Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

28 Nov 2023, 11:47 a.m.

Free Online Classes From FEMA

My country's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a bunch of free independent study online classes. I started poking around and there's some neat stuff in there.

You can read all the material for free online, and only need to create a free login if you want to take the exams. Some of these just fascinate me because I love learning about preparedness so I can be a more prepared person. I think fiction authors, game designers, roleplaying Game Masters/Dungeon Masters, and similarly imaginative folks could get a lot out of digging into these.

Caution that some of the material is more abstract like "Here Are The Nine Principles You Will Be Tested On". Like, "IS-2901: Introduction to Community Lifelines" is expected to take an hour to complete, and tells you:

Community Lifelines are the most fundamental elements in the community (e.g. fire, police, hospitals, gas, etc.) that enable a functioning society. The stabilization of these elements are crucial to supporting the day-to-day needs of the community....

and lists out the seven Comunity Lifelines: Safety and Security; Food, Water, Shelter; Health and Medical; Energy; Communications; Transportation; and Hazardous Materials. So, that might be a good jumping-off point for further thinking, but don't necessarily expect in-depth concrete how-to guidance from the shorter classes.

Each course has an time estimate which correlates to how many Continuing Education Units professionals get for passing the test. 1 hour means 0.1 CEUs.

Here's the giant list of courses.

Courses that make me want to nerd out for the sake of nerding out:

  • IS-66: Preparing the Nation for Space Weather Events: 0.2 CEUs
  • IS-111.A: Livestock in Disasters: 0.4 CEUs
  • IS-5.A: An Introduction to Hazardous Materials: 1 CEU
  • IS-912: Retail Security Awareness: Understanding the Hidden Hazards [0.1 CEUs]: "to make persons involved in commercial retail operations aware of the actions they can take to identify and report suspicious purchases or thefts of products that actors could use in terrorist or other criminal activities." I started skimming the materials and that's how I learned of the Bomb-Making Materials Awareness Program (BMAP) which "focuses on restricting access by malicious actors to explosive precursor chemicals, explosive powders, exploding target materials, associated components, and delivery methods."

Courses that I may take because I predict they'd help me in my job or volunteering (like with the open defibrillator data initiative):

  • IS-244.B: Developing and Managing Volunteers: 0.4 CEUs
  • IS-200.C: Basic Incident Command System for Initial Response, ICS-200: 0.4 CEUs
  • IS-235.C: Emergency Planning: 0.5 CEUs
  • IS-317.A: Introduction to Community Emergency Response Team (CERTs): 0.2 CEUs, and a prerequisite to IS-315.A: CERT and the Incident Command System (ICS): 0.2 CEUs (more about CERT; NYC CERT's next training round starts in early February 2024, as I understand)
  • IS-915: Protecting Critical Infrastructure Against Insider Threats: 0.1 CEUs
  • IS-368.A: Including People With Disabilities in Disaster Operations: 0.2 CEUs ("full inclusion of disaster survivors and FEMA staff who are people with disabilities")
  • IS-909: Community Preparedness: Implementing Simple Activities for Everyone: 0.1 CEUs
  • IS-120.C: An Introduction to Exercises: 0.3 CEUs

I hope I won't ever need these, but won't it be handy to know them if I do:

  • IS-505: Concepts of Religious Literacy for Emergency Management: 0.4 CEUs
  • IS-406: Operating a Shelter: 0.5 CEUs
  • IS-360: Preparing for Mass Casualty Incidents: A Guide for Schools, Higher Education, and Houses of Worship: 0.3 CEUs

(Also, there are multiple courses on how to respond to an active shooter, so I may poke around and figure out whether any of them make sense for me to read.)

Based on the one course I've checked out, the self-paced independent study materials are properly accessible (mostly text, with transcripts and captions for the few video clips), with little multiple-choice knowledge check quizzes interspersed to help you check your knowledge. And instead of clicking through a hundred little webpages, it's usually possible to step through a few of them and then get to a an all-in-one printable page of the entire course (example). For some it's not, and I may follow up on this Ask MetaFilter thread I started about it.

Materials EMI produces are in the public domain, so, by default, these courses are public domain as well. A few mention in their descriptions that the materials include copyrighted materials.

FEMA offers these independent study courses via one of its three training orgs: its Emergency Management Institute at the National Emergency Training Center (NETC), which also offers in-person classes. Seems unlikely I'll ever take one in person, but who knows where my life will lead!