The intent behind FEMA GO is to have grants be managed in a more streamlined, user-friendly system. Over time, organizations like yours will be able to manage FEMA grants and other programs in one place.
This is a new system, and it is a big change. However, the new rules of the road are the new rules of the road. Once you are up and running, you should be ready to work in the new system to apply for and manage grants.
How to register on FEMA GO
Of course, first you’ve got to get set up.
For starters, the same E-BIZ contact for your department’s SAM.gov account has to set up your FEMA GO. (Note that FEMA GO doesn’t replace SAM but works in conjunction with SAM.)
FEMA has put together a step-by-step guide to help you register. According to FEMA, registering should take about 15 minutes.
Set up your organization and your grant writer on FEMA GO
As part of setting up your organization, you’ll also need to authorize your grant writer to be able to access any grants or applications in your account.
Once your account is set up, you’ll see a button that says “Add an AOR,” or, “Authorized Organizational Representative.” In order to access grants and account information relevant to your grants, you’ll need to add your grant writer as an AOR.
Important: An AOR is not the same thing as a contact. You can set up anyone as a contact, but contacts are not authorized to see, edit, or manage your grants and grant applications. Only AORs can view a grant and have access to the parts of the account they need in order to help with the grant.
The SAM.gov E-Biz contact who sets up the FEMA GO account must also set the AOR. In the case of the grant writer, the person must be set as an AOR, not simply as another grant contact.
Once the AOR is set, the AOR grant writer will be sent an email notification that they’ve been added as an AOR, and then the grant writer should be able to access your department’s grants in FEMA GO.
Use FEMA GO to apply for grants, accept awards, and manage grants
FY 2018 AFG, SAFER, and FP&S are the first grants to be managed inside FEMA GO. As FY 2019 programs open for applications, those grants will also be applied for, monitored, and managed in FEMA GO. During 2020, departments can expect older grants under management to also be migrated into FEMA GO.
Updates for FEMA GO and FY 2019 fire grants
FEMA GO is a new system, and modifications and fixes are still underway.
As of Oct. 4, 2019, modules such as “Payment Request” are still in progress. Once deployed, this function will allow you to access and use your grant funds.
FY 2019 grant application periods will be announced at a later date. At this time, our understanding is that FY 2019 AFG will open during first week of December, and it will run through mid-January. Final dates have not been announced yet.
FEMA GO is a big change for how departments apply for and manage grants. However, before you know it .you can be up and running on FEMA GO, and hopefully new grants plus management of your current grants will be easier.
Over the past few years, regional grants have become a powerful way for multiple agencies to band together and apply for a grant.
Funding sources, especially DHS, like to see regional applications. Why is that? Regional applications fit well within the NIMS framework, in that everybody plays well together in the same sandbox. Not only can departments enhance their own individual operations, but by seeking grants together they can also improve mutual aid and interoperability.
However, regional grants are no more of a slam dunk than any other grant. Here are some things to keep in mind before you apply:
It can be challenging enough to meet a grant deadline for one agency. When coordinating with multiple agencies, expect delays.
If not managed well, working on a regional grant can quickly turn into chaos—akin to “herding cats.” Since regional grants must have MOUs (Memorandums of Understanding) in place prior to submission, sometimes it takes 2-3 months of governing board meetings to accomplish getting a single MOU in place, yet alone multiple ones.
Give yourself as much time as possible to put together the grant. We recommend that regional applications have at least a 6-9 month lead time to properly research, coordinate with fellow agencies, and put together a comprehensive application.
Choose the lead agency.
While every organization in a regional grant will be part of the funding request, typically one agency should be designated as the lead agency. That agency will be responsible for taking point, funneling all points of contact, and the overall work of researching, writing, filing, and managing the grant.
Make sure that department knows what they’re getting into. That way no one misses deadlines or leaves out important details.
Host interagency discussions.
The lead agency will task each agency with the responsibility for gathering statistical data and then compiling all the information and data needed to make your regional grant application happen.
It is highly recommended that a steering committee comprised of several key staff from each participating agency be formed at the start of tackling a regional grant.
As needed, host conference calls and in-person meetings. Gather all participating departments to make sure you are all compiling information, airing conflicts, and making sure everyone is still on the same page.
Don’t ask for the moon.
The same rules for a single grant application apply to a regional grant application:
Ask only for what you need to get the job done.
Most grants exist to fund basic safety equipment, not the highest technological equipment (and certainly not the most expensive). Focus only on the high-priority items that will both help all the applying departments, and meet the requirements and funding priorities for the grant’s program funding organization.
Train professionally and get certified
Grant funding is absolutely tied to proper training of the personnel who will be using the requested equipment.
