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So You Didn’t Get a SAFER Award….Why Not?

I spoke with many of you prior to and during the SAFER application period that closed last year. The opportunity to save the jobs of fellow fire fighters supplied us all with motivation and dedication to write the very best possible application – but sadly, sometimes that isn’t enough.

SAFER awards began rolling out just after Thanksgiving and unfortunately for some of you the news is not too good. Federal grants are becoming more and more competitive. It’s almost unpalatable to think that we have to “compete” to save the jobs of fire fighters or increase staffing levels to be safer. The reality is the demand is high and there isn’t enough money to go around. With more than $320 million dedicated to SAFER, you’d think that would go a long way. You probably didn’t know the total appropriations for all AFG grants only meets 15% of demand – that’s a lot of brother and sister fire fighters left hanging. Having had the opportunity to work at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for almost 3 years overseeing these very important grants, I can assure you there are no ploys or intent to manipulate any application that comes through FEMA.

Collaboratively, we work very hard on every detail of the SAFER program to include the questions that are asked in the application, how they are scored, how many points go toward each question and answer. In the end, no one questions the need for retaining fire fighters or hiring more. It comes down to how the needs of each individual department are articulated in the application – from staffing models to budgets and the overall strength of the application. Each application is scored on its own merits and is then racked and stacked in order of score. There are statutory requirements that must be followed as well, but in the end, after each application is scored and a post panel review is conducted awards are made until the money is gone.

I realize this is no consolation to those of you that worked so hard on your application and weren’t funded. Please know our office is here to assist you as best we can. If you were turned down for a SAFER award please call the FEMA help desk and request a full detailed explanation of the scoring of your application – strengths and weaknesses. Where did you score well? Where did you score low? They will identify what can be done, if anything, to improve on the next application. Our office will use this information to assist you on the next application.

The IAFF Grants Administration Department can be reached at 202-824-1575 or grants@iaff.org. The AFG Program Help Desk can be reached at 1-866-274- 0960 or firegrants@dhs.gov. You will need to be a POC on your grant application to get specific information.

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