Women's History Month: Women in USFA

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An Element of Chance

Not surprisingly, many members of the USFA staff come to Emmitsburg as an extension of their fire service careers. But for others, being part of the USFA is more a result of happenstance than planning. There are key personnel who were essentially unaware of the fire service and/or the fire problem prior to coming to the National Emergency Training Center (NETC) in Emmitsburg, MD. In the beginning, they certainly never thought that their careers would lead them here.

Meredith Lawler

Local Gettysburg girl Meredith Lawler went off to college to study music, eventually earning both a bachelor’s and master’s degree. After college she was a freelance singer/performer in the Washington, D.C. area. She was doing what she loved but she also wanted some security in terms of income and benefits. She applied for a Federal position through the Outstanding Scholar Program and was called for an interview with the FEMA Office of the Inspector General (IG). The hiring official believed the discipline and analytical demands of music study could translate to IG work and Ms. Lawler soon found herself conducting studies of mitigation and flood insurance programs, as well as participating in an early assessment of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program. Several years later and looking for a new challenge, she applied for an opening with the USFA which brought her back home. �I always thought I could come back to this area at some point but I never thought it would be this soon.� Ms. Lawler is a Fire Program Specialist with the National Fire Data Center and now applies her analytical skills to USFA’s research and applied technology projects, in addition to learning new statistical analysis techniques for working with National Fire Incident Reporting System (NFIRS) data. And, yes, she continues to sing.

Maury Grundy

Taking a Federal job right out of college seemed like a good move for history major Maury Grundy. After a few years with the General Services Administration, she began a developmental internship with FEMA where she was introduced to FEMA programs in the Regions, at HQ, and eventually at NETC. It was during the NETC assignment that she negotiated for permanent placement with the USFA. Her job as a Fire Program Specialist allowed her to be creative and because of her personal interest in new technologies she saw the possibilities for USFA with the World Wide Web. Almost solely through her efforts, the USFA Website was launched in November 1995 and Ms. Grundy has been USFA’s Web content manager ever since. USFA’s award winning Website receives more than 10 million site visits annually and is the primary interface with our customers, outpacing all other USFA outreach combined.

Sandy Facinoli

Sandy Facinoli is a relatively new addition to the USFA. With a background in education, nutrition, and twenty years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, her connection to fire programs might not be immediately obvious. Tired of the daily Washington, D.C. commute, Ms. Facinoli explored Federal job opportunities outside the beltway and closer to her home in Frederick, MD. Although two years ago she was only vaguely aware of the USFA and the FEMA training facility in Emmitsburg, she is now USFA’s Branch Chief for Prevention and Information. Ms. Facinoli’s experience with national public education campaigns and library and information services fulfills a need at USFA.

You might not automatically think that an opera singer, history buff, or nutritionist would be a natural match for a career with the fire and emergency services but these women with their special abilities are key contributors to the success of USFA. Diversity in experience, skill, talent, and frame-of-reference keeps things fresh and current at the United States Fire Administration.