Key Survey Findings: Perceived Benefit & Willingness to Uptake Membership in a Professional Association for Emergency Managers

By Moira Hennebury

The biggest challenge in growing membership is articulating the value proposition. Cognizant that students and recent graduates represent the largest growing prospective member base of any professional association, I sought to understand the perceived benefit, expectations, willingness, and ability of this population group to uptake membership in an association for emergency management professionals. 

It must be stated that while I am a member of several professional associations, I do not serve on any board or committee. I decided to undertake this small project because I believe today’s students and recent graduates have the tools, courage, and motivation to effect great change. Young professionals offer a rich and diverse knowledge base, flexibility, and a commitment to innovation. This cannot be overstated. Our generation will have a powerful and transformative impact on the trajectory of emergency management.  

To gather the perspectives of students and recent graduates, I conducted a short online survey from January 25 to 30, 2019. Participation in the survey was voluntary and allowed respondents to maintain their anonymity. The survey was intended for current undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional certificate students and recent graduates of an emergency management or a related program in Ontario. The survey had an organic reach of 54 responses in five days. The level of positive engagement demonstrates that students and recent graduates can identify and articulate a clear set of expectations as prospective members.

Curiously, relatively few respondents currently hold membership in either of the two most prominent associations for emergency management professionals. Of the 54 total respondents, only 35% (19) were members of the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers (OAEM). Of the respondents who are not presently members, nearly half had once held membership with the association. This statistic underscores the challenge of member retention. 

Membership in the International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM-Canada) was similarly low for the population surveyed. Of the 54 respondents, only 26% (14) were current members of the IAEM. 15% of non-members once held membership.

I was curious to understand why membership was remarkably low despite the fact that both associations offer free or reduced member rates for students. There is a longstanding perception that cost is the primary factor in a student or recent graduate’s decision to uptake membership in a professional association. This perception was challenged by the survey results. In fact, the results show a myriad of factors relating to both ability and willingness to uptake membership. The most frequently cited reasons for not choosing to uptake membership in either association are summarized in the table below.

It is interesting to note that a difference in the perceived value of membership between OAEM and IAEM-Canada was not distinguishable. For both OAEM and IAEM-Canada members, the average overall perceived value of membership was rated 3 out of 5. 

Despite low membership uptake and average levels of perceived value, opportunities for improved engagement exist for both associations. For instance, 5.7% of OAEM non-members indicated that they intend on becoming a member in 2019, while 34.3% more are undecided. The outlook was similarly positive for the IAEM-Canada. 7.5% of non-members indicated that they intend on becoming a member in 2019 and 47.5% are undecided. 

It is my hope that the survey results enclosed will serve as a call to action. 

Students and recent graduates are drawn to professional development activities that allow them to expand their competencies and skill set. Moreover, they are interested in opportunities that will allow them to guide and shape the future of emergency management. The most important benefits of membership in a professional association are ranked below. This survey section was mandatory for all 54 respondents. Respondents were asked to rank each benefit from 1 to 5, with 1 representing “not important” and 5 representing “very important”. The percentage assigned to each benefit category indicates the total percentage of respondents who indicated the benefit was either “important” or “very important” to them.

  1. Continuing education (e.g. multi-day courses) 87.0%
  2. Professional development events (e.g. workshops and webinars) 83.3%
  3. Formal networking events (e.g. roundtables on emerging issues) 81.5%
  4. Access to a job board 77.8%
  5. Access to conferences 70.4%
  6. Access to exclusive “member’s only” content or resources 61.1%
  7. The ability to join committees or special interest workgroups 55.6%
  8. Access to a mentorship program 53.7%
  9. Access to discounted products and services 51.2%
  10. Access to informal networking events (e.g. dinners, galas) 48.1%
  11. Opportunities to receive feedback on your resume 40.1%

It is my hope that this undertaking allowed participants to think deeply about their role and commitment to both personal and professional growth as emergency managers. I am encouraged by the conversation this survey has evoked and I look forward to how this discussion can be operationalized to both increase member engagement and deliver a better end product to current and prospective members. 

Thank you to all who participated.