Grant funding sources will not give technologically superior and expensive equipment to departments that do not have properly trained or certified personnel who know how to safely and properly use that equipment. It is always better to say that you have staff properly trained to accomplish the tasks, then note that unfortunately they lack the proper equipment to safely perform the tasks, rather than ask for equipment and then offer to train on how to use it.
Only request what you have personnel or positions for.
Asking for more than what you are eligible for is a surefire way to get a rejection notice.
Remember: Funding sources do not fund “extra” or “spare” gear for staff that do not exist. Asking for more equipment than you have staff for will result in a denial of your grant application.
Double-check the RFP/NOFO (Request for Proposal/ Notice of Funding Opportunity) too. Often the RFP/NOFO will list how to determine the quantities of gear you may be eligible to request.
Strength in numbers
The goal of a regional grant is generally to increase the interoperability of the surrounding area agencies to respond to a multi-agency/jurisdictional incident.
Regional grants work well because there is strength in numbers. By combining forces you get to take advantage of the numbers such as increased call volume, increased square mileage of coverage areas, and increased population counts. All of these bode favorably in grant scoring for awards.
Make sure you are watching the details and coordinating well with your mutual aid agencies, and all of you could be on your way to the winner’s circle with your next regional grant.
Our Federal government is now in the longest shutdown in our country’s history. Concerned departments nationwide have been calling me and asking the same question: “Is this government shutdown going to affect grants?”
No simple answer
I wish there was a simple answer to that question. Unfortunately there is not. I will, however tell you what to expect. The news here may be a little better than what you expected, as long as you look at it from the right perspective.
First, everyone needs to take a deep breath. Remember, this is not the first time the government has shut down. Nor will it be the last.
Shutdowns have happened before
Partisan politics aside, the government has endured several past shutdowns (or “spending gaps,” to more accurately label them). In fact, there have been 18 government shutdowns since 1976. Each one has lasted anywhere from several days to several weeks.
Key point: Not one shutdown has resulted in any incidents deemed catastrophic in nature.
I personally have been a taxpaying adult, either employed by the government directly (military service), or in local government, or the private sector. I can say that none of those shutdowns ever affected me significantly either professionally nor personally.
How the shutdown is affecting federal grants
So, what is the shutdown doing to affect the grant programs? Well, I can tell you that the staff at FEMA, in the offices that cover our primary grants, are operating on a skeleton staff. Historically, during these shutdowns, several things will be or are occurring:
They are operating with a skeleton staff, so emails may not be answered, phone calls are probably not being returned, amendments may not be moving through approval/disapproval status, EHP reviews are on hold and, certainly, no new grant programs will open while the shutdown is in effect.
Drawdowns of awarded money may be delayed.
Previously stated opening dates for programs will be pushed back.
Peer review panels for the 2018 AFG grants will be delayed (as of this writing the 2018 AFG peer review panel has been moved to Feb. 24, 2019).
SF425 and semi-annual performance reports will continue to be due on their respective dates.
The gift you’ve been given
Now, as soon as the shutdown is resolved things will get back on track and return to business as usual. But the news is not all that bad here folks, if you take a different perspective.
You have been given the gift of time!
The one thing that you have the least amount of control over as a public safety employee is your time. This shutdown is affording you additional time to prepare for 2019 grants. Remember, if you fail to prepare, you can prepare to fail when it comes to grant applications.
What to do with this gift of time
The question is, though, what should you be doing with this gift of time?
You should be making use of this time to plan out your upcoming projects for 2019 and 2020. Here are a few ideas:
Do some better research on your critical infrastructure
Dig into your data deeper
Update your department and community description
Develop and send out those surveys you need to win a Fire Prevention and Safety grant
Find out exactly how much putting a new fireman on the payroll is going to cost
Try to figure out where additional money can be identified that could be used to offset SAFER money and give you a stronger sustainability plan
Dig in and figure out how many times you are or are not complying with NFPA1710-1720
You should also be thinking about getting yourself and your department properly trained to incorporate proper grant strategy into your overall financial planning. Pick a school and go find out what the other folks are learning so your applications win more often. Explore the possibilities available to you by consulting with a true public safety grant consulting firm. Doing so can truly make a difference in your overall outcomes.
This too shall pass
This government shutdown will be over before you know it. In the meantime, take advantage of the extra time that it is affording you: Use this gift of time to get ready for upcoming grants in 2019 and 2020.
Once summer gives way to fall, we all know how close we are to the holidays… and then to another new year. As we head into the final months of 2018 and look ahead to 2019, there is lots your department can be doing right now to prepare for next year’s grant opportunities.
Conduct a needs assessment
Proper planning involves a myriad of things, one of which is assuring that you have proper manpower and equipment to carry out your basic mission for your citizens. A needs assessment gives you the facts you need to know about how well prepared your department is to carry out its primary function.
