1. #1
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    3

    Angry My sad experience dealing with the SAFER staff

    Now let me say one thing first..... what I am about to describe was not operator error and I am posting this now because it took me since Sunday to calm down!!!.

    I have done an AFG application every year and have not ever had this problem. I checked and double checked my grant narrative before clicking on the submit button. I had cut and pasted it from a Word Doc with no problems. After submitting it I went back in to print it out and found the last 3-4 paragraphs were missing. Yes I know that sounds like operator error.....but it was also missing several lines of type in the middle of the narrative....no way I could have done that.

    Yes I read on the Grant that once submitted there can be no changes.....however I thought that in the event of a computer error on their end they might be reasonable. So much for wishful thinking. I was told that there is no way their computer could change my narrative as "it only accepts what you put into it". Well on its face that is inaccurate as the program automatically changes font size, font style and removes things like bullet points.

    Several AFG people I talked to were adamant that the computer does not make mistakes. Then one AFG person asked for the password to our account so they could see what I was talking about. I gave it to them and they insisted my 10 letter&number combination was too long for their computer system. I explained I have been using this password since the inception of the program with no problems and was told I must be confused as that password is too long. He would not even try the password and I gave up in frustration. I am really shocked and saddened by the treatment I was given but my biggest fear is the blind faith these people have in their computer system.

    I will continue to use my 10 digit password that "doesn't work" and hope to have better luck next time around. Good luck to the rest of you.
    Last edited by Chief5200; 07-01-2005 at 10:10 PM.

  2. #2
    FH Mag/.com Contributor

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Cypress, TX
    Posts
    7,288

    Default

    Having been a Microsoft developer for many moons, and having had many a cut and paste fiasco, I can only speculate without seeing what you copied and pasted, so I'm not here to defend either side, just here to lend a hand.

    What gets pasted into the box on the application web page is plain text in Courier New, just like what shows up when we type replies in these forums. The more bullet points, italics, and odd fonts used in MS Word, the less likely is will copy and paste as expected into a web page. Depending on the settings of that narrative text box, if it doesn't recognize something, it ignores it. It can do font changes such as size, and make what was bold and italic normal, and even handle some bullet points, but not all. If your font was Times New Roman there shouldn't have been a problem with text disappearing. But, paragraph formatting also has it caveats, so the more indents, different spacing styles, etc, etc, it is possible something got dropped in the cut and paste.

    The people you had on the phone are far from computer experts, even back to the supervisors. That's the same with Helpdesks everywhere, including where I work. They only repeat what they have been told based on certain conditions, just like the cable TV people when I call about that, they ask me to check and see if it's on. Not because they think I'm standing there with the phone in one hand and the AC cord in the other, but because that's how their system is built. Ours is similar, we don't give anyone that talks to a customer on the phone enough information about how the system really works, so they don't tell them to do the wrong thing and kill massive amounts of data. They give it to us nerds to handle.

    It is possible that the password algorithm only uses 8 characters. It would be really odd, but I've seen worse functionality than that, so it may ignore the last two without you knowing it. Or anyone else knowing it for that matter.

    found the last 3-4 paragraphs were missing.
    If you were over the character limit, it would have done this. In which case, you needed to do a lot of cutting anyway. I'm sure they were the wrong parts, but this is why Word includes the Word and Character Counts in the Tools menu. It is our responsibility to keep checking such things.

    Again, this is all just speculation on my part since I don't have your narrative in hand, and I'm not trying to stir the pot, just pass out some info so people understand what could have happened here and how to avoid it. And no, I don't agree with how it appears to have been handled on their end either, they should have taken a step back and looked first at what you had put in and gone from there. They could have easily told you that you were over length on the narrative if that was the problem. I think you had front line support since them asking for your password to get into the app is odd. Most of the people there can bring it right up to view without it. They should have escalated it to someone else, but if you called Sunday, might not have been anyone there.

    And also knowing how the peer reviewers are, they err on the side of the applicant. If something got cut off in mid-sentence they will give the benefit of the doubt to the entire argument. Same with the last 3-4 paragraphs missing.

    If you want, shoot it over to me and I'll take a look from a nerd point of view and maybe be able to tell you more about what could have happened.

    If not, Good luck, and wander over to the July 1st forum, we've been drinking there since early this morning. It will help you relax

    - Brian

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    3

    Default

    Thanks for your review and input. It was done in plain text with no special fonts or bullets as I had seen in past years the program automatically deletes it. It was nowhere near over the limit and was very concise. It does cut the words off mid sentence and those last few paragraphs were my specific answers to the issues the narrative needed answers to, so I hold out no great hope that the peer reviewers can or will be generous.

  4. #4
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ktb9780's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Auburndale, FL
    Posts
    6,089

    Default

    bc79 makes a good point here with the paragraph formatting and indents, spacing etc. It apprently has something to do with their MS-Access database format they use. We had a devil of a time this year with budget narratives etc, accepting bullet point, tab spacingfor columns and the like. What was your actual "character count"? I am not positive but, I beleive it actaully counts characters and that would include spaces, tabs etc. ( bc79 is that correct or not?)

