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Certification Programs: Making Sure Layman Students Have Proper Training for Emergencies

Start a Emergency & Disaster Management degree at American Military University.

By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Training layman students on how to respond to emergencies has been an important initiative in helping to manage any type of small-scale emergency. The American Red Cross, for example, has numerous certification programs from "hands-only CPR" classes to lifeguard and lifeguard instructor classes. These certification programs are relatively short and provide students with a general understanding of how to respond to an emergency.

What happens, however, when certification programs become abridged because of faults in the overall program or other factors that inevitably impact how students are educated? Are students still equipped with the skills they need to manage a small-scale emergency if certification programs only involve training for a test?

The Structure of Certification Programs

Certification programs for small-scale emergency management issues often highlight some of the concerns that arise during an emergency. These programs explain to students what they would need to do to respond to such an event.

The programs use topics such as first aid and CPR. As long as a student does what he or she has been trained to do, there probably won't be any crazy, negative repercussions.

These classes often conclude with a short, multiple-choice test where class participants leave with a certification once they receive a passing grade.  In many cases, students have a chance to retake the test if they don't earn a passing grade on the written test.

But just like many other educational settings, there is a certain expectation that students will successfully pass a course and receive certification at the end of the course. Instructors trying to meet their pass quota train students based on what a multiple-choice test requires students to understand.

This is an issue that Americans have seen throughout the country in numerous educational settings.  A course may become slightly shorter, which pleases students, and those students will inevitably pass the test for the class.

However, there is an ethical question in this situation. After taking the course, will students know how to successfully handle an emergency?

In most cases, the answer to this question depends on the type of emergency, how much of the emergency situation falls within the realm of the student's training and other factors. Those factors include how well a student understood the emergency management framework of the area where the emergency occurred and the reaction of others in the vicinity who could assist with the emergency. Ultimately, how an emergency plays out is contingent on numerous factors.

If a certification program is shortened to train students to take a test, many students will have a frame of reference to handle an emergency the way they need to, in theory. Furthermore, there will likely be other actions they could improve to more successfully manage an emergency.

Certification Programs Need Some Changes to Be More Effective

The strength of a certification program lies in the overall policies and procedures of the organization that oversees it. If the organization has the goal that every single participant finishes with a certification at the end of a course, there will be instructors that train to the certification test. But making students feel confident in an emergency is another significant aspect of successful small-scale emergency management.

Organizations that serve as governing bodies to certification programs should examine their courses to decide if they have the right goals in place. Reworking how a certification course is handled is important to streamlining how individuals respond to emergencies and further improving the small-scale emergency response framework.

Start a Emergency & Disaster Management degree at American Military University.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.