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  1. #1
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    Question SAFER - profile of "winners"?

    We got our DJ in December and I was curious--considering some of the ENORMOUS grants already large agencies are getting--is there anyone out there who got a grant (or is still in the running) as an agency similar to ours? This is our profile:

    Combination - 18 career/10 vol
    Facilities/Staff - 3 stations w/2-man crews (2-man is standard in our county)
    Staff levels - .46/1,000 (2nd lowest in a comparison of similar CA communties)
    Pop served - appx 39,000
    Community - 1,500 sq mi county (pop. 500k) covered by 18 agencies that are 60% volunteer (10 are all volunteer)
    Automatic aid (avg yr 82 rcvd & 44 given)
    Calls - avg 4,100/yr [72% EMS, 5% Fire, 23% everything else] (highest calls per capita in a comparison of similar CA communties)
    Operating budget - $3.1M (plz don't send nasty msgs--this is CA [mecca of high personnel costs] and our City spends 75% of its General Fund on Fire & Police)
    Starting salary - $44,095
    Benefit rate - 66%

    We are opening a 4th station in about a year and will need 6 FFs (who will cost about $500k in the 1st full year). We applied for 3 positions at the station in our busiest and most hazardous response area to get it to 3-man crews.

    According to the DJ, our app was "generally good and above average in all four elements" but "not sufficiently compelling to be considered for funding on its written elements." Since this is all we're going to get as an explanation, I was hoping to see who else is out there.

    Thanks!


  2. #2
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    That's about the typical statement that comes back, mainly because it's programatically generated. People aren't actually writing those.

    Anywho, seems to me like the reason it can't be funded locally wasn't compelling enough. Or the other part is, you didn't apply to solve your problem according to national standards. 3 man crews don't help, and if you only applied for 3 FFs (1 per each of 3 shifts in 1 out of 3 stations), you didn't solve anything really. You'd need 9 FFs to make 3 man crews everywhere, which is still short of NFPA 1710/20 (combination can pick which one they want to follow), and 18 to meet them. Unless your volunteers are in house, it sounds like the paid folks would leave without them, so you can't meet 2in/2out until the 3rd engine arrives sometimes.

    Like I've mentioned before, NFPA may be a recommendation and not a real standard, but since it's about the closest thing there is, the grant programs are built to hit them with the awards they make. So submitting an project that knowingly doesn't meet standards without backing up why it can't be done (more importantly why you're chosing that route), 99 times out of 100 won't get the money.

    Just like in the Patterson NJ award when I've discussed that around different places. They needed 64 to meet the standard, and they applied for it. Complete solution. Any less and I doubt they would have seen any money.

    And if it's the case that there wasn't enough money available to match a complete solution, that needed to be said. But like I mentioned earlier, the program is geared to support and enhance local efforts in meeting standards. If you have nothing to support or enhance, or aren't meeting standards with the application, you have a very slim chance at funding.

    And the third option is, too many apps, not enough money. Review what you did for 2005, check your numbers, your reasoning, and go after it again this year. There's another $50mil in the program, so the odds are better this year anyway.

    - Brian

  3. #3
    MembersZone Subscriber npfd801's Avatar
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    We haven't received a DJ letter for the Safer grants yet...isn't everything awarded now?

    Don't get me wrong, we got a fantastic grant for radios, so I won't even begin to complain about not getting a Safer grant. I just assumed we would know by now that we weren't getting one.

  4. #4
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    Some of the money has been returned as has been reported by Firehouse.com and other news agencies, sadly. It has been discussed in the forums, as well, at length. Many of the FDs didn't follow Program Guidlines and this hurt them when they were awarded or were in the pre-award phases. So, now, there has been some hold-up on the program. It is still up in the air as to whether they will fund additional ones this year, and let everyone know something soon, or wait and fund off another year, like AFG has done. Basically, no one knows anything, since there was wrenches thrown into the plan by many, many City Councils that had not met and finalized hiring plans, etc. and met the PGs PRIOR to application. Good Luck!

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by npfd801
    We haven't received a DJ letter for the Safer grants yet...isn't everything awarded now?

    Don't get me wrong, we got a fantastic grant for radios, so I won't even begin to complain about not getting a Safer grant. I just assumed we would know by now that we weren't getting one.

    You are not the only one. No word either way here either.

  6. #6
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    Check the Mail Center in the Application's web site. Sometimes the messages get caught in Spam Filters of the personal emails that are listed for the contacts. Mainly because the subject starts with Re: EMW-..... and most spam starts with Re: because it used to trick email servers into thinking the original message came from the receiver of the email so it would be let through.