    We resolved the issue only by havig everyone actually "print" their narrative first, before submitting. I suspect, maybe wrongly so, that you were working the deadline too close and rushed to push the submit.

    I certainly can sympathize with oyu and have made many complaints myself regarding the archaic way that their databse operates but, it is better than the old paper trail they had.

  5. #5
    District Chief
    distchief60b's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2001
    Location
    Florida
    Posts
    6,413

    Default

    Chief....... I experienced a similar problem (entering information and it not being there when I checked). I contacted the help desk and they told me to open the properties file on my internet explorer and empty the history, empty the files and empty the cookies. Then close my application and reopen it. I did it and the information I entered was there. Apparently there is something in the system that will not display what you enter if the memory of those things is overloaded.

    I know this does not help you out now, but in the future try it.

    I totally understand your frustration.
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

  6. #6
    FH Mag/.com Contributor

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Cypress, TX
    Posts
    7,288

    Default

    Yes it counts tabs and spaces as characters. It's a throwback to mainframe days when everything counted.

  7. #7
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Location
    Western NY
    Posts
    209

    Default Word Count

    BC79er - The word count feature - When I typed our narrative for this year's proposal, I checked the word count in Word before I copied it into that part of the application. When I pasted it the counter in the FEMA app told me I was still over. The two word counters were coming up with different counts of words. The FEMA site allowed, if I remember correctly, almost 200 LESS words than Microsoft Word. I ended up editing the narrative right in the application, which I did NOT like doing at all. Anyways, I have to ask ... Is there anything you have NOT done? I'd love to have your knowledge. Kelly

  8. #8
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    3

    Default

    I will reiterate.... I was already aware it deleted different fonts, bullets, bold text etc. None of that was present and I was way under the limit on length. Most importantly all of the text was present when I was reviewing it before hitting the sumbit buton. It simply did not show up.

  9. #9
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Dec 2002
    Posts
    5

    Default Try this

    One thing that you can do is to type your narrative in word and then copy and paste it to notepad. This will get rid of any special formatting that Word may add. Then copy and paste from notepad into the browser. I know it's an extra step but I've always done that with anything I wanted to make sure went over correctly because I got burned once.

  10. #10
    MembersZone Subscriber

    Join Date
    Jul 1999
    Location
    DuBois, IL - just south of I-64 in the middle of the state
    Posts
    2,041

    Default

    As for password length, I use a 10 character password and have had no problems. They are all letters, no numbers. Maybe that makes a difference.
    Jack Boczek, Chief
    Ashley Community Fire Protection District

    FLATLANDERS FOREVER!

  11. #11
    FH Mag/.com Contributor

    Join Date
    Feb 2002
    Location
    Cypress, TX
    Posts
    7,288

    Default

    I missed the Access comment the first time around. Trojan is right, not by any stretch of the imagination are they using Access. It is either SQL Server or Oracle. I don't get paid to know Oracle, so I don't know the deep guts of it, but as far as data interaction they're identical anyway.

    Word Count is different than Character Count, which is what DHS uses. Word Count doesn't include spaces, Character Count does. Don't use Word Count.

  12. #12
    Forum Member
    RLFD14's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Posts
    562

    Default Re: Try this

    Originally posted by macavine
    One thing that you can do is to type your narrative in word and then copy and paste it to notepad. This will get rid of any special formatting that Word may add. Then copy and paste from notepad into the browser. I know it's an extra step but I've always done that with anything I wanted to make sure went over correctly because I got burned once.
    Was going to make the same point, more or less. I wrote our narrative in Notepad from the very beginning, which has no ability to use special fonts or formatting at all. In this way, there was nothing to "clean" out of it. When it was done, I copied the entire text (CTRL+A = select all without missing anything), pasted it into Word to do a character count (don't use word count, DHS counts characters and spaces), and after ensuring I was under the limit I went back to Notepad and recopied it to paste it into the application.

    The cleaner the source of the text, the safer (pun not intended) you'll be. Notepad makes it impossible to trip up over formatting/font headaches.
    You only have to be stupid once to be dead permanently
    - - - - - -
    I A C O J

  13. #13
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ktb9780's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Auburndale, FL
    Posts
    6,089

    Default

    That's what I love about the forums; I leran somehting new everytime I come in here. Nice to see that there are some computer tekkies in here occassionally for us, technologu challenged individuals. Thanks for the tips. Duly noted!

    KB

  14. #14
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    6

    Default Feel your pain

    Chief 5200 I feel your pain. I also had a rather bad experience with a help desk employee and, like you, it took me about 2 or 3 days to calm down.

    Several years ago I administered the grant my department won for SCBAs, facepieces, and cylinders, and we had spent all our money but approximately $3,500. In the 1 ½ years since we had originally applied for and won the grant, my department had hired, and placed on staff, 6 new firefighters for a new station that was under construction and I thought we could use this extra money for facepieces for them. I knew the rules stated that you could spend anything under $5,000 for the same category, but I thought I would call FEMA/DHS and get their “official” approval before buying. It went downhill from there.

