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FEMA Fire Grants

Posted: Nov. 17, 2022

On this episode, we talk with USFA fire program specialist Abby Bordeaux about 3 federal grants that help keep firefighters and communities safer. We also speak with a grant recipient about the grant process and how receiving the funding helped their community.

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Welcome to the USFA podcast, the official podcast of the U.S. Fire Administration. I'm your host Teresa Neal. No matter who you speak to within the fire and emergency medical services community, there is one need they all share — funding.

FEMA has been providing funding opportunities through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program or AFG. The primary goal of AFG is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and nonaffiliated emergency medical services organizations. Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critically needed equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources necessary for protecting the public and themselves.

On this episode, we'll speak to Abigail Bordeaux, fire program specialist at the USFA. Abby is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to grants. We will also speak to a grant recipient about the grant process and how receiving the funding helped their community.

Teresa Neal: But let's start with Abby. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Abby Bordeaux: Sure, so I've been working for FEMA since 2013 and started with the Grant Programs Directorate down in D. C. So, I have quite a bit of experience working at the headquarters area and then more specifically — in the fire grant programs — at one point I was the section chief for the staffing for adequate fire and emergency response and fire prevention and safety grant programs. And then a couple years ago I transitioned to United States Fire Administration, where I'm working in fire prevention but still work as a liaison to the grants office.
Teresa Neal: So, let's talk about grants. What types of needs do you see that departments have?
Abby Bordeaux: Many I can say, and we see a lot of similarities. However, there are unique needs for different types of departments, whether they're rural or urban or suburban. But generally, we see needs for information resources that may explain or help citizens learn about a particular part of fire prevention and safety, so those would be information resources. Training needs, of course — every fire department wants to make sure their members are trained. Staffing needs — so this could be in a career or combo department. Budget needs. And then, of course, equipment needs.
Teresa Neal: And how might the fire and EMS departments have those needs met?
Abby Bordeaux: Well, there's a lot of free resources that are available, certainly in the scope of training. A lot of courses are available either online through various fire service partners and, of course, through the National Fire Academy here on campus, or the NFA online.
There's also United States Fire Administration's website — hosts a huge amount of resources and through our publication center, and those are free of cost. And then also other fire service partners can provide free resources, or some are paid resources, of course.
And then in terms of equipment, if a fire department needs a certain type of equipment, they can purchase those directly from the manufacturer. And some states even have state or county inventories, which fire departments can have access to. And then there are some used equipment, sales, and trades, where a fire department could pay less than the market price for those needs.
Some other ways where the fire department might be able to access not just items or training, but actual cash, would be through the annual budget process, through fundraising. We know a lot of fire departments host different types of breakfasts and things like that, donations often — EMS Billing is a common one we see.
Certainly, fire departments can access loans. Those are typically for larger procurements. And then finally, federal grants. That's one way to fund certain items within a fire and EMS department.
Teresa Neal: And what is a federal grant?

A federal grant is money that either a state or a local fire department can receive from the federal government, and that money is intended for public use — activities which may promote general safety or the welfare of citizens.

Abby Bordeaux: A federal grant is money that either a state or a local fire department can receive from the federal government, and that money is intended for public use — activities which may promote general safety or the welfare of citizens. So that's just the general idea of a federal grant. Within the overarching category of a federal grant, there are 2 types of grants.
Those which are direct, which means that money goes directly to an agency such as a fire department. And then there are also grants that are called pass-through grants, and these types of grants, while beyond the scope of today's podcast, go to a larger entity such as a state, and then eventually, that funding gets subdivided into smaller amounts to different agencies within the state's purview.
Teresa Neal: So, organizations within the state would then apply to their state for those grants?
Abby Bordeaux: Yes, that's correct.
Teresa Neal: What kind of grants could a fire department get?

FEMA has 3 types of fire grant programs available for fire departments. Each year between 2- and 3,000 grants are directly awarded to fire departments.