Author Notes:

This survey allowed respondents to maintain their anonymity. A benefit of this method is that it encourages respondents to provide truthful responses. Several disadvantages of this approach exist, including potential for unconscientious responses, the potential for respondents to exercise a hidden agenda, and inability to verify respondents as appropriate candidates for the survey. This document contains a summary of survey responses. Please contact if you wish to receive a copy of the full raw data including long answers.

The Ontario Association of Emergency Managers (OAEM) provides students in post-secondary certificate, diploma, degree or master programs in emergency management with the opportunity to receive an award to recognize their achievements during each academic year.

Awards are available in the following categories:

  1. The Brian Hook Memorial AwardHonours the memory of Major Brian Hook (CD) through making an award to a student who has made significant contributions to the field of Emergency Management while maintaining a high level of academic excellence. ($1,500)
  2. A. Normand Academic Award – Students will submit a 1,200 – 1,500-word essay on any topic relating to emergency management and business continuity. All essays must include an abstract and APA formatting. ($1,000)
  3. President’s Award – This award will go to a professional who has gone back to school to study emergency management/business continuity in order to upgrade/change their profession. This will be based on their grade point average (GPA) and any contributions they have made to the field. ($500)

The deadline for applications is Friday April 12th, 2019 and the award presentations will be made at the Ontario Association of Emergency Managers’ Annual General Meeting on May 15th 2019 at Centennial College in Scarborough, ON.

Completed application forms and supplementary documentation should be sent by email before the deadline to All applications are reviewed by the OAEM Board of Directors and the OAEM Awards Committee, who will then decide on the award winners.

We look forward to receiving applications for these prestigious and well-respected awards. If you have any questions about the awards, please email Good luck!

By Alain Normand

When IAEM Canada sent out the notice that nominations where open for the executive of the IAEM Ontario region, I was very surprised as I had no idea there was an intent on creating such a region. After a few calls and discussions with some people at IAEM, I found out that seven IAEM members residing in Ontario had signed a request to IAEM Canada to create an Ontario region and that based on the IAEM bylaws, the executive of IAEM Canada had to follow through on the request.

Since there had been no discussion on the topic, I decided to organize a town hall meeting and invite Ontario members of IAEM and OAEM to talk about it. The event was held in Brampton on January 22 in the morning. About 25 people attended in person and another dozen or so were on the conference call. As one person said, having such a response with only a seven day notice is a clear demonstration of the commitment of the professionals to the future of emergency management in Ontario and Canada.

After receiving clarification on the process by Greg Solecki, president of IAEM Canada, we were informed that the list of people whose nominations had been put forward for the executive of a new IAEM Ontario would be sent out on Monday January 28 and IAEM members would have three weeks to submit their vote.

The discussion started on the pros and cons of having an IAEM Ontario and the perceived competition with OAEM. After many comments on this and much talk about aiming for collaboration, the general feeling of the group was that having two association in the province was not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, repeatedly it was discussed that having an Ontario voice at the national level could bring some positive outcomes for the profession.

The OAEM position as stated by the president Mike O’Brien, was open to having an IAEM Ontario region as long as there was no duplication of efforts. OAEM caters to the emergency management community in Ontario and has done much to advance the professional development, student engagement, and mentorship aspect of the community. IAEM in turn is seen as the certification channel and the advocacy agency to promote the profession within governments and external agencies. If the new Ontario region sticks to this mandate, there should be no real competition. We did point out that for newcomers to the field and for students, having to choose between OAEM and IAEM Ontario may be difficult, especially for new graduates who will have limited funds to become members of both associations.

What transpired eventually from the discussion was that this was a done deal. We had no authority or means to stop the creation of this region. In fact, we didn’t even need seven signatures, only one signature would have been sufficient to initiate the process. The discussion turned to the process itself.

It was clear that OAEM had nothing to do in the next phase.  The discussion turned solely to IAEM and there was general dissatisfaction with the way the creation of the region happened. While Greg Solecki and the executive of the IAEM Canada followed the bylaws and the rules to the letter, never was there any consultation on the desire of the emergency management profession in Ontario. Following the rules is one thing; catering to the will of the members is another. This is about doing the right thing rather than doing things right.

