The 2013 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program opened Monday and there are hundreds of departments vying for the $320,920,083 in federal dollars. In my last article, I examined some of the changes to the funding allocations, changes to the grant matching criteria and updates to the vehicle application rules. In this article, I'm going to share information on the applications for regional grants, operational and safety grants and other tips to help you get your shot at the funding.
As usual there are the Individual Operations & Safety application, the Individual Vehicle application, the Regional Operations & Safety application and new for this year is the Regional Vehicle application. As in 2012, the Regional Operations & Safety projects are limited to training, personal protective equipment (PPE), self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), large diameter hose/water supply and communications projects.
A slight twist to Operations & Safety grants is the micro grant (MG) designation, which is the applicant’s choice to pick when the federal share being requested is $25,000 or less. In the past, the review of awards seemed to indicate that lower dollar, yet high-priority requests were being scored low because they were seeking a small amount of funding. This year, there is the option to check a box in your application to indicate that you are submitting an MG application, and according to the guidelines these applications “may” receive additional consideration. They are still normal Operations & Safety grants subject to the same rules as far as priorities and project design, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get scored higher for being an MG. So don’t just ask for five SCBA when you need 15 just so you can check the box, that doesn't solve anything. This is mainly a statistical indicator from the looks of it, not a scoring advantage to plan for. If you have higher dollar/higher priority needs it will still be more advantageous to apply for those instead.
A totally new opportunity for 2013 is the Regional Vehicle application, which is doing with the statistics what we’ve been doing for years in narratives, which is talk about how many other departments would benefit from a particular vehicle being funded for the applicant department. In these applications you will be required to list the names of partner departments, as well as a contact name and phone number for each. Understand that these people will be receiving phone calls to make sure they knew that they were involved in this application if it scores high enough. Since they have to supply their statistics to the applicant just like any other regional grant, they should not be surprised by this phone call or not know what the nice person at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is talking about when they ask about a Regional Vehicle application they were involved in.
These are also not like the Regional Operations & Safety applications where every participant physically receives something from the award’s proceeds. Vehicles are insured and titled by the host, but they cannot be restricted from responding to the partner organizations listed. A lot of areas have a rural and city coverage situation and when one taxing entity purchases a vehicle it can’t leave that boundary. Any vehicle awarded under a Regional Vehicle application will have to be made available for mutual aid responses at any time, so make sure the powers that be realize that it can’t be kept at home in the station when it is called for. There will be more information later in the article about what this new opportunity means for everyone.