Abby Bordeaux: FEMA has 3 types of fire grant programs available for fire departments. Each year between 2- and 3,000 grants are directly awarded to fire departments. Although some of these grants may require a cost-share, which generally means that the department has to pay a small percentage of the overall cost of the proposed project.
Teresa Neal: Can I ask you one question about that?
Abby Bordeaux: Sure.
Teresa Neal: So, is that percentage based off of how big the department is or the community they serve?
Abby Bordeaux: Somewhat, yes; it is that. And then also based on the type of project it is — which specific grant program it falls under. There's 25 or 5%, it depends.
Teresa Neal: I just think that sometimes small departments say, “Well, we could never afford the cost share for a grant,” which could cause them to not want to apply for one. But I know you may be getting to it later, but I know that there's ways the government helps with that as well.
Abby Bordeaux: There is, and I can actually answer that now. For any department, whether small or large, that is facing a financial difficulty, there is a cost-share waiver process available in which we look at income, socioeconomic status, aspects of what it is in your community that's causing a financial hardship, and we do take that into consideration. And some departments do have that cost-share waived, and in that case, the federal government would fund the entire project of your grant.
Teresa Neal: So, assistance to firefighter grants, is that the umbrella of all grants that we're speaking about today, or is it a specific category?
Abby Bordeaux: Well, it's kind of both. It would not be incorrect to refer to all 3 of these grants as Assistance of Firefighters Grants. But within that, there is one that is actually called that, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program, or we would call it AFG.
Teresa Neal: And what does that involve, AFG?
Abby Bordeaux: It's certainly the most popular in terms of — we get the most applications for that grant program, sometimes between 10,000 to 12,000 per year. But as I mentioned before, we do award between 2- and 3,000 total awards per year. But going back to more specifics about the AFG program:
It is a program in which you can acquire items such as SCBA or turnout gear. But we do also allow projects requesting wellness programs for firefighters. And then another one, which is not too common but is allowable — and that would be — building modifications such as installing ventilation systems for your bays. And then the last kind of major area within AFG would be vehicles such as engines or tankers and ladders.
Teresa Neal: When you talk about the items that are allowable, I see I'm looking at a pattern. So, it's about how to equip the firefighters, but then also to keep them safe.
Abby Bordeaux: Absolutely.
Teresa Neal: That's really what those grants modify. Because even if they're doing a station modification, isn't that the exhaust that one of those which also has to do with safety of the firefighter.
Abby Bordeaux: Those 2 things are exactly what these programs were made to do.
Teresa Neal: There's another one — it's called SAFER. So, what is SAFER?
Abby Bordeaux: SAFER stands for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response. So, career combo and volunteer departments can all apply for a SAFER grant. Now it may look different — what they're awarded based on — the type of department they are.
For example, career and combination departments can apply for these to have the salary and benefits for — it could be 1 firefighter position, or it could be 5, or some larger cities may request more. So, they are actually just getting the salary and benefits, whereas combination and volunteer departments can apply for a wider variety of items. So, it could be a retention project, it could be stipends or incentives or tuition reimbursement for your volunteer firefighters, or the costs of recruitment and advertising and training, just as an example.
Teresa Neal: The Fire Commissioner for Philadelphia, Adam Thiel, said that when they weren't comparing their data — you know data is important even when you're doing a grant, and that for years the city wasn't monitoring that well, which caused them to close some fire departments. And once they went back and looked — and really did a review and analysis of their data, they should never have closed those fire departments. So, they had to come back and go through SAFER to at least start getting themselves back on their feet of having those areas staffed again.
Abby Bordeaux: Yeah, that's actually a fantastic example. And really the whole purpose of the SAFER grant program is to increase a fire department's ability to comply with staffing response and operational standards in NFPA 1710 or 1720, depending on the type of fire department.
Teresa Neal: The last one is the fire prevention and safety grants. And I think this was one area that you worked in pretty extensively. So, what about these grants?
