One of my 2021 professional resolutions is to finalize, submit, and receive (fingers-crossed) my IAEM Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) certification. During the month of December, I made it a priority to start collecting information needed for my application. As I spent hours collecting required documents that highlighted my emergency management experience, training, and field contributions — it hit me! Why did I not create a more organized method to collect this information when I started my career?! I could have added documents and details to my portfolio as I collected them for an easier CEM application process.
Learn from my mistake! Start organizing your information today on the following topics:
Training was the most challenging section to collect and put together due to the amount of training I have taken over the past four years. While I did create a training folder on my drive to store FEMA/TDEM certificates from class, I did not always name them with the proper course number or consistently add every completed training. Tracking our training can be a challenge since we take courses in person or online and receive certificates via email or on a state training transcript website. Items to track include:
- Training Course Name and Number
- Number of Credits/Hours
- Sponsoring Agency or Creator of Class
- Date of Training and Completion
- Completion Certificate
- BONUS (CEM): Emergency Management Designation or General Training Designation
The above items can easily be tracked in a spreadsheet with assigned columns. Catch up on the courses that have been already completed, and then add new courses as you complete them. If you are considering a future CEM, download the CEM training designation chart to assist you in assigning a category to each training (emergency management verses general). You can also keep track of how many hours you currently have and plan future training needs based on how many additional EM training or General training hours you need. Create a training folder with a common naming system for training certificates as well. Include course number and course title.
Emergency Management “Hot Seat” Experience
A large part of many certification programs is demonstrating experience in disaster activations or exercises. Typically, applications call for multiple documents that show your role through name assignments, photos, or reference letters.
For exercise experience, collect and store exercise guides, sign-in sheets, reference letter/s (exercise director or head of agency), photos during participation, after action report, and a short write up that highlights date, time, purpose, exercise role, and experience gained. As you complete or lead exercises, create a folder system to store these documents for each exercise. Use a common naming system and be consistent. Collect this information now rather than having to search for it months or years later. This is especially true for reference letters, given that many exercise or agency directors may change roles and not be available to request a letter from in the future.
For incident experience, similar documentation is necessary. Collect incident name, Incident Action Plan (IAP)/Event Action Plan (EAP), EOC sign-in list, ICS position performance rating form (if completed), photos of participation, after action review, and reference letter/s from the EOC manager, agency director, or incident commander. Include a short write up that highlights incident name, dates, operational periods, agencies, objectives, activation role, and experience gained. The more details you save, the better. Once again, try to save these immediately after the incident.
Job Experience Documents
Many certification programs (CEM included) want to see a certain amount of time in professional emergency management roles. This documentation often includes job titles, name of agencies, job descriptions, job duties, agency contact, and agency reference letters.
Maintain a timeline of your emergency management roles and save department information. Upon accepting a new offer, save the job description and duties as well as any offer letters you may receive. Identify at least 2–3 leaders within the agency who would be able to write a letter describing your role as an emergency manager. Store these in an organized way in a file for each job role.
Extra Professional Goodies
As emergency managers, we do a lot of extra projects, webinars, and other career booster projects. Many of these projects can be used as credit towards EM contributions requested in CEM and state certification applications. If you are anything like me, you might forget to record details from speaking events, publications, or teaching.
Create a log that you add to weekly that covers the extra-curricular emergency management-related projects and events. This could include seminars (attended and given), conferences (attended and speaking), professional organization memberships (including chair or committee memberships and projects), outreach events, podcasts/interviews, and any additional collaborative projects participated in with other agencies or universities.
Your log should include dates, project names, descriptions (of project and your role), and a contact to speak on your participation or involvement. Also store items in a folder for the following:
- Seminars: Speaker invite letter, link (if recorded), photos, etc.
- Conferences: Speaker invite, conference attendance certificate, conference agenda with talk highlighted, photos, etc.
- Professional Orgs: Membership directory, profile showing committee roles, digital project links, photos, etc.
- Outreach Events: Event invite, photos, flyers, etc.
- Podcasts/Interviews: Digital recording and/or link
The goal is to collect as much information as possible to prove your personal involvement in the item. It is always better to track and collect more than needed in case one or two experiences are thrown out for not matching the certification’s requirements.
There you have it! These are four areas that you can start collecting and organizing now, even as a brand new emergency manager in the field! Establishing an organized and regularly updated portfolio will make your life so much easier when considering CEM or state level certification. This process is also helpful for your resume or other professional projects as well.
Go forth and “Home Edit” your professional portfolio!