Think Outside the Box

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CEM Corner: Think Outside the Box to Gain Practical EM Experience: Internships and Volunteering

By Brian V. Bovyn, CEM, Adjunct Faculty, Emergency Management Program, Frederick Community College, Frederick, Maryland

Are you interested in pursuing your CEM certification credential in emergency management, but missing some of the required experience to meet the three-year equivalency requirement of comprehensive emergency management? With each CEM Commission Meeting and portfolio credential review, CEM Commissioners find candidates who lack some of the work experience needed to meet the requirement. So can you meet the experiential requirement if you’re short of the emergency management work hours required? How can you get the experience to bridge the gap?

Make Your Own Opportunities

That’s where you have to think outside the box. While collegiate candidates often have opportunities built into their emergency management college curricula, other students do not have that opportunity, since their curriculum may not have an internship requirement.

That is where the CEM candidate must step up and make his or her own opportunities happen, in order to gain the valuable experience needed. Some CEM candidates choose to do volunteer work with organizations such as the International or American Red Cross, the U.S. Salvation Army, or Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOADs).

Other candidates opt to pursue internships (outside of the college) with public and private sector employers and college and university non-academic emergency management programs. One place to look for internship opportunities is on the IAEM Jobs Board.

While many of the internships are collegiate-based or incentivized through an offering of college credit support for work done during the internship period, some internships are non-academic credit based. A recent sample of internships listed on the IAEM Jobs Board included: Witt Associates; Community Action Plan for Seismic Safety; Montgomery County (Pa.) Emergency Management; Baltimore (Md.) Office of Emergency Management; Austin (Texas) Independent School System; Federal Emergency Management Agency; Georgetown University; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia; and New York City Office of Emergency Management.

Learn About Internships

Most of the internships are non-paid, and while most are geared toward active college students seeking college internship credit, some internships are either paid or offer stipends for the interns who work the internships. Most internships require the intern to perform work at a specific job site, often in person. However some internships can be done virtually through telecommuting, Internet, teleconferencing, and through the U.S. mail. The list of internships is constantly being updated and changed, so visit the IAEM website often.

One very unique company, Wakefield Brunswick, offers internships for college students and emergency management professionals (outside of college programs). Wakefield Brunswick specializes in healthcare emergency management and business continuity. What makes Wakefield Brunswick such a dynamic organization is that it is “woman-owned” progressive, international, and the internships are completed often through telecommuting. Interns are matched with subject matter experts in the company, and work projects are matched with the candidate’s core skills and experiential attributes. Personal and professional goals are established, and the candidate and mentor work toward meeting those goals as the internship progresses. A typical internship is about 16 weeks’ duration and requires about 10-20 hours of work effort weekly.

Be Proactive

It doesn’t matter which company, college or organization you choose for building your emergency management work experience; the important thing is to do it. You might consider being proactive by calling around or emailing various emergency management organizations and selling them on your need for internship or volunteer experience.

Many times, EM organizations offer career opportunities to motivated, quality candidates. In most cases, these organizations will reward your work as a volunteer or intern by writing recommendation letters in support of your CEM® application, for college opportunities, or for potential career development and employment purposes.

These are excellent opportunities to gather important emergency management experience where gaps are present either in duration (as it relates to the three-year comprehensive emergency management requirement) or specialty (mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery). It’s up to each candidate to find their opportunities.

IAEM Bulletin, August 2011

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

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