Certification Essay - Design Elements

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

Last month we discussed the essay scenario and how to interpret it. This month’s article focuses on six design elements that make up the major portion or body paragraphs of the essay.

Design Elements

According to the latest CEM application booklet (May 2012), “The candidate must submit a written narrative response to a problem scenario, not a bullet listing, demonstrating: Knowledge and Abilities in Disaster/Emergency Management and Written Communication Skills and formatting the response into six sections.”

  • Identify the problem to be solved. The introductory paragraph provides background information regarding the organization, my position, and mission. The first body paragraph identifies the specific problem we plan to solve based on that background. For example, my organization hasn’t experienced a disaster in more than 10 years. It has many new managers and staff. Their emergency management plan has not been updated in more than 10 years. So the problem I will solve is to design and implement a viable preparedness and response program. Later, I will work on expanding the program to include elements of recovery and mitigation as well as prevention.
  • Identify the objective to be achieved. The objective is not a restatement of the problem. The objective(s) described here are those that will solve our problem. In this example, some objectives could be an updated emergency plan, organized and trained response teams, organized and trained EOC staff, exercises, and necessary equipment and supplies on hand.
  • Describe the necessary actions to be taken in order to achieve the objective and the problem solution. Here, describe the actions necessary to achieve the objective(s) chosen in the preceding paragraph. Some actions necessary to update the plan include:
    • Conducting a threat and hazard identification risk assessment (THIRA), facilitating a planning team, and writing the plan.
    • Based on the THIRA and a needs assessment, developing, equipping, and training specialized incident response teams or supporting team development through sponsoring agencies, such as the fire and police departments.
    • Establishing and equipping an EOC, and developing EOC position checklists and SOPs.
    • Designing and conducting a progressive training and exercise program.
    • Conducting resource inven-tories, determining gaps, establishing mutual aid agreements, seeking grants, and developing plans to obtain or work around the shortfalls.
  • Describe the intended outcome (behavioral, technical, equipment/supplies, financial) as a result of necessary actions. In this example, an intended outcome would be a usable emergency response plan that can be implemented during the next disaster or emergency. Another intended outcome would be an exercise program to ensure that the organization is capable of an effective response. The outcome could be at a higher level. In this case, the outcome might be an effective preparedness program that incorporates all of the elements defined by FEMA, and then explains what some of those elements are.
  • Describe the human resources utilized in the process. Some candidates choose to explain the human resources needed when they describe the necessary actions to achieve their specified objectives. That is acceptable. If you do that, a separate paragraph here is not required. Otherwise, some of the human resources needed could be representatives from various departments and agencies for the planning team, selected staff with the appropriate authority to staff the EOC, and technically-trained personnel to form the various response teams and to lead them.
  • Describe the material and financial resources utilized in the process. There are a lot of material and financial resources necessary to accomplish the objectives described above. For example, material resources could be an EOC and alternate, maybe a mobile command post, a HAZMAT and bomb truck, communications equipment, computers, Internet connections, and printers.
    Financial resources are needed to pay for all of these things. One place to obtain financial resources is through the organization’s budget process. Again, maybe a gap analysis is required here too. Mutual aid agreements can fill some of the gaps. Applying for and obtaining various grants will cover other gaps. Maybe businesses will donate materials or money to assist with the preparedness and response program.
  • In this paragraph, describe what material and financial resources are required to accomplish the objective(s) described above. The Commissioners do not need detailed financial data. We are not going to make a determination regarding the accuracy of any numbers provided, so don’t spend much time on developing them. We are looking for overall concepts and application of emergency management principles.

Simple Beginning Outline

Using the six design elements, we can create the beginnings of our essay outline. Following the five-paragraph essay format – introduction, three or more body paragraphs, and a conclusion – our outline would look like this:

The problem.
The objective.
Necessary actions.
Intended outcome.
Human resources.
Material and financial resources.
Signed Verification Statement.

IAEM Bulletin, January 2013

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