Changes Announced for FY2011 Grants

Officials with fire and non-affiliated EMS agencies should be working on their Assistance to Firefighters Grant applications as the period has been extended through 5 p.m. on Sept. 9.

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For the first time, funding will be available to establish behavioral health programs and to buy boats under 20 feet. Officials also will be allowed to apply for money to purchase more than one vehicle, explained Cathie Patterson, branch chief for FEMA's Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

"We actually had small boats in until 2008, but took them out," she said, adding that officials suggested they needed to be included.

Also, ambulances have been elevated and are now on equal priority with fire trucks.

Patterson said she expects to see a large number of requests this year as departments struggle with budgets. "Our help desk has been really busy."

Competition for the $380M will be tough, she added.

Matching funds range from 5 to 20 percent with larger departments paying the higher percentage. The formula for determining the amount is based on population.

Grants may be applied for to purchase PPE, fire and EMS vehicles, and making modifications to facilities.

Clear, concise documentation is essential as peer reviewers are not allowed to contact department officers, she said.

The request for people to review AFG applications will go to the various fire service organizations in the coming days. While it doesn't pay for their work, the federal government does cover transportation, housing and meals.

The FIRE Act grant program has often been lauded by legislators because of the peer review process.

The SAFER grant period will open in the fall or early winter.

Also, anyone who receives a federal grant must register in the Central Contractor Registration system. It is only required if funds are awarded.