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  • Tammy L Wells

Goal Achieved: Megan Arsenault is Now Certified as an Emergency Manager

ALFRED, Maine – During the COVID-19 pandemic, York County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Megan Arsenault served as the county’s incident commander. She was assigned to the county vaccine center in Sanford with the mission of getting people vaccinated against COVID-19 quickly.


For the past several months, she and others with York County EMA have been coping with the aftermath of punishing storms in January that battered the coastline from York to Old Orchard Beach and an April storm that resulted in heavy tree and power line damage and road damage countywide.


More recently, she’s had her eye on the National Hurricane Center and is gearing up for public outreach and internal planning should one or more hurricanes head this way.

And now Arsenault, 37, of Sanford, is among a relatively small number of emergency managers certified in their profession by the International Association of Emergency Managers.


“This is the highest honor of professional achievement available from the association, which has in its membership more than 6,000 emergency managers representing professionals whose goals are saving lives and protecting property and the environment during emergencies and disasters,” wrote IAEM Certification Commission Chair Jon Fessler, in a letter to Arsenault. He said the certification is held by 2,363 people currently engaged in the emergency management field.


It took a lot of work, but the certification is worth it, Arsenault said. She began the process last fall – one that included proof of competency in the field, a vast number of training hours, general management, and more.


Arsenault has been employed by York County EMA since 2015 and was named deputy director in 2021. Her involvement in emergency management goes back to 2011, when, as an animal care technician, she was deployed to Joplin, Missouri, which had experienced an EF5 tornado, the strongest on the scale, with winds in excess of 200 m.p.h. Its swath through the city was a mile wide. It killed 158 people, according to online accounts, injured more than 1,500, and caused $2.8 billion in damages.


Arsenault was deployed to Joplin to help the city’s animals, she said in a 2022 interview upon being named Emergency Manager of the Year by the Northeast States Emergency Consortium. During her two weeks in the tornado-ravaged city, she worked in the “cat warehouse,” helping care for hundreds of cats — feeding them, changing litter pans, and keeping the place clean.


“It changed my life,” she said at the time. She began volunteering with York County EMA and has not looked back.


Following her 2011 deployment, she sat with the now late Bob Bohlmann, York County EMA director at the time.


“We talked about my career trajectory,” said Arsenault. “I remember looking up the requirements to become a Certified Emergency Manager, and I wondered if I could do that…. It’s always been a goal of mine, As the years went by, it became easier to picture doing that, so I pursued it.”


She has also pursued other educational endeavors, including earning a master’s degree in social work.


York County EMA Director Art Cleaves said earning certification from IAEM is like earning a master’s degree.


“It requires extensive documented practical experience, which Megan has accomplished by deploying to many, many disasters nationwide in addition to her continued professional development by taking FEMA Incident Command System trainings,” said Cleaves. “Megan has completed well over 25 FEMA advanced training certificates.”

 

Her training doesn’t end with her certification. She is eyeing a short course for emergency managers who function as their agency’s public information officer and also perhaps establishing a networking group for those in the emergency management profession – something she said could result in ways to help the public better.


Arsenault said she’s not sure if certification changes much day-to-day, but in an industry whose hallmark is moving from detailed planning for disasters to action in dealing with them, she said it should help.


“It’s been exciting,” she said.




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