Ethics in Emergency Management

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By Brian V. Bovyn, CEM, Emergency Services Supervisor, Manchester, New Hampshire Police Department

“Integrity is telling myself the truth. And honesty is telling the truth to other people.” – Spencer Johnson
“Integrity is doing the right thing, even if nobody is watching.” – anonymous

Ethics are critically important in emergency management. For this reason, IAEM has embraced and promoted the IAEM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct. This concept of operating and practicing with a high degree of moral character is a core value of the AEM and CEM Program. The concept of ethics needs to be practiced in day-to-day operations, as well as holistically in all administrative aspects connected to the field of emergency management.

When emergency management practitioners enroll in the AEM or CEM application process, the candidates are making an affirmative statement that they promise to abide by the high moral, ethical code expected by IAEM – and as a matter of public trust, by their constituency, agency, company or organization.

Inappropriate Practices Related to the AEM®/CEM® Packet

Over the past couple of years, the CEM Commission has observed activities that are not consistent with the best traditions of the International Association of Emergency Managers pertaining to ethical behavior. Here are several examples:

  • Some candidates have submitted AEM or CEM packets with fictitious contacts (references), inaccurate job titles or inaccurate descriptions of duties.
  • Some candidates have not created a single, authentic and unique packet. Examples include having essays written by someone other than the candidate or providing purposely misleading or inaccurate information.
  • Some candidates have sought application extensions in an inappropriate manner. For candidates who are seeking application extensions, the purpose must be for a significant life event (such as military deployment, major medical issue or current disaster deployment).

Inappropriate Use of the AEM® or CEM® Credential

Additionally, there have been practitioners who have used the AEM or CEM credential inappropriately. This has included:

  • Emergency management practitioners who are not current with their AEM/CEM certification (the certification is good for a period of five years from the original certification or last certification date);
  • Emergency management practitioners who may have achieved a specific state’s version of a certified emergency manager credential, but not the AEM/CEM; or
  • Persons who just never earned the credential through the formal IAEM credentialing process.

AEM® and CEM® Are Registered Trademarks

The Certified Emergency Manager credential by the International Association of Emergency Managers is a registered trademark in the industry. Inappropriate uses of this credential are not sanctioned by IAEM, and should be ceased immediately. For those practitioners of emergency management who have earned a state-specific, state-sanctioned credential for emergency managers, the candidate should precede the letters "AEM" or “CEM” with the two letter state abbreviation before "AEM" or “CEM” or the specific abbreviation that the state has designated for their state certification.

Completing a AEM®/CEM® Packet in an Ethical Manner

Submission of documentation which is intentionally inaccurate in support of one’s CEM or AEM application packet, or use of the AEM or CEM credential by a practitioner who is not sanctioned to be certified as a AEM or CEM by the International Association of Emergency Managers, is a direct violation of the IAEM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

The best suggestion for ensuring that a packet is completed in an ethical manner in accordance with the IAEM Code is to ensure that:

  • Contact references are accurate.
  • Work history, training exercise/disaster experience is authentic.
  • Training and formal education is validated.
  • The essay is unique and authentic to the writer.
  • Current and previous job descriptions are enclosed in the packet.
  • Appropriate supporting documentation letters, certificates, photographs, etc., are enclosed.
  • The application and the essay affirmation statement are signed and dated.


As this writer has often said, the AEM/CEM credential is neither easily attained nor maintained. The CEM is the pinnacle credential in emergency management. IAEM strives to maintain a high level of integrity in the AEM and CEM credentialing programs, as well as with its members who have not yet achieved the AEM or CEM.

IAEM Bulletin, July 2010

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

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