Abby Bordeaux: The fire prevention and safety grants or FPS, as we often call them, are really an untapped potential. It is probably the least popular, if I could speak in terms of how many applications are received. A couple hundred per year is really all. The bucket of money is certainly smaller. It's only 10% of the overall AFG funded amount each year, but it does have the potential to have huge impacts.
Within this grant program you can apply for a number of categories, and I'll just go through them quickly: community risk reduction, code enforcement and awareness, arson investigation, national, state, and regional projects, and then research and development. One that I really want to just mention here — and — is community risk reduction.
One activity that you can apply for underneath this category, is for a community risk assessment. And in subsequent years you could apply for whatever that risk assessment identifies as needing mitigation in your community. You can then apply in later years for the funding to fill those gaps or those needs. It's a great way for fire chiefs to understand what their true risks are beyond just a fire risk, but an entire comprehensive community risk.
Teresa Neal: What can a fire and EMS department request to buy with the grant funding? You said under AFG they can get trucks? What other things — they're standing up a fire investigation program, and they need the materials to do that. Is that something that they would request?
Abby Bordeaux: Yeah, certainly within fire prevention and safety — that would be the grant program for this particular project that you mentioned — sounds like it might be falling underneath arson investigation. We do provide through this program, all the personal protective equipment that someone might need for that and other devices — that someone might need.
We certainly want to focus on the safety of the personnel, including also training those personnel. Especially if it's a new type of function within your fire department or entity. So absolutely, that's something that could be requested. Okay, so I do want to turn quickly back to the AFG — grant program — and give a good example.
So, say we have one department and another department. The first department has turnout gear that's 12 years old, and they're still using it, but it's outdated. And then we have another department that has turnout gear that's 18 years old. They're actually going to have higher priority over the other department.
They could both have a need, but based on certain data, meeting certain NFPA codes, for example, the one department would get it over the other. So, there's a lot of considerations, but all of those are included in the notice as a funding opportunity. So those are the same for everybody and available online.
Teresa Neal: And what are the general timelines for grants?
Abby Bordeaux: It's about a 9-to-10-month application process.
Teresa Neal: Let's just say you start in January. You may be funded and not receive it until September.
Abby Bordeaux: Correct. All awards are always made by September and that happens to be, if you're familiar with federal fiscal years, they do all have to be made by Sept. 30th each year, sometimes a little sooner. But generally, the AFG — grant application opens first, usually sometime October, November, December and then after that Assistance to Firefighters Grant application closes — about 30 days they're open — then the next 2 grant programs will run. The United States Fire Administration does post those open-season dates on our website. But the best place to always get that is on the FEMA grants' website and that is
As of Sept. 28, 2022, FEMA has made 2,012 awards totaling $720.7 million in fiscal year 2021.
Teresa Neal: And do you have any tips you could give to departments that may be thinking about applying for a grant? Besides, apply often — apply every year no matter what. You should apply every year.
Abby Bordeaux: Well, that is true, and certainly I have heard that in the past. Someone saying, “I didn't get one last year,” and I just want to encourage those who maybe have applied, or this may be your first time; you might not get it your first year — just like you know — any type of program. But as more and more fire departments that are applying receive funding for their projects, they no longer need those things. And so, in a way, your application does tend to start to rise. So, a lot of folks ask whether or not they have to have a grant writer.
They say, well, I'm not familiar with writing grants. But I do want to encourage you that it's not necessary to have a grant writer. The way — that our application is now — it's pretty fluid and you can follow along pretty easily. There are certainly folks that will help you along the process and the grants' website does host a lot of webinars to walk you through each step-by-step process in the application. And then there's also support after you receive a grant with all those new elements that you have to do, and the guidelines that you have to follow.
