design elements. Under each design element paragraph, discuss as many of the KSAs as support that element and actually solve your problem. The last paragraph should be the concluding paragraph, in which you summarize your discussion, draw any conclusions based on the discussion in the body paragraphs, and provide a concluding statement. Follow the essay with the required individual preparation statement and signature.
When preparing the essay for submission, the requirement is to use a word processing program, 12-point type, double spaced, with one-inch margins all around. It should be relatively short, 1,000 to 1,500 words, and the essay should be presented in narrative rather than bullet form. This is an essay and not a report or talking points. View the essay as a written form of an interview, where you can go back and revise your response before actually submitting it.
Ensuring your essay does not contain these deficiencies will make you a better writer and will go a long way to ensure that it earns a passing score for certification.
IAEM Bulletin, June 2012
AEM® and CEM® are registered trademarks of the International Association of Emergency Managers.