Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG)
|By Jim Connors, Captain SFFD|
|Recently, I was fortunate to have been selected to represent the 10th District of the IAFF at the National Fire Academy as a grant reviewer for the Fire Act, also known as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG). This program was originally under FEMA and is now part of FEMA, under the Department of Homeland Security.
The grant review program runs over a four week period, and is done at the National Fire Academy. 400 volunteers, representing labor, International Association of Fire Chiefs, volunteer fire organizations, paid departments, equipment manufacturers, political action groups, and political organizations, meet for 5 days at a time, to review and grade applications sent in for grant funding.
This is the fourth year of the Fire Act. It is designed to assist fire departments in meeting their operational needs. Areas that can be applied for cover fire operations, firefighter safety, fire prevention, fire vehicles, and a special program of fire prevention and safety grants. The program provided less than $100 million dollars its first year. In 2003, 19,949 applications were received, requesting a total of $2.5 billion dollars, with $695 million dollars being awarded to the lucky recipients. In 2004, 20,300 applications were received, requesting $2.3 billion dollars, with $750 million dollars being awarded. Awards for this year should start to be awarded in June.
In statistics provided by the program for the 16th Annual Fire and Emergency Services Dinner in May at Washington, D.C., the following breakdown of applications by department type was listed: 67% all volunteer, 19% combination, 5% paid on call/stipend, and 9% all paid/career. Look at these numbers - only 9% of all applications were from career departments. I know of departments on the peninsula who didnt put in.
This amazes me, and is unbelievable. You dont have to hire a grant writer to submit an application. This is free money, with some matching requirements, depending on the population size of your city and area. If you study the criteria of the grant program, and write a thorough, complete request, showing purpose, budget, and financial need, you stand a good chance of receiving some funding.
Two years ago, when I also was fortunate to be a grant reviewer for the Fire Act, I spoke to Jim Ferguson when I returned. He showed me statistics similar to the above figures, with volunteer and non - career departments being far more aggressive in submitting applications for funding. I am sure he is aware of these figures again, and I am sure will be frustrated again when he reads this article.
The Fire Act is under legislative review for renewal for funding in budget years 2005 through 2007, for maximum funding awards of up to $3 million dollars. We are talking some serious money here.
The San Francisco Fire Department has been the recipient of funding awards in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, with this money being used to purchase new SCBAs and new portable radios. This year we applied for money to fund the OES/Mutual Aid Committee with the proper safety equipment for use at wildland fires, including grass fires in the City. The days of fighting grass fires in Battalions 9 and 10 in full structural turnouts has to end. If we receive an award this year, it will help outfit our personnel in the proper wildland gear for fighting these types of fires. Keep your fingers crossed, and your eyes glued to the firehouse.com website, as they list the awards as they are given out.
I would like to thank Jim Ferguson (Fergy) for nominating me for this program. It is very important that labor have a big say in the grant review process. We dont want the review process to be overloaded with all chiefs, or all equipment manufacturers, or all politically related types, but rather a balance of perspective and focus.
I look forward to being able to participate in this program again next year.