As fire grants, both AFG and SAFER continue to be awarded each week it’s time to prepare for fiscal year 2014 application periods. FEMA is planning to release guidance for AFG in September 2014, SAFER in November 2014 and FP&S January 2015. Here are a few interesting points to consider as well as tips of the trade.
From 2001 to 2012 AFG has awarded 58,602 grants totaling $5,655,513,117.
Departments can still submit a solid, well written and justified application and still not get funded. How does this happen? There are several factors at play:
• Timing – if you are applying to retain fire fighters currently funded by a SAFER award and the award is not set to end for several months, FEMA may not award your grant since you still have money available and there are other departments that have an immediate need. This is the case each year and it is difficult to predict when the grant application will open, close and awards will be made – but don’t let this deter you from applying.
• Overall Preparation – statistics show that applications that are started and completed during the last week of the application period have a high chance of not being awarded. This is due to last minute human errors leading to incomplete data or even sections of the application being skipped in error.
• Prescore – is 50% of your score – this includes call volume, population served, mutual aid (yes or no), run EMS, entry level and annual physicals (yes or no).
• NFPA related questions are key. If you do not have a very clear understanding of the question on the application, don’t guess on an answer, call the FEMA help desk. For example, questions 2a and 2b response capabilities versus response capabilities if awarded SAFER. This is a make it or break it question. Do not include overtime in your response.
• How many on your first arriving engine – this can be a 2.2 number – 3.7 – decimals are ok.
• In the narrative – financial need – FEMA wants your budget broken down as small as possible – if your budget is 75M – 72 is going to salary and fringe, equipment/apparatus, rainy day fund, etc.
• Details – no fluff, specific information.
• Follow bullet points and nothing else.
• Use the self-evaluation tool – don’t give it to someone who wrote it.
• Good projects are left on the table. Excellent, very good, good – even excellent applications aren’t funded.
From 2005 to 2013 SAFER has awarded 1691 grants totaling $2,616,273,618. This includes funding 12,590 firefighting positions and close to 1,000 Recruitment & Retention awards.
Of the total federal share requested for FY2009, 54.6% was requested by all paid/career departments, 9.3% by all volunteer, 14.7% by combination (majority paid/career), and 19% by combination (majority volunteer). In FY2010, the entire pool of fire department applicants received about 13% of the funds they requested.
This compares to:
• 16% in FY2009
• 15% in FY2008
• 16% in FY2007
• 21% in FY2006
• 22% in FY2005
• 28% in FY2004
• 34% in FY2003
The downward trend reflects the fact that the number of applications and the amount of federal funds requested have trended upward over the years, while appropriations for the fire grant program have typically declined over the same period.
Of the FY2012 SAFER awards, grants for hiring accounted for 91% of the total federal share of dollars awarded. In 2013, available SAFER funding equated to $321 million. Requests for funding exceeded $1.5 billion.