Teresa Neal: FEMA is broken up into 10 regions. And so, I hear that there are also fire program specialists like you and I, but they are specific for grants in each region. Are they the first line of defense that they should go to?
Abby Bordeaux: They certainly are. The headquarters component, which is — as I had mentioned earlier — is where I came from, is really responsible for those large programmatic decisions on the grander scale, and the fire program specialists that are out in the FEMA 10 regions really do have a one-on-one relationship with all their grant recipients.
They also hold webinars, and they will make special visits to you guys if you're needing extra help in understanding if you're actually following the right rules. And they're able to help troubleshoot in many ways. And there's also a list on that website I mentioned before. On the left-hand column, you'll see there is a list of regional grant fire program specialists, and you can access whichever region you're in there — and they are really excited to help.
Teresa Neal: These are also the ones that they can troubleshoot to get you through to the next part.
Abby Bordeaux: They are experts in every way about these grant programs. If those fire grant specialists out in the region don't know an answer, they are very good at reaching directly back to headquarters and making sure that we're all aligned and can give you the best help that you need.
Teresa Neal: Great, so is there anything else you'd like to add, Abby?
Abby Bordeaux: Well, I hope that you will apply. It could sound or seem a little bit daunting to begin with, but I do want to assure anyone who's listening, if you have not applied for an Assistance to Firefighters Grant in the past, or it's been some time, that all of us here at FEMA that are interacting with grants really do want you to be successful.
Teresa Neal: Thank you so much.
Teresa Neal: So now we're going to speak to somebody who has received a grant. This is Rebecca Clarke. She's a community outreach risk-reduction specialist from Poudre Fire Authority at Fort Collins, Colorado. Welcome to the podcast, Rebecca, can you tell me a little bit about your department?
Rebecca Clarke: Yeah, thank you for having me, Teresa. So, Poudre Fire Authority covers a 230 square- mile area. We have a population of about 212,000. Inside of that we also have a population that's changing between 18- to 25,000 a year because we have Colorado State University's Art District as well. We have 14 stations, 12 of which are staffed full time.
We have an amazing fire prevention and community outreach division: The Tenant Environment Fire Marshal. We have 10 part-time inspectors. We have 4 assistant fire marshals. We have our deputy fire marshal. And then we have our CORR team, which is what we call our Community Outreach and Risk Reduction team.
So, between all of that, we have approximately 24,000 calls per year, and so we're growing. Greater northern Colorado is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation. We're learning, and we're adapting as we go.
Teresa Neal: So, on this episode, we've discussed the Assistance to Firefighter Grant program, and I know you've received a grant. Can you tell us a little bit about the grant that you received and the process?
Rebecca Clarke: Yes, so I was really excited to learn about the FPS, the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant through FEMA. So, I applied for it because we started something called the Home Safety Project. What it does is — it encompasses most aspects of home safety.
And we have a lot of urban — and we also have a lot of suburban and rural areas as well. So, through that we wanted to focus on these homes with different aspects. We ran a community risk assessment on our area and through that we learned that we had a very large dependent population. So, adults over age 65 and children under age 18. And so, we wrote for the grant to target that senior population, because these were people that built their homes in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
And now they are aging in place because they're priced out of the market. So, we knew going in — because I was doing home safety visits — that a lot of them had expired smoke alarms. We were also responding to 70 to 100 calls per year for chirping —alarms — because of batteries needing to be replaced. And before we got this grant, our firefighters would go in and they would replace the batteries and say, “Hey, you need new alarms.”
And so, when I found out about the FPS grant, I wrote it to focus on this senior population with expired smoke alarms or with battery-operated alarms because we wanted to change them all to the 10-year worry-free alarms. Because we wanted to be able to show that we're responding to fewer calls for chirping batteries. We had less falls in our senior community — as they didn't have to get up on ladders anymore and change the batteries.

