Many professions have professional membership organizations which can be joined by those working in the field, retired from the field, or aspiring to work in the field. The practice of emergency management, both broadly and specifically, has a number of professional organizations which you can join. Professional organizations each have their own goals and benefits, which should be examined. Some are simply mutually supportive, providing an opportunity to share and discuss professional ideas and network, supporting the practice from within. Others are active in lobbying and political influence, helping to shape the legal and regulatory landscape of profession. Most provide training and continuing education opportunities, and some even provide certifications.
Here are a few you may want to consider:
National Emergency Management Association (NEMA). NEMA began as an organization for state emergency management directors in the US. The State Directors are still the core group of membership, but NEMA has expanded membership opportunities for others. NEMA’s focus is on supporting emergency management in the US, which they do through providing resources, conferences, and legislative influence.
International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM). IAEM, as their name indicates, is an international membership organization. Similar to NEMA, they provide a variety of resources, conferences and other events (US regional, US national, and international), and legislative influence. They also provide the credentials of Certified Emergency Manager and Associate Emergency Manager.
Disaster Recovery Institute (DRI). DRI’s focus is on organizational emergency management, which includes the tech side of disaster recovery as well as all phases of emergency management and business continuity. Along with resources, conferences, and training, they offer a variety of certifications in business continuity both generally and specific to certain sectors.
Personally, I think professional organizations can be great, but you must understand what they offer, what you want, and determine if you will gain value from membership, especially in consideration of membership dues. These organizations and other offer substantially reduced dues to full time students, which provides a great opportunity for aspiring practitioners to network and learn.
From personal experience, I’ve found that the benefits gained from professional membership organizations often correspond to your amount of involvement. While they all have resources available to members, networking and opportunities arise from involvement. Going to meetings and conferences, getting involved in committees, and working on projects will often lead to gaining value from your membership.
What I will caution with professional organizations, also from experience, is that they are often cliquish. The development of social groups is a matter of human nature, but I feel that organizations should do more to break down the barriers that can make new members feel unwelcome. Also, examine organizations with a critical eye. Are they simply supportive of their membership or are they supportive of the profession/community as a whole? For example, my local Chamber of Commerce, which I had a very poor experience with, is typically only interested in supporting a certain part of their membership.
A number of membership organizations offer training and professional certifications. Typically, these opportunities are open to everyone, with members often enjoying discounts. The financial commitments should be evaluated based on your own needs. I also suggest that you examine other avenues for training and certification. Training from FEMA, state emergency management offices, and homeland security consortium agencies is usually free, although training obtained from professional organizations may be more targeted or contemporary. As for certifications, as with anything else, you should weigh the benefits against the investment and explore what other opportunities may exist. For example, the requirements for a certain popular emergency management credential are very similar to that of the Certified Emergency and Disaster Professional (CEDP), which is a credential I hold. The CEDP is provided by the International Board for Certification of Safety Managers, a non-profit, independent credentialing organization which maintains credentials for a variety of safety-related professions. Their focus is on professional credentialing, not membership.
The bottom line is that there are a lot of opportunities out there. Professional memberships can be very valuable, but you should always go in knowing what you want from your membership, but also recognize that the real benefits of membership are often proportionate to your measure of involvement in the organization. If you don’t feel you are getting what you want, give feedback to the organization. If things don’t change, don’t feel compelled to keep throwing money at them. Speaking of throwing money at them, non-profits are required to publish annual reports. These can be helpful in seeing what the organization focuses on, what their goals are, and what they have accomplished in the past year. Remember that you are entitled to ask questions, both as a member and a prospective member.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with professional organizations, particularly across emergency management. I know there are a number of organizations in the broader emergency management community which I didn’t list here, but I didn’t want to go too far down that rabbit hole.
As always, thanks for reading.
© 2018 – Timothy M. Riecker, CEDP