There was anger and resentment expressed towards the seven people who submitted the request that they took it upon themselves to speak on behalf of the other 143 or so members of IAEM residing in Ontario. These people who have yet to come forward, are creating a group based on unknowns, with no clear indication of reasons, no justification for the need of such an association, and no information on the roles and responsibilities they intend to play. Will this body collaborate with existing agencies? Will it actually carry at the national level the will of the Ontario members? There was a lot of doubt of this. If these people didn’t even take the time to ask member’s opinion prior to creating the region, what guarantees will we have that they will speak on our behalf once they are elected?

In all, whatever this Ontario region will be is off to a very bad start. Most of the people in the room and a few on the call held some ill feelings towards this whole process. I can also attest to discussions I had with other members prior to the meeting over phone calls and e-mails in the days preceding, and the same feeling was expressed numerous times by people who were unable to attend the meeting.

As I said, this is a done deal, we can’t do anything about it. The process to get there stinks, the people who put this forward didn’t even have the courage to step up and give us their reasoning, and we still have no idea what these people are aiming to accomplish.

I do not intend to put my name forward for this executive. I’ve done my stint on boards and I’m leaving this to others. 

However, be assured of one thing. I will be watching. If this IAEM Ontario intends to speak on my behalf, they better say what I want them to say. I will attend every IAEM Ontario AGM, I will read every minute of every IAEM Ontario and IAEM Canada meeting, and I will search for every sentence where our will as Ontario EM professionals is presented. I will be on the new president’s back –and the rest of the executive- should they diverge from the wishes of my fellow members. If you submitted your nomination already, you better be ready for this. 

I also encourage all IAEM Canada members in Ontario to be on the watch. I demand transparency and openness, I aim for accountability, and so should all of you. This whole process started behind our backs, without consultation, without our input and with none of those concerned ever showing their card. If IAEM Ontario is sincere in its intention of being the voice of Ontario EM professionals, this better change quickly. 

The bylaws also contain an article 9 which is about dispute. I will reread this closely and I may use it in the future should I not be satisfied in the integrity of the people at the helm.

I want to close by reiterating that I am a member of both OAEM and IAEM Canada but I write this as an emergency management professional in my own words and with my own opinions. Those in no way reflect the opinions of either OAEM or IAEM Canada.

Going forward, let’s change the course, and do the right thing.

Alain Normand

NGO Alliance of Ontario Guiding Principles
· Maintain a reliable, credible and respected Alliance for members, municipalities, the Province and other stakeholders to access and share
· Provide NGO Executive members the opportunity to participate in the emergency response network committees and initiatives within Ontario
where possible
· Redirect calls to NGO Council members and other stakeholders for support and to provide assistance in times of disaster and emergencies
within Ontario
· Develop working relationships with other NGO members, municipalities, the Province and additional stakeholders
· Broadly communicate NGO member capacity by maintaining a current NGO Alliance of Ontario Handbook, Continuum Infographic and website

Dear Colleagues, fellow Emergency Management Professionals,

You may have seen the communications from the IAEM Canada board asking for nominations to the executive position of the IAEM Ontario Region. If you are like me and interested in the future of the emergency management profession, you probably had questions about this Ontario Region. I did, so I asked and found out thatseven Ontario emergency management professionals with good standing as membersof IAEM Canada had sent a request for the creation of this IAEM Ontario Region.

The IAEM Bylaw allows this as long as there is no existing region in the same province and as long as there are a minimum of six signatures on the request. The IAEM Canada board is now obligated to follow through on the request.

My concern is on how this will impact the profession in Ontario. I would like to have a discussion on this with as many of you as possible. I especially would like to hear the reasoning of the seven people who submitted the request. I do not know who they are and the IAEM Board respects the privacy of its members.

I am neither on the board of IAEM Canada nor OAEM although I have been active on both. While I hold a membership in both, I have no personal interest in either association, but I care for the profession. This is why I would like to invite you for a town hall meeting on the topic on January 22nd 2019, from 9am to noon, at the Century Gardens Community Centre, 340 Vodden Street East in Brampton. I know this is short term but the election for these positions has tobe done within three weeks of the request, so we have little time to discuss this. Brampton will be providing coffee and tea, with muffins and light snacks.