Each year, public, private, corporate, and non-profit organizations provide thousands of grants worth billions of dollars. What programs are out there that your agency could benefit from? What program will you try for for the first time? What programs have you tried for and gotten rejected, but you’re determined that this year be the year you get to the winner’s circle? Remember: Lots of grants open for applications during the first quarter!
Know and practice the 4 things grant winners have in common
Over the years we’ve looked at thousands of grant applications, and we have seen it all. The good. The bad. The ugly. And there are things that consistently set the winners apart from the losers. Put our 4 tips to work in your grant efforts, and you will be far more likely to celebrate a grant award in 2019.
You can make a well-stated case for why your department needs a grant more than another, but you also have to back up your story with hard data. Luckily, there’s lots of that out there. Demographics, critical infrastructure, economics, you name it.
Law Enforcement, EMS, Emergency Management, Fire Service. You name it, no matter what part of the Public Safety sector an agency is in, when it comes to winning grants those winning agencies have 4 things in common.
1. They all got an early start.
Winning agencies don’t wait till the last minute. They tend to start their application and narrative 3-6 months ahead of the grant program’s opening date.
2. They all know the NOFO backward and forward.
The number one reason grants are rejected is that the applying agency committed “failure to follow directions.”
Know where these directions are?
Every single direction is in one document, known as the NOFO or RFP, the Notice of Funding Opportunity and Request for Proposal. This vital document spells out every detail of a grant program. Losing agencies sometimes barely open or skim the NOFO.
Winning agencies read, re-read, and re-read these documents again, and keep them close at hand for further reference throughout their application process.
3. They know what they need and why they need it.
Winning agencies have conducted a “needs assessment” in order to identify the highest priority item not just for themselves, but that also falls into the high priority category defined by the grant funding source.
In order to be competitive, you have to know the difference between a “need” and a “want.” They are distinctively different. Only seek “high” priority projects to go after in your grant.
Be sure you have thoroughly vetted your project with agency administrators and command staff. That way, prior to you even starting the grant application, everyone is reading from the same page and knows exactly what you will be writing for and why.
4. They seek out professional training, advice, and consulting.
Winning agencies know that you don’t just train for incident response. You train for writing grants too. They get the professional expertise they need to understand the grant process. They seek professional advice and assistance to guide their efforts and check their work for mistakes prior to submission.
As an example, the wrong answer to a single question can result in lowering your grant’s priority from a “high” to a “medium or low” priority. As such, your grant would end up rejected by the computer as not being competitive enough to go further through the vetting process. All because of one error.
While no one person or no amount of preparation can guarantee a grant’s success, these 4 steps can make it far more likely that your grant will make it to the winner’s circle.
How can you put these 4 things to work in your agency’s grant efforts today?
The Fund Finder News, by Kurt Bradley, Senior Grants Consultant, First Responder Grants
Firefighter jobs: The need is there—but do you have the funding to bring on the personnel?
NFPA 1710 and NFPA 1720 lay out guidelines for staffing levels for fire departments to maintain proper fireground safety during responses to structure fires. For example, if you’re responding to a structure fire at a 2,000 square foot, two-story, single-family home, here’s the staffing NFPA says you should have:
In an urban area (>1,000 people/square mile), at least 15 staff should respond within 9 minutes, 90% of the time
In a suburban area (500–1,000 people/square mile), at least 10 staff should respond within 10 minutes, 80% of the time
In a rural area (<500 people/square mile), at least 6 staff should respond within 14 minutes, 80% of the time
In a remote area (travel distance greater than 8 miles), at least 4 staff should respond, 90% of the time
Are you now looking around the fire hall and thinking, “Well that’s nice, but where am I going get the people to fill those boots?”
The SAFER way to staff fire jobs
Every year, fire service organizations around the country recruit and hire personnel. That’s not because they all suddenly discovered gold in the back of the bunker gear lockers either. It’s because they received SAFER grants, ranging from a few thousand dollars, to millions of dollars in direct grant funding to the department.
Analyze your call logs for the past three years. How many times have you had insufficient numbers of personnel responding to an incident?
Having adequate personnel decreases the time it takes to respond to an incident and get a fire under control, which also decreases the chance of harm to firefighters and the public you are supposed to be protecting.
If you don’t have the numbers, you have the need. Now you can build your case for why your department should receive a SAFER grant.
Make sure your SAFER grant application includes…
Remember, your grant application isn’t you asking for a handout. Your SAFER grant application’s job is to paint a picture of why your department is in need, and to offer a solution to the problem you’ve outlined. SAFER funding is just to help you carry the ball into the end zone.
