Better Than A Grant: Free Equipment and Training

The Commercial Equipment Direct Assistance Program (CEDAP) program was brought into existence after recognizing that it's not just the major urban areas that are at risk for major terrorism incidents.

And the main criteria for eligibility are that the applicant is not eligible for funding through other Homeland Security sources. This does not include the Assistance to Firefighters Program (AFG), as that is meant for funding basic firefighting needs. The majority of true Homeland Security funding has gone to the areas within the Department of Homeland Security's identified Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) zones.

These zones are defined as: any city with over 100,000 in population and usually extends to a 10-mile radius. Many zones cross state boundaries, and many include areas with a significant maritime presence in the form of ports or even shipping lanes. Since most of the country doesn't fit into that definition, CEDAP was born to fill that gap in assisting agencies in meeting the 37 Target Capabilities that DHS has identified for emergency responders. These include the main headings of Prevention, Protection, Response, and Recovery. The specific goals, training, equipment, and agencies each capability is intended for are listed on the Responder Knowledge Base website at www.rkb.mipt.org.

What Resources are Available?

The list of equipment was also carefully designed. Each piece of equipment fulfills a need as defined in the Target Capabilities. The main categories include:

  • PPE
  • Rescue Tools
  • Thermal Imaging, Night Vision, & Video Surveillance
  • Chemical & Biological Detection Equipment
  • Information Technology & Risk Management Tools
  • Information Communications Gateways

The highlights of the program for Fire and EMS agencies are the two available sets of hydraulic rescue tools from Amkus. Both sets include an O-cutter, a 32-inch spreader, a 30-inch ram with 10-inch extension, two 30-foot hoses, and a power unit. One set has the gas powered unit, the other is electric powered. Both will run two tools at one time, so this is a more than capable set especially if a department doesn’t have any rescue tools.

CEDAP also features a Bullard T3 Max Thermal Imaging Camera, several detectors and sampling kits for CBRN incidents, and a PPE set including a respirator, Class 3 suit, boots and gloves.

Communication & Interoperability Gear

The two available communications gateways are a very simple solution that's easy to deploy on major incidents involving responders from different areas with different communications devices.

The first unit is the Incident Commanders Radio Interface (ICRI) module. This item is a mobile gateway that allows the IC to patch together different communications devices in order to create one channel. The unit can connect up to 4 devices including a radio on any band (VHF, UHF, 800Mhz) on any platform (analog, digital, trunked), as well as cell phones, landline phones, military radios, and Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) equipment.

Those departments that have been fortunate enough to have been awarded in previous phases of CEDAP that I have talked with think they are a Godsend. They are definitely an inexpensive first step to communications interoperability.

The Radio Inter-Operability System (RIOS) is basically a mobile Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. This particular technological advance can be configured to handle 911 calls as well as dispatch responders and their radio traffic. It comes with a laptop, and a chassis housing for all of the needed connections.

RIOS has the capability to be powered by 12 volt vehicle systems so it is portable. It can be connected to any types of communications devices just like the ICRI, but the difference between this unit and the ICRI is that users can create talk groups with the connected devices. The RIOS can be networked with other computers through a Local Area Network to expand capabilities, as well as recording all radio traffic and generating transcripts of recorded traffic and phone calls in Microsoft Word.

One major change in Phase III was the inclusion of the Cost of Ownership (COO) of the equipment in the application as well as the program guidance documents. Some of the items have significant yearly costs which may offset the point of being awarded free equipment. The COO is certainly less than the purchase price of the equipment, but for instance the RIOS will cost approximately $4,800 annually to maintain between Tech Support and software upgrades. Some items have no COO, while others are just the cost to replace the disposable items.

Award Format Different from Other Programs

The format of CEDAP is also different: the RKB actually purchases a set quantity of each item, so the level of competition for each piece of equipment is dependent on the number of applicants for that particular item. Unlike the AFG where scoring is based solely on Program Guidelines for CEDAP applicants for each item are directly in competition against each other, so the pressure is a little higher to ensure that you put together a proper application.

The application is very straightforward, but it does require a lot of background information about the Homeland Security related risks in the area you serve. Most departments don't have this information readily available. For instance the application asks about the risk assessments that were performed in the area, when they were performed and who performed them.

I have worked with several departments whose state or county Emergency Management Agencies performed assessments without their knowledge. This is the type of information that every department needs to know, so if you don't know about an assessment in your area contact your local and state Homeland Security officials to find out if one was performed.

Do not, by any means, pencil whip this information. Part of the verification process for scoring is to contact the State Administrative Agency (SAA) and verify the information you submitted as well as whether or not the equipment requested is consistent with the State's Homeland Security plan. If you are asking for something that isn’t consistent with that plan, or something you claim is wrong the SAA will recommend denial of the application and you will be out of luck.

The narrative type questions that are asked are also quite different from what AFG applicants will be used to. Applicants have to remember that this is a program meant at mitigating terrorism-related incidents. That is the primary focus, not handling every day fires or rescues. So the answer given must take into consideration the potential risk targets that were mentioned earlier in the application and explain how the equipment will be used in an incident at one of those locations.

In addition it would be beneficial to mention why the applicant does not have the requested item already. You don't have to go into a full blown explanation of your budget, but if you have the room (there is a 2,000 character limit) you could easily use your explanation from your AFG application. There's no reason to reinvent the wheel.

The other question wants to know how your agency is going to remain proficient with the equipment. The reasoning behind this is that many agencies get a much needed tool and never touch it or train with it.

We all know that in the heat of the moment some people get easily flustered with something they don't understand. They do not want the same thing happening here. In any incident responders are expected to arrive ready to help, with the best tool being the trained personnel. In the right hands equipment can perform, in the wrong hands it can just be an expensive way to take up space on a truck. This is where your every day incidents and routine training come into play.

For instance, Thermal Imaging Cameras can be used on lots of different types of calls and during trainings, not just terrorist incidents. RIT operations, overhaul, large area searches for accident victims or lost children in addition to any regular training are all opportunity enough for your personnel to become and stay familiar with the equipment.

Training Provided with Equipment

For awardees the program provides proper training from the various manufacturers to ensure that agencies get the right training and aren't left with a box, directions, and note that says "Congratulations and Good Luck figuring it out." So depending on the item trainings can happen in your area or at one location.

The good part is that they also pay for travel expenses. TIC award winners from Phase II had their training in Orlando just last month, but many of the rescue tool winners will be receiving local training. Once the training is completed you will either be given or shipped to you. If applicants do not send a representative to the training you will not receive your equipment. There are no exceptions.

Common Problems with Grant Submissions

Some of the common reason applicants are not awarded are similar to other grant programs. Many applicants do not fully answer the questions, or don't include needed details as to the need for the equipment along with the risks in the area served. Many times a lack of coordination between the department and the powers that be are the cause.

Every department needs to know what the Homeland Security plan is for their region and what their role is, because whether you know it or not you will be expected to perform that role when the time comes. One of the reasons that the Cost of Operations is included is that many departments have been observed to lack in the maintenance and upkeep of their equipment, some because of funding and some because of apathy.

Applicants definitely need to reiterate that they will be able to afford the yearly costs. The last major reason for not be awarded is the same as every grant program out there today: competition. There is only so much money and equipment to go around, so not everyone gets a piece of the pie. But this is the biggest reason of all to keep applying every year to every program that you are eligible for. It shows that the equipment is needed, so the more applications that are received that they can not award the more evidence exists that they need to increase funding to the programs.

The deadline for applications is September 22, 2006 so get a move on if you haven’t started anything. The only application guaranteed to not be awarded is the one not submitted.

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