Please note that I will not tolerate the negative criticism of either IAEM or OAEM or any other organization for that matter including disparaging comments regarding board members, staff or executives.

To get an idea of how many people will attend, please send me a quick rsvp e-mail at

Town Hall meeting on the future of the emergency management profession in Ontario
January22, 2019, 09h00,
Century Gardens Community Centre,
340 Vodden Street East,Brampton


Alain Normand, Emergency Management Professional

By Thomas Appleyard

Program evaluation informs practitioners, funders and researchers on the efficacy of interventions. Standard program evaluation methods emphasise desired outcomes and pre-identified criteria for success. Program evaluators stress establishing SMART goals: specific, measureable, agreed upon, realistic and time-bound. 

These standard program evaluation methods do not apply well for emergency responders who must thrive in a volatile, unpredictable, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) environment. 

What would SMART goals have looked like on 9/11? Was undertaking an unplanned maritime evacuation of 500,000 people off Manhattan Island within nine hours a realistic goal? Was establishing Union Square as the site for New Yorkers to grieve and to share information and food part of an agreed-upon goal? (No – the City shut this operation down after several days).

A problem with SMART goals for emergency managers is they limit possibilities. Here is the goal-setting language effective emergency responders used on 9/11:

  • “Please do what you can for these people. Come out, lend a hand, anything you can do will be accepted.” – Gander Newfoundland Mayor Claude Elliott
  • “We don’t know what we’re gonna see, we don’t know what we’re gonna do, but we’re gonna go.” – tugboatman Ken Peterson
  • “You ready? Okay. Let’s roll.”– United 93 passenger Todd Beamer

Instead of squeezing emergency response efforts into standard program evaluation methods, here are two approaches to program evaluation emergency responders can take:

  • Know what you are good at and evaluate that. 
  • Know the competencies required to thrive in a VUCA world (e.g., initiative, improvisation, empathy, creativity) and evaluate them.

By Julie Chambers (Education Director)                                                                                                                 

Calling all Seasoned EM/BC Professionals, Students and Early Career Professionals! Registration for the OAEM Mentorship Program has re-opened.

The OAEM mentorship program is kicking off once again. The program is for certificate/college/university students based in Ontario studying in an emergency management educational program, or early career professionals based in Ontario who have graduated within the last 2 years. The program aims to connect EM/BC students and early career professionals to seasoned professionals in the field in order to promote networking and knowledge transfer, and assist in building connections.

The OAEM Education Director will provide help to both Mentors and Mentees in establishing the partnership. Monthly contact between Mentors and Mentees is expected via phone, e-mail, Skype, FaceTime, and face-to-face meetings.

If you are currently working in emergency management or business continuity in the public, private or not-for-profit sectors and would like to guide and develop the next generation of emergency management practitioner or if you are an Ontario-based EM/BC student interested in building connections and learning about the field, please complete a survey found on the following link (under the “Sign-up” section):

Review from Serenna Besserer (OAEM Mentor 2016 – 2018):

“I really enjoying being able to mentor students studying Disaster and Emergency Management. I wish this opportunity was presented to me when I first started my career and it is nice to give back by helping the new students.”

Review from Saricka DaCosta (OAEM Mentee 2016 – 2017):

“Great opportunity to learn from experience individuals in the field, if you are every considering going into the EM.”

If you have any questions, please contact

Calling all OAEM student members,

Are you an ambitious, driven and creative individual? Do you have new ideas on how OAEM can better serve Ontario’s students and the EM community? Would you like to take on a lead role in connecting Disaster and Emergency Management (DEM) students to professionals and opportunities within the DEM field? Are you looking to get involved? OAEM wants you!

OAEM is looking for a Student Board Member who will serve from November 2018 to August 2019. If the above appeals to you, then we would like to hear from you!

– You do need to be an Ontario-based student enrolled in a Disaster and Emergency Management Program
– You need to be a Student Member of OAEM

Please send a 250-400 word Statement of Interest and a copy of your Resume to no later than Friday, November 9, 2018.

We look forward to your applications.

**You need to be an OAEM Student Member to apply. If you are not, please sign up here**

Good luck!

Nicole Pinto
Education Director
OAEM Board of Directors