Since 2001, the federal government has allocated billions of grant dollars annually for the purposes of reinforcing critical infrastructure and enhancing the safety and capabilities of emergency response agencies nationwide. Although hundreds of smaller state and corporate grant opportunities are also available each year, by far the largest pool of grant funds can be found within the Federal Fire Act grant programs, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Fire Act grants are awarded to fire departments, and in some cases “non-affiliated” EMS agencies, for the purposes of enhancing their ability to protect the public and emergency personnel.
Three types of Fire Act grants are available: Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER), and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S). Each opportunity focuses on a different operational area; thus, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of program eligibility requirements, allowable activities, local cash match, due dates and other grant details. Let’s take a closer look at the three Fire Act grants. (The majority of the following information was taken directly from the issuing agencies’ Web sites to ensure these opportunities are accurately presented.)
Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG)
Next application period: Spring 2008
The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) is to meet the firefighting and emergency response needs of fire departments and non-affiliated EMS organizations. Since 2001, AFG has helped firefighters and other first responders to obtain critical equipment, protective gear, emergency vehicles, training and other resources needed to protect the public and emergency personnel from fire and fire-related hazards.
The National Preparedness Directorate in FEMA administers the grants in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration (USFA). For fiscal year 2005, Congress reauthorized AFGs for an additional five years through 2010. Eligible activities for AFG will correspond to two categories: vehicle acquisition and/or operations and safety. Here are two examples of “activities” eligible under AFG:
Operations and Safety Activity: Training, equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE), wellness and fitness, and modifications to stations and facilities.
Vehicle Acquisition Activity: For fire departments, this includes but isn’t limited to, pumpers, brush/attack units, tanker/tenders, rescue vehicles, ambulances, quints, aerials, foam trucks and fireboats. For non-affiliated EMS organizations, this is for ambulances, rescue and command vehicles, but not firefighting apparatus.
According to the 2007 guidance document for the AFG, a “non-affiliated EMS organization” is defined as a public or private non-profit EMS organization that provides direct emergency medical services, including medical transport, to a specific geographic area on a first-due basis but is not affiliated with a hospital and does not serve a geographic area where emergency medical services are adequately provided by a fire department.
Fire departments or non-affiliated EMS organizations operating in any of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico are eligible for AFG funding.
In making the determination regarding “adequately provided,” DHS will conclude that any non-affiliated EMS organization would be eligible if it is “adequately providing” direct emergency medical services at the time of application submission and is in good standing with the community, i.e., licensed and/or chartered to provide EMS care to the community. Rescue squads that provide direct emergency medical services, including medical transport, to the community they serve are eligible to apply as non-affiliated EMS organizations.
“Not affiliated with a hospital” means that the applying organization doesn’t receive any kind of direct support from a hospital in the form of funding, facilities, staff, equipment or apparatus. Contracting with a hospital on a fee-for-service basis would not constitute an “affiliation” in the context of AFG. Also, for the purposes of the AFG, a “hospital” is defined as an organization, clinic, medical center, medical college or university, infirmary, surgery center, or any other institution, association or foundation that provides medical, surgical or psychiatric care and treatment for the sick or injured.
Staffing for Adequate Fire &
Emergency Response (SAFER)
Next application period: Summer 2008
The SAFER grant was created to provide funding directly to fire departments and volunteer firefighter interest organizations to help increase the number of trained, frontline firefighters available in their communities. The goal of SAFER is to enhance local fire departments’ abilities to comply with staffing, response and operational standards established by NFPA and OSHA (NFPA 1710 and/or NFPA 1720 and OSHA 1910.134).
Specifically, SAFER funds should help local fire departments increase staffing and deployment capabilities for emergency response. As a result of the enhanced staffing, response times should be sufficiently reduced with an appropriate number of personnel assembled at the incident scene. Also, the enhanced staffing should ensure all frontline/first-due apparatus of SAFER grantees have a minimum of four trained personnel to meet the OSHA standards referenced above. Ultimately, a faster, safer and more efficient incident scene will be established and communities will have more adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. Examples of eligible activities include:
Hiring of Firefighters Activity: The goal is to award grants directly to volunteer, combination and career fire departments to help increase the number of frontline, active firefighters and ensure the department has adequate personnel to respond to and safely perform at an incident scene, thus providing the community protection from fire and fire-related hazards.
This activity provides five-year grants to assist fire departments in paying a portion of the salaries of newly hired firefighters. These new positions must be in addition to currently authorized and/or funded active firefighter positions. Grantees are required to match an increasing proportion of the salary awarded over a four-year period; in the fifth year of the grant, the grantee must absorb the entire cost of any positions awarded because of the grant. The federal share of salaries and associated benefits is limited to a total of $105,425 per position over the course of the performance period.
There’s no funding limit for any application or a limit to the number of positions eligible for funding per application. However, applicants requesting large numbers of firefighters must make a strong case for their request.
Recruitment and Retention of Volunteer Firefighters Activity: The goal of this activity is to create a net increase in the number of trained, certified and competent firefighters capable of safely responding to emergencies likely to occur within the fire department’s geographic response area. The primary focus is the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters who are involved with or trained in the operations of firefighting and emergency response. Volunteer, paid-on-call and combination fire departments, as well as local and state volunteer firefighter interest organizations, are eligible to receive grants.
Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S)
Next application period: Fall 2008
These grants are part of the AFG and are under the purview of the National Preparedness Directorate in FEMA. FP&S grants support projects that enhance the safety of the public and firefighters from fire and related hazards. The primary goal is to target high-risk populations and mitigate high incidences of death and injury.
Examples of projects supported by FP&S include fire prevention and public safety education campaigns, juvenile fire setter interventions, media campaigns, and arson prevention and awareness programs. In fiscal year 2005, Congress reauthorized funding for FP&S and expanded the eligible uses of funds to include Firefighter Safety Research and Development. Eligible activities include:
Fire Prevention and Safety: Public education campaigns, smoke alarms, sprinkler awareness, code enforcement/awareness, firefighter safety, training, wildfire prevention/awareness, arson prevention/awareness, risk assessment and general prevention/
Firefighter Safety Research and Development: Projects include, but are not limited to, database/data collection and analysis projects/systems, social science studies/projects and technology studies that address injury outcomes or their surrogates (such as firefighter safety, wellness, fitness or health).
When a fiscal shortcoming rears its ugly head, it’s time to get creative. For example, let’s say the only grant currently available to you is limited to fire prevention and public education activities. If funded, consider redirecting the money your department had budgeted for fire prevention to instead fund another proposed project, such as an EMS-related program targeting injury prevention for elderly residents in your service area. Often times, examining alternatives will provide you with an unforeseen funding opportunity that may be the difference between successfully implementing a new project or it spending yet another year on the back burner.
For more on AFG, SAFER and FP&S grants, check out the additional information at www.FireGrantsHelp.com.