    But any emails sent or received are still in the Mail Center, so if one was sent it would still be there. If nothing, then call/email your FPS and find out what the deal is. Like Alana said, lots of departments went after it without the blessings of the ones that cut the checks, and if they were awarded, the fight to fund the matching began then, not before app time. So the money is going back into the pot. Hence the reason I don't see SAFER lasting too long, like the famed COPS program.

  7. #7
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    Thanks much BC. I do think that if there was any "weakness" in our app it was that we weren't asking for enough FFs to meet the NFPA standard. I did explain that the entire county operates with 2-man crews, that funding is limited and tried to emphasize that, while a grant wouldn't achieve full compliance with NFPA, it would help us move closer to that standard.

    That being said, getting a local commitment for 18 FFs would be next to impossible--no agency in our county operates with 4-man crews (& the largest city has a pop. of 250k). The personnel costs are astronomical--18 FFs would cost us $7.3M over the 5 years--a SAFER grant would cover only about 25% of that--a City Council (that changes every 2-4 years) just won't commit over $5M in basically unknown revenues (and, personnally, I don't think that's unreasonable). I think it makes much more sense, and is much more attractive to applicant's governing bodies, to be able to make reasonable (and realistic) financial commitments even if that means achieving NFPA's standard gradually. Maybe DHS will catch on, considering all the turned down grants we've heard about.

    -Betina

  8. #8
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    Thumbs up Roger that, grantgrl!

    Dear grantgrl,
    I, and my whole department, agree wholeheartedly. Being able to go from 2-firefighter crews to 3-firefighter crews would increase safety, efficiency, and effectiveness immeasurably. Well, maybe measurably, afterall, when the reduction in firefighter injuries, property losses, and unsuccessful rescue attempts are all tabulated in a before-and-after study of going from 2 to 3 personnel per apparatus. I too wish that USFA/FEMA/DHS would come around to reality. Much good would result, and many lives would be positively affected, if the powers that be would recognize this. We don't have to give up on the empirical/ scientific findings that have already shown that 4 people per truck is the minimum for optimal effectiveness; we concede that. But to hold to all or nothing simply harms all of the 2 person crews that exist right now throughout the Country. The SAFER rules should give more points, or 'positive standing', to applications where high population densities and/or industrial areas with critical infrastructure are currently being protected with only 2 personnel per apparatus.

  9. #9
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    I don't disagree in the least that it is up to the local checkbook holders to make responsible commitments either, especially on that scale.

    But since the push was made by numerous FFing organizations that 4 per crew is the safe margin, and NFPA also adopted that number as the "standard", whose primary problem is it to staff to the appropriate levels? The local entity. Who would be liable for the injuries or deaths or responders for giving a grant that knowingly does not comply with the standards? Like it or not we as the American Fire Service help dictate the NFPA standards, and even though we call them "recommendations", try not adhering to them and ending up in court after someone gets hurt.

    You can't then turn around and say 'well if it means that I won't get any money because we don't have enough locally to meet the standard, then let's bend the standard'. If your local entity will not fund 3 FFs per crew, then that is a problem for your citizens to be upset about. If only having 2 per crew is fine with the powers that be and the taxpayers, then you will only have 2 per crew. Far from my personal opinion, I think 4 myself.

    And since a department can only get 1 SAFER, what good does it do to only have 3 per crew? If the locals aren't even making an effort now, then those FFs that will be hired to make 3 will be laid off in year 6, just like the COPS program in the 90s. So in 5 years the department will be in the same position they are now, with 2 person crews.

    But my main point was, NFPA is the litmus test for the grant programs. If you knowingly do not strive to meet them with your project, you will not be funded. Especially with personnel, and especially with only 2 per crew. If you had 3 per crew already and were applying for the 4th, you'd have one heck of an application. But if the locals won't even fund 3 to only be 1 short of the standard, then there must not be a real need in their opinion. So their opinion needs to be changed somehow. Even if they agree that you should have 4 per crew "but the money just isn't there", something isn't right.

    And Matt, if your department is protecting CI with 2 person crews, I don't see any reason that the feds should give you money either. If your local yokels don't think that 2 FFs per crew is a major risk , you've got bigger problems than not getting the grant. The citizens will fund what they think is appropriate for their area. Get them to agree that more FFs are needed, and the elected officials have no choice but to comply.

  10. #10
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    Smile With All Due Respect...