I made one really big mistake when I started writing this grant, and all I can say is, really make sure you read the NOFO…

Rebecca Clarke: So, we wrote it for that. We wrote it so that they would be able to have worry-free for at least 10 years. And so, then the process — I have a background in English education and so for me, writing probably comes more easily than it does to other people. I made one really big mistake when I started writing this grant, and all I can say is, really make sure you read the NOFO because in it, I read the different sections all have counts that you're not allowed to go over. And I read it too quickly and thought it was 4,000 words.
In reality, it was 4,000 characters. So, I spent all this time writing these perfect, perfect — well, I mean — to me they seem pretty good narratives for all the different sections and then went to go plug them in to the grant website, and I kept getting these red flags, and I couldn't figure out why. Like I made sure that my word count — and then I reread them NOFO. And was like “Oh, it's characters. Okay then.”
So, then the night before — because I only found out about the FPS grant 10 days before the deadline. My fire marshal was like, “Rebecca, you really should apply for this so that you can get smoke alarms.” Like yes, I should. So, for 10 days I made this my priority, and I worked on the narratives. I had our CRA, so I already knew all of our demographic information to use for the grant.

If you have a CRA and you're trying to write for a grant, you stand such a better chance, because you're able to paint that picture of why you need it.

— Rebecca Clarke
Teresa Neal: Yeah, you've used your data to actually explain what your problem is. Instead of saying, well, everybody is getting smoke alarms, so maybe I should — need smoke alarms — when you may not. You know, I know a lot of people do, but you may not.
Rebecca Clarke: Exactly and — and that's why I loved our CRA, and we were lucky that we went through the NFPA pilot program and were able to get a complete CRA through that. And so, I was able to say our seniors are located in this area, and the average year that this home was built was 1998, which means that their alarms are 20-to-22 years old.
And so, I was really able to use the CRA to narrow it down. And when I was writing the grant, I actually gave the example of 4 targeted neighborhoods that through our CRA we were able to prove had very large dependent populations in those areas — that their homes were 20-plus years old and that we had responded for chirping batteries.
A lot of times some of the seniors are great, and they call every 6 months or every year to change their batteries and so, using that CRA, when I was writing my grant, I was able to show with the data — this is why I want to do this — this is how we will mitigate this — and I think that really improved my chances of getting the grant.
Teresa Neal: Yeah, I would think so as well. And so, what impact has it had on your department?
Rebecca Clarke: So, it's funny because my boss, the fire marshal was like, “Rebecca write this.” I'm like, “Okay.” And then we waited to find out. And so, we didn't really — the command staff, the fire chief, they kind of forgot all about it. So, then all of a sudden, I get the award letter for $90,000. And they're like, “Wait, what are we doing?”
They're like, “This looks like a really big process,” and so, then I had to meet with all the command staff, and I had my little proposal of how we were going to do it with our timeline of this is how many home-safety visits I need to do per week and per month so that we're able to distribute all of these throughout the 1 year of the grant period. And at first — they were like — this is going to be really overwhelming that I don't know if you can handle this — and I was like — let me show you how I can.
So that really helped because we went from having — in 2020 — we responded to 78 calls for chirping alarms. And then in 2021, the first half of the year we'd already responded to over 40 for chirping alarms. And then we got the grant in August; we rolled out in September and instead of just responding for chirping alarms, now when we would get a call for chirping alarms, we'd go through me, and I would go and change out all their smoke alarms with the 10-year worry-free ones.
So, we actually only had 7 calls for chirping alarms because we pushed this out to our senior population like crazy — through social media, through next door. Our town collaborated with us on the commercial that they were running on their local stations, and then word-of-mouth. As soon as one senior — I changed the alarms in their house — I would get a call from 10 of their friends.
I went through like 500 business cards in 3 months, and it was just great. And our calls for batteries went down because, instead, we were being proactive and going into their homes and replacing all of their alarms with the worry-free ones that have the built-in batteries.
Teresa Neal: My other question was what was the impact on your community? But you kind of talked about that, but can you talk a little bit about how that interaction with this high-risk group went. You know, I'm sure that the fact that you went through 500 business cards — that shows that they want to be able to have that connection and they want to be able to have someone to call if there's an issue, but also that they trust you. I mean, you don't ask for business cards from people or let people into your home if you don't trust them.
Rebecca Clarke: You're right. The reception from it was amazing. And not that I need accolades, but this high-risk population loves to write letters. And so, our fire chief was getting multiple letters and emails all, “Oh my gosh, Rebecca was so great. She did such a good job, and she was so professional and thank you guys for having this grant program.” A few people would be like, “So, you're telling me it's really free?” They're like, “But what's the catch?” I'm like, “There's not a catch. We just want you to have good smoke alarms, but for free.”
Teresa Neal: Right.
Rebecca Clarke: Yes, it's for free. And I'm like we got this grant from FEMA that allows us to do this. It's completely free. And so, the reception for this high-risk population was amazing. They loved the peace of mind. It'd be so great when I would go into homes that still had both spouses and the husband would be like, “Yeah, she doesn't want me getting on a ladder anymore.” And I'm like, “Well, I agree with her.”
Teresa Neal: Right.
Rebecca Clarke: “I'd much rather me be on the ladder than you be on a ladder.”