    The FEMA/DHS employee I spoke to was a total jerk. For starters he didn’t ask for my application number, name, department name, address, etc. when he first came on the line; he simply wanted to know what I wanted to do with the left over money. Then when I told him, he said we couldn’t buy any additional facepieces beyond what we had been given on the original award. When I stated the guidance document allowed any remaining monies to be spent on the same category, his tone and demeanor changed and he started to act like I had something to hide. Only then did he ask me for the app. number, name, etc. Buy this time I was afraid I had screwed up our grant and I didn’t want to say anything more. He must have sensed this because he became talkative and asked question such as “Where is your city located in your state?” Thinking that he was trying to pry information from me, I avoided giving any direct answers. I had made the terrible mistake of calling from my second job (on my lunch break) so I didn’t have my notes, the program guidance document, etc. with me to read from to bolster my case.

    Don’t get me wrong, I know the FEMA/DHS employees are overworked, underpaid, and they deserve our full respect. They probably deal with some real dummies who are filling out and administering these grants and that, no doubt, can cause them to loose their patience. But they solve the problems and know the “rules” and we don’t (that’s why we call them in the first place). In my case, the FEMA employee could have used it as an opportunity to educate me about the process, but he didn’t. You and I deal with the public everyday and would you want your department to treat your citizens (customers) the way FEMA treated you and I? I don’t think so. All I ask for is a little bit of their time and respect. But I did learn one important lesson from my experience. I now do two things when I call FEMA/DHS. I have the application, my notes, etc. with me and I record the conversation.

  15. #15
    MembersZone Subscriber
    ktb9780's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Auburndale, FL
    Posts
    6,089

    Default

    Just one word of caution there Chief. Make sure if you are recording him that you tell the person that you are recording the conversation; you don't want a visit from the men with shiny bracelets. It also puts the guy you are talking to on notice to be courteous and helpful! LOL!

    KB

  16. #16
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Posts
    22

    Default WHO??

    I find that whenever I call ANY service organization, that I should get a name of whom I am talking to first... That always give me a point of reference when I feel I got poor service, bad or misleading information, and a basis to begin a complaint later.

    It's always easier to complain about bad service, but as with all argumements, there are two sides to a story. Unfortunately, we have heard only one side.... Support for the funding comes from attaboys, not o'**** stories!!!!

    Food for thought....

  17. #17
    Forum Member

    Join Date
    Apr 2004
    Posts
    6

    Default

    I wondered how long it would take for someone to write that you can’t record a phone conversation. After my episode with DHS, I asked a friend of mine, who is a police officer, if I could record a phone conversation. He said it was legal in our state as long as one person involved in the conversation (me) knew it was being done. Many people confuse recording with wiretapping. Wiretapping, which is illegal, is where neither person knows the conversation is being recorded. The website http://www.rcfp.org/taping/ is a good source of information about telephone taping if anyone wants to know more. Most state laws say if you are purposely trying to injury someone with the taping, it is not legal to record, but in my case, the sole reason is to protect myself (and the department I represent), not injury anyone.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be Mel Gibson’s character in “Conspiracy Theory” and think the government is out to get me and I’m not some disgruntled firefighter who’s department has been passed over time and time again for a grant while my neighbors spend like there is no tomorrow. But do I think the possibility exists that some career bureaucrat would finger a fire chief for not spending the money “right” in order to further (or keep) his career? Yeah….I think that could happen. How much sleep do you think the Chief of the Worth County, Georgia FD has lost over these past months (year)? I’m just advocating that those of us administering these grants document everything and have justification for every step you make in the grant process, especially the steps that spend the money.

    I give you this ktb9780, it probably is best to tell them up front that they are being taped. In either case, if you are indeed correct and it was illegal, I would rather have the tape to defend myself and then take my chances with a judge or jury on any illegal recording charge. If you tell the truth, and your adversary states they didn’t say it, when you produce the tape to back up your position, its amazing how people “remember” the truth…..or concede defeat. And at that point, very few would want to charge you with “illegally” recording them. Oh, and for the record ktb9780, when I called back to plead my department’s case again, and got the “official” OK to buy the masks, about half way through the conversation I heard in the background a very faint—almost unnoticeable—single beep.

    In my case 7peaks, I did get the name of the employee that I thought was rude to me so that when I did file my compliant, I had all the facts. And whether this is an o’**** story or not depends on your point of view, but I can almost guarantee that you wouldn’t want to be treated the way I or Chief 5200 got treated.

    And your right 7peaks, we (DHS and the fire service) are in this together. DHS tells us what we need to do to get—and spend—the money. And we tell our congressmen what a great program it is so it gets funded each and every year and all those at DHS keep their jobs. To ask them to be somewhat polite as they do their job isn’t too much……is it?

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts

Log in

Click here to log in or register