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Thread: AFG Reform?

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    Default AFG Reform?

    When and if the AFG is renewed, are there any suggestions to reform the current AFG format/award procedures? I have a couple of ideas, but I'd like to hear what everyone else has to say.


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    Panels are convened every year to go over the priorities and procedures. All of the national organizations send people/suggestions. The NVFC is collecting comments/concerns, can't remember who to send them too but if you hit their web site it should be on there. In addition to commenting here too of course.

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    I'd like to see the vehicle/ops money go to a 40/60 split.
    Kurt Bradley
    Public Safety Grants Consultant

    "Never Trade Skill for Luck"

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    I participated in peer review this year, and I was greatly disappointed that the negative attitude of one person in my room that wasn't dealt with. Two panalists would have very similar scores, yet this third panalist would be 15-20 points lower on the same application, and yet REFUSE to discuss the difference, saying that no one could MAKE him change his score! At one point he stated that "These lying bastards don't deserve it! They are only two departments away from mine, and I know that they are lying about their need!" So much for avoiding bias....

    I finally told the Panel Moderator that I was very glad that I didn't have an app for that catagory of grant, as I felt that every one that this panalist touched was poisoned.

    And this same self-important, pompous panalist made sure that he passed out his business card to everyone in the room, declaring himself as some kind of expert fire service consultant. I tore the one that he gave me up, and left it at his desk when he left for lunch on the last day!

    Overall, I was VERY impressed by the process and the hard work of everyone that I came in contact with, but it only took one rotten apple....
    Last edited by DFDCar1; 07-22-2008 at 10:54 PM.
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

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    Quote Originally Posted by DFDCar1 View Post
    They are only two departments away from mine, and I know that they are lying about their need!" So much for avoiding bias....

    ....
    I thought that this was not allowed. Could not look at applicants from own area is what I was led to believe. Oh well, back to waiting.
    Just someone trying to help! (And by the way....Thanks for YOUR help!)

    Aggressive does not have to equal stupid.

    ** "The comments made here are this person's views and possibly that of the organizations to which I am affiliated" **

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    What did the DHS folks say when you reported to them that this person was reviewing apps from his area?

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    Quote Originally Posted by THEFIRENUT View Post
    I thought that this was not allowed. Could not look at applicants from own area is what I was led to believe. Oh well, back to waiting.
    I have to agree this appears to "fly inthe face" of their rule that you don't review grants from your own area. I am also curious as to what their response was to your complaint? Also a little confused as to how he could be a paid fire consultant and a reviewer; unless you are referring to services other than consulting on grant issues.
    Last edited by ktb9780; 07-23-2008 at 08:30 AM.
    Kurt Bradley
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    First, there were very few, if any DHS "employees" present. Only the DHS hired contractors from McKing Consulting Corporation. They told me that this person was "always" on peer review, he had been involved for years, and that he did AFG, SAFER, and some of the other programs as well. They also confirmed that others had made similar complaints (the same week) and that they were "looking into it". They expressed their belief that the scores would all "balance out" after tech review, and that those deserving of a grant would receive a grant. I han't realized that tech review could "modify" a peer review score, but apparaently they can.

    I will say that there apparently was one person (in another room) who made his career/vol bias (I won't say which way he was biased) very clear to everyone in the room on the first day, and at the end of the first day, he was asked to not return on Tuesday, and I was told that they had someone else re-score any reviews that he had done on Monday. IMHO, they did a great job of dealing with that situation.

    Because in my both my FT & PT job, I often come in contact with FD's from all over NYS, I wouldn't even look at any apps from anywhere in NYS. The apps come to the review tables in bundles of 5 or 6 apps. If the packet contained an app from a department that I was familiar with, I asked that the packet be sent back and that we get another one. This is what the vast majority of the peer reviewers did, and the system seemed to work very well!
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

    George S. Patton

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    It's too bad that they did not deal with the reviewer that showed a severe lack of objectivity. Scoring applications 15-20 points lower, the inability to compromise and obvious bias to another department just shows he had an axe to grind or make a point that he was a tough reviewer. Whether or not he was a past peer reviewer is not the point, he should have had the same fate as the other reviewer that was let go.

    I would not (and hope not) want my application reviewed by some one like this. That type of low score has a a negative impact on the overall average; where fractions of a point could mean the difference between being awarded and not being awarded.

    One of the things that AFG should do is with the application. When making significant changes they should post it on the website so departments can prepare accordingly. Being blind sided by changes when you open the application should not occur.

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    Quote Originally Posted by onebugle View Post
    One of the things that AFG should do is with the application. When making significant changes they should post it on the website so departments can prepare accordingly. Being blind sided by changes when you open the application should not occur.

    Here, here! I agree! A little more transparency, much the same as NFPA does when proposing new changes and seeking comment etc., would go a long way. I don't see any point to what the secretiveness serves.Why do they have to just "spring it upon us" once the usually delayed PG is released?
    Kurt Bradley
    Public Safety Grants Consultant

    "Never Trade Skill for Luck"

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    I'll probably get hammered for this one, but I would like them to have some kind of equipment priority. My department is using SCBA over 15 years old and non-compliant yet turned down in 2007. Regardless of the call load, they should be sure that all departments that need SCBA, turnouts, and communications are awarded ahead of extractors,etc. Just my 2 cents. Keeping my fingers crossed this year.

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    Bias in the peer review process undercuts confidence in the system. This poisonous reviewer should have been dealt with more severely. Now every department reading the forum is wondering the same thing: "Did someone from our area serve as a reviewer this year? Someone with an axe to grind against us?"

