Troubleshooting Performance Gaps in your AEM®/CEM® Portfolio Submission

Back to CEM Corner

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

The number of successful Certified Emergency Managers Associate Emergency Managers continues to grow as the IAEM individual credentialization gains wider acceptance and validation.

During the CEM Commission’s recent record-breaking review of 158 AEM and CEM packets, a number of performance gaps appeared, and this article is written to address those gap areas. Some of the most common mistakes included: poorly written essays; unverified professional contributions; no job descriptions or missing job descriptions; training citations without adequate supporting documentation to validate the training; professional contributions that were not emergency management themed, misunderstanding or misinterpretation of professional conference hours; and lack of required work experience.

  • Essay. The comprehensive emergency management essay is designed to be equivalent to or replace an interview. This is an opportunity for the candidate practitioner to validate his or her knowledge of comprehensive emergency management and apply that knowledge in a simulated real-world scenario. Areas of the essay where candidates fail to meet the standard include inadequate explanation of the comprehensive emergency management cycle (four or five tenets: mitigation, preparedness, response, recovery and prevention). Also, the 12 KSA attributes listed in the AEM/CEM Application explain how a practitioner would solve a problem. Missing KSA responses or inadequate focus on emergency management have been common issues. Business continuity planning, writing an emergency plan or training are only small portions of emergency management. On their own, they do not cover all four or five tenets of comprehensive emergency management.
  • Unverified Professional Contributions. Unverified or validated professional contributions are another gap. Many candidates cited that they had done this project or that role and failed to provide supporting documentation, such as a letter from a supervisor or manager, a newspaper article, or some other tangible form of documentation to support the claim. Additionally, where required, the candidate did not have a supervisor sign the attestation statement validating that this contribution was not a part of the candidate’s normal scope of work based upon the job description provided.
  • Missing Job Descriptions. Each candidate is required to submit job descriptions for all jobs or work used to support the work experience requirement of three years of full-time comprehensive (all four or five tenets of EM) emergency management experience. The candidate is expected to provide formal written jobs descriptions for each job he or she is using to validate the claim of work experience. Where no formal job description exists, the candidate must create a job description and have a supervisor or manager validate the job description with a signature.
  • Training. Both AEM and CEM requirements include 100 hours each of emergency management and general management training. Each training citation must have its own cover sheet describing the training, dates) offered, location, and hours. Then the candidate must validate the training with sufficient documentation to prove that he or she did successfully complete the training offered. Such validation documentation might include: course certificates; letters from an instructor, college or the sponsoring program; or transcripts from a college or university. Without the supporting documentation behind each training cover sheet, the training hours cannot be validated. Do not expect the CEM Commissioners to be looking back-and-forth throughout the entire packet for this documentation; the onus is on the candidate to properly have this information organized and attached for all training citations. If a training course is not a recognized standard FEMA E, G or IS level course, a course syllabus must be attached so that the CEM Commissioners can validate the training.
  • Conference Hours. Candidates often will cite and provide documentation for a week-long conference and assume that they have completed this requirement. In the supporting documentation, the conference certificate or letter from the sponsoring organization must specify the number of hours, or the CEM Commissioners assign the generic six hours per day value. So, in a week-long conference, the candidate may only receives credit for 30 hours instead of 40 or more. The candidate may use two or three conferences to support the 40-hour requirement, but the conferences must be emergency or disaster management themed.
  • Work Experience. Work experience requires the equivalent of three years of comprehensive emergency management experience (all phases). The work may include full time or part time, paid or volunteer work, as long as the sum of all the parts equates to three years or more of comprehensive emergency management experience. The candidate should be prepared to explain in writing percentages of time spent practicing emergency management in those jobs where it is not readily apparent with a formal job description. If a fire service, law enforcement, EMS or other practitioner is utilizing his or her job, the formal job description and a written explanation of percentages of time must accompany the packet and should be validated by having a supervisor sign the letter.

The AEM and CEM are credential that are neither easily earned nor maintained. They are not entry level credentials, but rather a pinnacle credential of the emergency management profession.

A little extra work proofing your packet can lead to a successful attempt at attaining your AEM or CEM. Missing, inadequate or poorly organized packets that are not validated will not only cause the candidate to have an unsuccessful attempt at achieving his or her AEM/CEM, but will also cause unnecessary stress for the candidate when the packet is ruled incomplete and returned or rejected.

IAEM Bulletin, December 2009

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

Back to CEM Corner