    Dear Brian,
    With all due respect, along with the greatest degree of admiration and gratitude that I have for you and for your contributions to the Fire Service, let us agree to disagree on this one particular train of thought.

    No doubt you are right in your assessment of the scoring logic. No doubt you have succinctly laid out what will and will not work. I both admire, and in fact am somewhat envious of, your ability to both see with clarity and see with a sense of machine logic the reality of any given situation. No doubt having this particular gift serves you well in your alternate career of computer programming. I myself don't always do so. I sometimes think along the lines of what I wish the situation would be or should be, and then sometimes wonder aloud how one might bring that desired state about. This was one of those times.

  11. #11
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    Thanks and I do agree that your situation needs to be changed. But when the mark is that far short of the standard, the grant programs can't do their job. Like I teach in my seminars, grants are only meant to 'support' and 'enhance' local efforts. If there's nothing to support or enhance, the goals can't be met. More accurately, they'll give it to someone who is doing something. Kinda lik saying you have $50K in bank account to overmatch a truck grant, but your PPE has holes in it. Actions speak louder than words, so if you do something that is a low priority (like buy chiefs cars), then you can't expect anyone to give you PPE money either. So by having only 2 person crews the message is we don't have fire risks, otherwise we'd have more people on duty.

    And in a strict scoring perspective if someone else is willing to meet the standard with their project, then they will score higher than someone that doesn't. That's the overly simple explanation, but it's true.

  12. #12
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    ... and this is why we must lobby for change, when change is due. CaptMatt, you shoud put those thoughts to paper and make sure you send them to Chertoff himself and your congressman as well. Good points, well taken, eloquently spoken! Our resident reality check person though, Brian , is also unfortunely right as well. Once the program rules are set, you can;t change them without a literal "act of Congress". The key here folks is to learn to "complain" effectively and by strength of unity amongst yourselves.
    Kurt Bradley
    Public Safety Grants Consultant

    "Never Trade Skill for Luck"

  13. #13
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    Well, the other thing is that Congress is not going to ignore NFPA standards either. Once they do, every other government entity that thinks that they have too many paid FFs sitting around a firehouse in an effort to make 4 per crew will lay off until they only have 2 or 3 per crew. Because if Congress suddenly ignores NFPA, NFPA will then be a toothless old alligator. It would backfire big time. And talk about layoffs.

    Then of course there is no basis for the SAFER Hiring section because there is no minimum staffing standard to be met. So if there is nothing to improve to, no need for the program. Status quo would be acceptable, so not a single FD in the country could claim any basis for needing more FFs. Again, like it or not, NFPA is the basis for what these grant programs are funding.

    Then there are the parts about how NFPA Fire Codes wouldn't need to be adhered to, etc, etc. I mean if one part of NFPA is ignorable at the federal level, why not all of them at any level? The only answer is to lobby the local entity to increase funding there first to hire more FFs to meet standards, while at the same time lobby Congress for more money for the entire program. It's not impossible, it's done all of the time. It's not up to the Feds to take care of us in our own communities about local issues like fire service. It's up to the local fire service to let the community know that they're at risk, and have a plan of action on what needs to be done. I think if the people heard how much of a reduction there is in the chance that they'll die WHEN/IF their house catches fire, they might part with a few extra bucks a year. Or agree that maybe their tax dollars shouldn't be spent on something else. Not including the public is a big mistake in funding fire departments in general, not just with grant programs.

  14. #14
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    And if you want a place to start moving money out of and back into AFG, here's three of them:

    USAID
    US Agency for International Development
    Indonesia USAID-Jakarta
    Justice Sector Reform Program in Indonesia
    Modification8
    http://www.grants.gov/search/search....IEW&oppId=7622
    $9 million

    USAID
    US Agency for International Development
    Russia USAID-Moscow
    North Caucasus Program
    Grant
    http://www.grants.gov/search/search....IEW&oppId=7678
    $2 million

    USAID
    US Agency for International Development
    Drought Preparedness and Mitigation Program in South and Southeast Asia
    Modification1
    http://www.grants.gov/search/search....IEW&oppId=7683
    $2 million

    Not that I'm unfriendly towards other nations but at the least we have flooding problems here that we ought to be taking care of before other people's flooding problems. So $13 million going overseas. And that's just one email out of 5 I got this week detailing similar programs that take away from the fire service's more pressing needs.

  15. #15
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    Now I agree with just about everyting that Brian has to say about grants etc...but not buying new chief's cars each year?????
    What in the wide, wide world of sports are you talkin about here
    (yes I am TOTALLY JOKING HERE)

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