Beginning on December 16th, 2011, fire departments and other first responders began receiving assistance from FEMA’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG). Thus far, over 1,392 grants have been awarded. The largest grant was given to El Cerrito Fire Department in California – which is comprised of three stations, three engines, 37 staff members, and one cross-staff ladder truck. Obviously recognized as a deserving candidate, the department responded to over 2,700 calls in 2010.
“But where is my money?” you might ask. If you’ve applied for this grant, you’ve likely braved some fierce red tape and you deserve at least a little bit of credit for that. The stringent AFG application process demands respect. With one fowl swoop, your application could be denied for something as simple as not using the correct font.
And while the application process has ended for FY 2011, the AFG application deadline for FY 2012 is right around the corner. Here are some tips to keep your application out of the trashcan and moved to the approved pile:
1.) Make use of the resources at your disposal
One of the first places to start looking for information on the AFG grant is from the organization that distributes the money to begin with… FEMA. Visit this link to get the real gist of what is going to asked of you during the application process. You can also call 1-866-274-0960 or email email@example.com for free help regarding the AFG application process.
You’ll also find a wealth of information about fire and EMS related grants at http://www.emsgrantshelp.com or http://www.firegrantshelp.com/. These are both highly recommended resources to get you on the right track!
**Pro-tip: Use FEMA’s site to check out other grants (SAFER, FP&S, SCG) that your department might qualify for.
2.) Check everything over
This is a simple one – right? Wrong. In the Frequently Asked Questions section of FEMA’s Fire Grant website, the phrase “Once you have submitted your application, you cannot change it.” appears four times. Do you think they get people asking for their applications back? Yes. Don’t be one of them.
3.) Sign up for FEMA’s Fire Grant Newsletter
There’d be nothing worse than missing the deadline for free money- right? Again per FEMA, ” Unfortunately no special consideration will be extended to any applicant that did not submit their application on time. We’d have to offer the same opportunity to other applicants. We’d never be able to move forward with the review process.”
4.) Appeal to your community, political leaders, and others to vouch for your organization
This is a great way to establish your credibility with the application review committee. Get at least three well respected individuals to write letters on behalf of your department and send them in to:
Ms. Elizabeth M. Harman, Assistant Administrator
DHS/FEMA/Grants Program Preparedness
Tech World Building – 9th Floor South Tower
800 K Street, NW Washington, DC 20472-3620 Fax 202-786-9938
5.) Make use of excess funds
One of the most common reasons that will make an organization ineligible for funds is that they haven’t utilized money that has been allotted to them in the past. What that means is, if you actually have received money for FY 2011 – make sure you’re spending it! There are plenty of ways to do this.
Did you know that fitness equipment , fitness trainer programs, and medical exams / immunizations for your department are all considered reasonable ways to make use of excess AFG funds? That’s right. Just make sure you’ve got a Wellness and Fitness program in place and you’ll be all set to spend every blessed penny. Page 15 of this document has everything you need to know about the Wellness and Fitness programs FEMA is talking about.
Purchasing additional training is another great way to take advantage of everything the AFG grant has to offer. “All training, justified by the grantee, including Firefighter l and ll certifications, EMS, Driver/Operator, Fire Officer I-IV, Hazmat response, alternative fuel firefighting Incident Command, supervision and safety, CBRNE awareness, performance, planning and management, and train the trainer classes are allowable.” If you’ve got a strong, well trained department – you’ll be well on your way to achieving an El Cerrito level of excellence.
One of the withstanding questions for this next years AFG is… what will be changed? Last year in the Department Characteristics portion, one was asked to indicate the percentage of active firefighters that you currently have trained to NFPA Standard 1001 Firefighter I and Firefighter II. What will be required that wasn’t on this past year’s application? Please leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!
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