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Having spent the better part of this weekend working on my Certified Emergency Manager recertification through the International Association of Emergency Management, I have a few observations which will hopefully help you if you are seeking your CEM credential in our profession.

First, and foremost, don’t wait until the last minute to round up all of the proofs to illustrate that you have been working hard over the last 5 years.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I waited too long to decide whether or not I would recertify.  My dilemma has been this: I LOVE being an emergency manager, but I don’t love documenting everything I do.

To be frank, in my 10 years as an emergency manager, I feel like we spend far too much time filling out forms that say what we do and don’t spend near enough time actually doing the work.

I don’t use the CEM acronym after my name because I don’t like to feel like I have to cite a bunch of letters to prove my worth in this field.  Beyond that, initials are often used as points of expertise and exclusivity.  And, in my world, I often learn more from volunteers than I do from anyone else.

But I did pursue my CEM credential 5 years ago because I wanted to illustrate commitment to my profession and because it requires me to reflect on what I have been doing over time.  It allows me to self-evaluate against set standards and it is healthy to gauge the contributions I make to this field.

What was humorous over these past 5 years is that my recertification manual truly tells a story of how social media has changed my world.  5 years ago, I met most of the CEM proofs, but some of them took some “creative” connectivity.  This year, I could have certified in every category except for proctoring CEM tests thanks, in large part, to working with social media & emergency management.  And there were committees and projects that I left on the cutting room floor simply because I didn’t want to burn up a 2nd ream of paper.

If you are contemplating obtaining your CEM certification someday, here are some recommendations:

1)  Start keeping copies of these types of documents as you work:

  • Training Agendas & Sign-In Sheets
  • Training Certificates of Completion
  • Thank You Notes for presentations
  • Committee Assignment Letters
  • Leadership Award Letters or Media Announcements
  • Conference Badges (yes, believe it or not, they count as proof of your attendance)
  • Conference Agendas (along with things you learned at the conference)
  • Special Assignments
  • Publications in which you are mentioned.
  • Letter from Legislators that prove you had contact with them.

2)  Take a look at the Certification Manual online so that you can determine which types of “professional contributions” you plan to make over 5 years.  Then, add those to your “to-do” list.  The link for certification is:   http://www.iaem.com/page.cfm?p=certification/application

3)  Be attentive to the types of training that you sign up for.  Remember, only 25 hours in each category get credit.  This means that you need to take training on a broad spectrum of skills and experiences.  And, of the 100 hours needed to recertify, 25 of those have to be in a “general management” category and not “emergency management.”  Planning ahead can help.

4)  If you are on a limited training budget, keep an eye on the FEMA Independent Study courses and take the new courses as they come out.  The link for these courses is:  http://www.training.fema.gov/IS/

And, I hear a rumor that certification will be available through an online application in 2014 (which is a really good thing because if I have to send another 3-ring binder through the mail in 5 years, I may really get annoyed).

On a separate note: if you are an organization that runs a credentialing or certification process, you should really consider some collaborative technology development.  As I was completing this paper-based, data collection process, I couldn’t help but be annoyed at how futile it is to send all of these paper records to a fate where they will ultimately be destroyed after review.

Seriously?  This is 2013, right?

Let’s consider for a minute how useful it could be to have professional emergency managers submit their experiences online to a searchable database.  Then, let’s dream about the power of mobilizing our professionals based on their skill sets and experiences with emergencies, technologies and communication skills.

This kind of dreaming could become a reality quickly if the leadership teams in organizations truly embrace the desire to collaborate in the most effective manner possible.  In days of shrinking resources, we need to seriously look at systems across our profession to better evaluate ways to minimize the effort and maximize the return.

Okay, I’ll stop now.  And get back to labeling my binder tabs and baking some holiday cookies.

May you all be blessed this week as you celebrate your special days with those you love.  It’s hard to believe that 2014 is just around the corner.

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