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Get On Board With the Assistance to Firefighters Grants

Jun 5

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Tuesday, June 5, 2012  RssIcon

By Michael Paddock

June 2012

The US Fire Administration’s (USFA) Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG or AFGP) is one of the most accessible and most transparent federal grants. It provides funds for turnout gear, training, communications, vehicles, technology, wellness programs, and a host of other needed improvements, such as multi-jurisdictional standardization of training. Fire departments and EMS agencies can submit up to three applications, one each in the categories of Operations and Safety, Vehicle Acquisition, and Regional Projects.

The application period for the program will open in June, and awards are competitive, meaning that you will have to apply in order to get funding, and not everyone who applies will receive an award. But with an estimated 1,700 awards nationwide, there is a good chance that a well-written, compliant application will win an award.

All applications require baseline data on call volume, a narrative description of the project and a budget. There is a matching requirement, and the specific cost share required is based on the population you are proposing to serve. Rural areas with populations of 20,000 or fewer have the lowest match (5%), while urban areas with populations of over 50,000 have the highest (20%).

Operations and Safety

The most popular category for both applications and awards is Operations and Safety. This broad category covers training, equipment acquisition, personal protective equipment, wellness and fitness, and modifications to facilities (usually exhaust improvements or other minor projects).  There is no bonus or penalty for requesting several types of support under this category, but the justification you provide in your narrative should establish a coherent need for everything you’ve requested.

Applications for operations and safety projects  are assessed based on call volume, the effect on the community and the effect on firefighter safety, so be sure those aspects of your project clearly connect with your request and avoid a “ shopping cart proposal.”

Vehicle Acquisition

For each year of the program, the USFA establishes priorities for vehicle acquisition, based on whether the applicant is a fire or EMS agency and whether the population is urban suburban or rural. Priority one vehicles are the most likely to be funded. Given the amount of funding available this year, don’t expect many, if any, priority two or three vehicles to be funded.

The key case for vehicle acquisition grants is the need for the vehicle, based on your current vehicle’s age or condition or a change in the community’s demographic information that has led to a new demand for services that requires a particular vehicle.

Regional Projects

Regional projects are generally communications projects that enhance interoperability across a defined geographic area and including defined collaborators. Unlike other categories, regional projects allow non-fire (and non-EMS) agencies to participate and benefit from the funding, though an eligible fire department or EMS agency still has to take the lead in applying for and administering the funds.

The “region” is left up to the definition of the applicant, and can be as small as a group of towns and as large as a group of states.

USFA will use the potential impact of the project to evaluate its cost effectiveness, and therefore its fundability. That’s important to keep in mind, since the award ceiling is based on the population served, and regional projects usually cover a large population. So, even though you may be able to apply for $2 million, AFG reviewers are notoriously frugal, and you may find an excessive request denied, where a more moderate one would be approved.

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