…the impact on this high-risk senior population has been great because we're reducing the need for them to change their batteries, period. We're reducing the number of nuisance alarms that they get, and they have such a greater peace of mind.

Rebecca Clarke: So, the impact on this high-risk senior population has been great because we're reducing the need for them to change their batteries, period. We're reducing the number of nuisance alarms that they get, and they have such a greater peace of mind. And one of the things that I wanted to be able to collect during this grant period was data because I love data.
So, I actually created this form that I would fill out at every home-safety visit I went with that had demographic information as well, so I'd have — you know — how old are you? Is anybody a veteran? And friends suggested the veteran status in case I wanted to write for a grant through —
Teresa Neal: The VA.
Rebecca Clarke: The VA, yeah exactly, I could say, “Hey I went into these houses and 42% of them were veterans.” And then it said, does the house meet the minimum requirements for smoke alarms? And for me — and that means are they expired or working? Do they all have batteries if they require batteries? And are they all plugged in? And 80% of the homes that I was going into did not meet the minimum requirements for smoke alarms.
Teresa Neal: It's not too surprising, but it is very sad, especially for that demographic, because we know there's things that cause them to be more susceptible if there is a fire, to not making it out.
Rebecca Clarke: They are the highest risk for fire fatalities.
Teresa Neal: Right.
Rebecca Clarke: You know they are the highest risk for fire fatalities, and that's why I really wanted to target this group because they need those alarms. We also wrote into the grant for a certain number of the alarms for hearing impaired. So that we could replace them all with the strobes and with the shakers. I know of 3 families in our district that were hard- of-hearing. They were hearing impaired. And so that's why that — to me — was super important as well because I wanted to choose these 2 high-risk groups that I could then go in and make their homes safer.
So, this one home that I went into — She, her brother up in Larimer, which is north of where we are. He had perished in a house fire the week before — it's him and his wife and their 2 kids; they had a fire in their home. And they think that he didn't realize everybody else was out, and he went back in. And he ended up perishing in the fire.
And this woman called me in a panic because her brother didn't have any working smoke alarms in his house. And she was a single mom, so she wasn't the 65, but she was a single mom who had, over time, taken down 4 out of her 7 smoke alarms. And she's like, “I don't even know if the ones that I got are still going.”
So, I asked my chief, “I'm like hey, this can come out of my budget — you know — since we can't use the grant for this, but I'd really like replace these smoke alarms for this lady that just experienced this loss.” And so, they said, “Yes, go do it.” So, I go into her house. And out of the 7 smoke alarms, she'd replaced 4. One didn't have a battery. One, the harness wasn't connected. And only 1 out of the 7 was connected with a battery.
And that's what hits me. Not only was I collecting this data — I had this numerical, this qualitative data, that I could show these homes that have met the minimum requirements for smoke or CO alarms, and this was the average age of the home that I went into. This was the average age of the homes —you know — the average age of the residents.
I was also tracking how many people lived in the home, and then what we installed and what we did. But it's that experience, that narrative of — you know — what these people replaced. Because I did a narrative in every single one, so I could say this is what I did, this is what I found. So afterward, I'd be able to say this is the difference it's making.
Teresa Neal: Right.
Rebecca Clarke: Because I want to write for more grants.
Teresa Neal: Right.
Rebecca Clarke: I want to keep installing hardwired, interconnected 10-year alarms. So, I want to say, “Look how good we did, please give me more so I can continue to do this.” Because sadly, there's 10,000 people per day turning 65.
Teresa Neal: Right.
Rebecca Clarke: That is a large population.
Teresa Neal: Yes.
Rebecca Clarke: And that is a large high-risk population. And if I can continue to show why my program is working then, hopefully, that means I can continue to get more grants and continue serving this population.
Teresa Neal: My last question to you is, what advice would you give anyone thinking about applying for a grant?

