Free Stuff - No Kidding

This is not a hot stock tip, an offer for herbal generic versions of performance-enhancing substances, or a deal to transfer money out of a secret bank account in Nigeria. It is one of the best-kept secrets in government-sponsored giveaways for public safety agencies, and it's only available until September 22, 2006, so tarry not.

Those wacky, madcap folks at the Office of Grants and Training at the Department of Homeland Security are trying to give away about $32 million in equipment, and they don't seem inclined to make this especially well known. The Commercial Equipment Direct Access Program (CEDAP) provides various approved items of gear to public safety agencies that don't qualify for grants under the Urban Areas Security Initiative, which is almost everyone reading this.

The program is refreshingly straightforward. Eligible agencies fill out an application, then pick what they want from a wish list of available equipment, which includes toys like thermal imaging scopes, night vision goggles, GPS-based vehicle tracking systems, a gadget that allows radios operating on different frequencies to talk to each other, and lots of other expensive fun stuff. To get it, you have to

1. Demonstrate "the equipment will be used to improve their ability and capacity to respond to a major critical incident or improve their ability to work with other first responder[s]."
2. Ask before everyone else does.

The opening of this program was brought to my attention by the good folks at Bullard, who make (among other things) thermal imaging equipment that is approved for distribution through the CEDAP program. You don't have to order any Bullard gear through CEDAP, but they would be thrilled if you did, and if you tell them you heard about CEDAP here, they might buy me a very nice lunch at some future date.

There's not too much else to say about this from an editorial perspective. I am not going to wax philosophical here, because time is a-wasting. Go from here, stranger, and get your free stuff. The relevant web sites are as follows:

A basic and completely inadequate explanation of CEDAP
A press release from DHS (in PDF format) that tells you only slightly more than the previous web site did
The Responder Knowledge Base - this is where the good stuff is (registration required, but it's free)
The list of eligible goodies (you might have to register at the RKB before you can get to this page)

This is no joke. If you can't find something that you'd like to have on this list of eligible gear, then you have way too much money or far too little to do. Go there now. We'll be here when you get back.

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