Professional Certification in Emergency Management

Just as most other professions have a credentialing process to demonstrate professional competence, so does emergency management. Even prior to September 11th, the field of emergency management had programs in place that would certify the knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) of the professional emergency manager, to readily identify him.

There are several different certifications programs for emergency managers currently in existence. There is the FEMA Professional Development Series (PDS) Certificate, the Advanced Professional Series (APS) Certificate, and the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) Certified Emergency Manager® (CEM®) and Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) Certificates. In the last few years, undergraduate and graduate level programs in emergency management and homeland security have also been developed. This column will only be discussing the non-academic institution-based certifications.

FEMA Based Certification

The FEMA certification programs are conducted in cooperation with the Emergency Management Institute (EMI). The first certification is the Professional Development Series (PDS). It is awarded upon completion of seven FEMA courses. These courses may be taken as independent study or in the classroom.

The required courses in the PDS program are:

  • Principles of Emergency Management, IS230
  • Emergency Planning, IS235
  • Effective Communication, IS242
  • Decision-Making and Problem-Solving, IS241
  • Leadership and Influence, IS240
  • Developing and Managing Volunteers , IS244
  • Exercise Design, IS139

Once the PDS program is completed, you can then consider going on to the APS certification, but you have to submit a request to enroll in the APS program through your State Emergency Manager Training Officer. If approved, your request will then be forwarded to your FEMA regional office. The next step is final approval by the Superintendent of the Emergency Management Institute (EMI).

The required APS courses are:

  • EOC Management and Operations, G275
  • Incident Command System/Emergency Operations Center Interface, G191
  • Rapid Assessment Workshop, G250.7
  • Recovery from Disaster: The Local Government Role, G270.4
  • Mitigation Planning Workshop for Local Governments, G318

Then select five of these elective courses:

  • Donations Management Workshop, G288
  • Multi-Hazard Emergency Planning for Schools, G362
  • Emergency Planning and Special Needs Populations, G197
  • Resource Management, G276
  • Debris Management, G202
  • Mass Fatalities, G386
  • Exercise Program Manager, G137
  • Flood Fight Operations, G361
  • Emergency Management Operations Course for Local Governments, G110
  • Homeland Security Planning for Local Governments, 408
  • Community Mass Care Management, G108
  • Evacuation and Re-Entry Planning, G358
  • Basic Public Information Officer, G290
  • Hazardous Weather and Flood Preparedness, G271
  • Warning Coordination, G272
  • Advanced Incident Command System, G196

Certified Emergency Manager® (CEM®)

The Certified Emergency Manager® (CEM®) is considered by many to be the top certification in Emergency Management. Created as a joint venture by FEMA and the IAEM, The CEM® was developed as a standard to recognize professional competency in emergency management across the nation. Since the creation of the CEM®, it has spread worldwide with the 1000th CEM® being certified within the last year.

Requirements for the Certified Emergency Manager® Program are:

  • Three years emergency management experience
  • A four-year baccalaureate degree; those without the education requirement should inquire about the Associate Emergency Manager (AEM) credential.
  • 100 contact hours in emergency management training and 100 hours in general management training
  • Six separate contributions to the profession, such as, being published, speaking, professional membership, or other activities beyond your day-to-day activities
  • A comprehensive emergency management essay to display your knowledge in all phases of emergency management
  • Completion of a 100 question multiple-choice examination involving all topics in emergency management

The requirements for the AEM program are the same as the CEM® programs, except applicants are not required to hold a baccalaureate degree.

Maintaining certification

The PDS and APS do not require a recertification once initially completed. The CEM®/AEM credential require recertification every five years. That recertification is required to remain current in the emergency management field. The recertification requirements include 100 hours of training, with at least 75 hours in emergency management and six contributions to the field of emergency management.

Cost of Programs

There is no cost to participate in either of the FEMA-sponsored certification programs. There is a cost for the CEM®/AEM certification. Membership in the IAEM is not required for CEM®/AEM certification, though membership does qualify you for a reduction in the application fees. Whatever the costs and time commitment are, the certification will be well worth it both professionally and personally.

Benefits of Certifications

You may be asking yourself what the benefits of being certified are. One of the primary reasons for becoming certified is to be NIMS-compliant. By being certified, you show that you are knowledgeable in the four core components of emergency management: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation. The certification is recognized as a standard that is recognized across the country. Another reason is to be professionally recognized by other professional emergency managers. The next reason may appear to be a little selfish, but it is valid nevertheless. By being certified, you are more marketable in looking for another position, whether it is for a promotion or another position outside of the law enforcement profession. Many positions for managers in emergency management or homeland security are seeking a CEM® as a prerequisite to employment. With that in mind, when will you start your certification process?