    I would like to see the FPS programmed retooled. The very best type of fire prevention training is face:to:face training done in person. So when departments apply for programs for their schools or to work with the elderly in their area I have confidence in the quality of the training they are going to provide. Then I see huge grants being made to national organizations and for research and it does not seem equitable. I work at a research university. I know that there are other streams of grant research money available. Fire Departments should not be made to compete with research efforts for money. While I respect most of the national fire prevention organizations I do not think their efforts can compare to the impact of training at the local community level.

    This argument is a bit self-serving. We are in the late hours of consideration for a 2007 FPS grant. We made it this far last year for another department before being rejected. In the meantime I am watching $1,000,000 awards shelled out one after another. None of those programs are going to make the kids we serve with our fire prevention program any safer. The elderly in our community are not going to visit these website or watch the videos. How many community grants could be made for each $1 million award? I am guessing 20 or 50. Those grants represent tens of thousands of kids who would have benefited from having their local FD come into the school and run a program. This just does not make sense to me!

    Jon

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    How do you become a peer reviewer? Can anyone do it?

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    Default AFG Peer Review

    Quote Originally Posted by wtfd2940 View Post
    How do you become a peer reviewer? Can anyone do it?
    Give Smiley White a try. I was pointed his way while attendending a class in 2005.

    Smiley.White@dhs.gov,

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    It would be nice to know how the applications are scored, unfortunately, that would open things to unethical practices. Knowing how the apps are scored would allow one to know where they need to improve. It would also be nice to know where one has scored. Knowing for instance that you grant app scored high enough to perhaps get funded would help in dealing with purchases. For instance, our most recent app (2007) asked for pagers because we had a shortage. Our shortage was so bad that we actually went out and bought the pagers, giving up on some other equipment in the process. Had we known we had a good chance of getting funding we may have held off a little longer. On the flip side, we now have an abundance of pagers.

    This years app we asked for a set of jaws. Ours are practically dead and getting repair parts is near impossible. In addition to asking for a DHS grant we are searching out other alternatives. It would be nice to know that hey, your score looks to be well below the cutoff. Or it is well above the cutoff, or you are borderline.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wtfd2940 View Post
    How do you become a peer reviewer? Can anyone do it?

    I tried once. I was told to contact a local DHS rep and so on down the line. I was basically told that to be considered I had to send a resume, be recommended by local reps from the International Assoc. Of Firefighters, and then I would have to wait for someone else to give up their slot before I would be considered. My personal opinion is that the review panel should be new each year.
    Joe Fireman

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    2/3rds of the reviewers are new every year, so someone snowed you there.

    Also Tech Review from DHS weeds out those that are 15-20 points off from the other scoring since the program is supposed to be self-policing. That's how they catch those that don't do the right thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ScareCrow57 View Post
    It would be nice to know how the applications are scored, unfortunately, that would open things to unethical practices.
    Without becoming "unethical", I can tell you that the scoring is done based EXACTLY on the guidance! The best apps that I saw were the ones that addressed with specific detail the I) Project description, II) Financial Need, III) Cost Benefit, and IV) Statement of effect. In that order!

    The peer reviewers read apps for five straignt days, eight hours per day, so they quickly get weary of reading about how your FD makes the worlds finest clam chowder in its attempt to raise funds, or how your mayor is the biggest jerk alive for not funding you properly, or how you think that you should get a new firetruck this year, because you didn't get one in previous years (and your neighbor did!)... etc...

    I saw some FABULOUS projects that I really wanted to give higher scores to, but the grant was poorly written, the reviewer can't "fill-in the gaps". If a FD is using a portable pump on a 1948 Willy's Jeep for their engine, and a 1968 septic pumping truck that was converted into a tanker in 1988 as their main pieces, I'd LOVE to give them the funding for the new engine-tanker, but if they don't provide ANY info on how they are funded, and how they spend their money, then they get a very low score for "financial need". If they don't SAY how the replacement of the two home-made beasts will greatly improve their operational capability and FD safety, then we couldn't just assume it, so they got a low score for "statment of effect"... and so the money likely went elsewhere.
    Last edited by DFDCar1; 07-23-2008 at 05:54 PM.
    "If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."

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    So basically the department that can hire a grant writer has a better chance than the poor department's that can't.

    My problem isn't as much with AFG as it is with SAFER. As I understood it, the intent of that program was to assist smaller departments hire thier first few paid men, or help the samll department with a coupkle of paid men hire a couple more. Yet we see chunks of 10 and 15 and 20 positions being doled out to departments that already have 20 or 50 or 100 paid firefighters.

    We have been asking for 1 paid man for 3 years, with a justified need with no luck while I watch big departments get bigger.

    It seems to me that the SAFER program has been hijacked in part, by the larger communties and (I know I'll get slammed) the IAFF. It seems to me that the program needs to get back to it's original intent which was to provide assistance to small career and combo departments and volunteer departments in transition.

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    Where did you hear it was about the small departments? It's only purpose has been to meet NFPA 1710 or 1720 staffing, no bias whatsoever towards community size. The problems I've found with most 1-3 position apps is that they really aren't full solutions. Those that solve the deficiency 100% of the time are the ones that get funded. 1 paid person with 2-3 hopeful volunteers showing is by no means 100% solution since you're still banking on hope that someone shows up. Compare that to paid asking for 2 or more per shift you have guaranteed staffing minimums. By definition hiring outscores recruitment for that reason. Also on the smaller quantity apps the long-term need and funding seems to be more in question most of the time. Don't get me wrong I write 90% in the 1-3 person range, but having seen a lot of larger app narratives before and after funding there are just some holes that small apps can't fill.

    And I don't think one needs to hire a grant writer but I'd be lying if there wasn't something that an outsider can bring to the table sometimes.

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