Know your community. Start with a community risk assessment.

Rebecca Clarke: Know your community. Start with a community risk assessment. Make sure you understand your community because one of the questions on there is tell us about this demographic or tell us about your community. And you don't want to have to just lie.
Teresa Neal: Wing it. Yeah.
Rebecca Clarke: Yeah, exactly. You don't want to wing it; you don't want to lie. You want to have that empirical data that says we have a 71% dependent population, you know, and we have the average age of homes in our district is 1998. So, you want to be able to prove that. So have a CRA because that's going to give you a lot of the information that you need to do it.
And then, write your narratives, in Word first, that's what I did. So, I wrote every single narrative in Word first, once I realized that I needed a part —
Teresa Neal: 4,000 characters, not words.
Rebecca Clarke: Yes, which is hard because I had everything outlined, and it flowed, and then I was like, “Oh my gosh.” So instead of writing o-n-e, because I'm an English major and you're supposed to spell out o-n-e, I found every instance of that, and I changed it to the number 1.
And so, for me, when I turned it in, I was like, oh it like hurts my English Major brain, but write it in Word, that way you'll catch all of your spelling mistakes, your grammatical mistakes. You can do the character count really easily; you just select it. So, write it in Word first. Make sure you're constantly saving. So do in Word so that you can have that spell check, that narrative.
And then when you think you've got it, send it out to somebody to look at. Two pairs of eyes, 3 pairs of eyes, makes such a difference; because and first off, read it through yourself so that it makes sense to you and then send it off to whoever you can to have them read through it as well. And that way they might find something that you missed, or they might say you could word this a little bit better. So that really helps — is having a second set of eyes on it.

…don't wait until the very last minute to submit it because things can happen.

Rebecca Clarke: So have a CRA so that you know a good picture, so you can prove your point and then write it in Word, have somebody else look at it. And then, don't wait until the very last minute to submit it because things can happen. I got locked out of my FEMA account. So, don't wait until the last minute because sometimes technology fails, but it was really easy after I got back in. I just copy-pasted all of my narratives into each section of it.
Teresa Neal: Well, thank you so much Rebecca. I think that your experience is really going to be helpful for other people who are thinking about grants.
Rebecca Clarke: One other thing I forgot is, when you're writing that grant, have your stuff ready. So, for me for what I was asking for — I was asking for smoke alarms. So, make sure you're including in that the exact materials, and if you know your materials, it's going to come across as you write it a lot better. So, know what it is you're asking for, know those prices, know how many that equates to.
Don't just be like, “Oh, we want 5,000 smoke alarms.” Instead, I said I want this many smoke alarms, this many CO alarms, because that means, in an average home it has 7 in our community has 5 to 7, so I would need probably 4 smoke alarms and 3 dual alarms. So instead of just saying “I want 5,000 of this,” I said, “I need this because the average home has this, which means I would need these ones.”
So really show that instead of just saying “I want 5,000 smoke alarms” be like, “If I have this amount of smoke and CO alarms, and the average is 7 with 4 smoke alarms and 3 CO alarms, that means I can get into X amount of houses.”
Teresa Neal: Great, well thank you again Rebecca and I'm sure you're going to get many questions after this airs as well.
Rebecca Clarke: No, I love it. I love to help. If we cannot always reinvent the wheel, I'm 100% about collaboration and sharing — is how I got to do what I do.

Thank you for listening to the USFA Podcast and thank you again to our guests Abigail Bordeaux and Rebecca Clarke. If you want to learn more about grants, go to .

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