When working on your SAFER grant, any solution you offer must:
Result in compliance with NFPA1710/1720 at least 85% of the time
Reflect that you reviewed records for the past three years
Determine how many times your department did not comply and what that percentage is
The lower the compliance rate, the better chance you have to get funded. Again though, remember that your solution must gain your department NFPA 1710/1720 compliance at least 85% of the time.
Keeping those jobs after SAFER funding is essential
SAFER isn’t a permanent solution to your staffing levels though. The intent of the program is to help get your department to better staffing levels. It’s your department’s responsibility to keep those jobs going after the SAFER funding period.
As part of your application, detail out how your department will continue funding these new firefighter jobs beyond the SAFER grant’s funding timeframe. You need to offer a sound sustainability plan, such as funds coming from:
Tax abatements from lured industrial facilities or new developments expiring
Attrition through retirement
Measured economic growth
Completion of projects that are already underway that will yield tax revenue upon completion. This cannot be “maybe projects,” though. Work must be underway, with a completion date prior to the grant performance period ending, in order for this to be considered a viable source of revenue to a proposed sustainability plan.
Better staffing and improved incident response
SAFER is a competitive program. But for a department that can demonstrate need and show a path forward beyond the SAFER grant, odds are decent that you just might be filling some more fire boots, complying with NFPA staffing guidelines, and improving your overall department safety and incident response.
If you wish to start considering a SAFER grant for your department for hiring firefighters, it would be beneficial for you to read the Notice of Funding Opportunity for last year’s SAFER grant. Typically the rules don’t change much from year to year.
There is an old saying that floats about and holds a special truth not only in how we conduct our daily operations, but also in how we go about applying to grant funding sources. That saying is:
“If You Fail to Plan, You Can Plan to Fail!”
Proper planning involves a myriad of things, one of which is assuring that you have proper manpower and equipment to carry out your basic mission for your citizens.
Get the facts of what you need to know about your department’s ability to respond to incidents
One of the tools that you should be using in that planning is a needs and capabilities assessment. It is one of the first things that you need to do, especially if you are the Chief of the Department.
This report is what gives you the facts you need to know about how well prepared your department is to carry out its primary function, whether that be a Fire/EMS or Law Enforcement agency. It gives you a “State of the Union” report, so to speak, about your department.
So, just exactly what is a “Needs and Capabilities Assessment,” and how do we go about doing one?
Inventory all the equipment the department has
The first thing to do is a complete inventory of all equipment the department has. This inventory should include the following:
Personal Protective Equipment
What is your PPE? Whether that be structural turnout gear, wildland gear, ballistic protection equipment, or specialty haz-mat suits, inventory and assess all PPE
How many coats, pants, fire hoods, boots, helmets, goggles, gloves, etc., do you have?
What are the ages of each piece?
When was it purchased and to what national standard/edition does it comply with?
What is the condition of the equipment exactly?
How do you clean and repair it?
Where is it stored it when not in use?
Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus
How many SCBA sets do you have?
Describe them well?
When were they purchased?
How many spare bottles do you have, and what is their age and NFPA standard/edition of compliance?
When are your bottles going to expire?
How many facemasks do you have? When were they purchased, and to what standard/edition do they comply?
What is wrong, exactly, with the SCBA or bottles?
How much money have you expended in the past 2 years repairing or inspecting these bottles?
Do you have a compressor-fill station to fill bottles with? How old is it? What is it costing you to maintain? If you don’t have one how do you fill your bottles now?
Do you have enough hose to meet NFPA1901 compliance on each apparatus?
What hose testing have you done, and what were the results?
How much hose has been taken out of service and needs to be replaced?
What size and lengths are needed?
What appliances or nozzles and attachments do you have? What is wrong with them?
Are your hoses compatible with surrounding mutual aid departments?
You should obtain a complete list of each apparatus by year of manufacture, manufacturer, pump and tank size.
Number of seat belted positions?
Number of SCBA carried onboard?
Mileage, hours on pumps and engines?
How much money in maintenance has been spent during last 2-3 years?
Is each apparatus passing its tech inspection for pumping capacity or aerial operations?
Are they all properly equipped with emergency lighting and properly marked to NFPA standards?
How many vent saws, PPV fans, ceiling tools, flappers, axes, pike poles, ladders, hydraulic rescue tools, generators and scene lighting equipment do you have?
What condition are these tools in?
Assess all personnel, training, and certifications
The next thing in completing the Needs and Capabilities Assessment involves personnel.
How many members do you have?
How many are active FFs?
How many are strictly support staffs or fire police?
How many are trained to the equivalent of or certified at FF1 and FF2?
What about EMTs?
How many hold dual certification, and to what level?
Are all of your people compliant with NIMS?
How do you staff?
What about your station houses?
How many stations do you have?
How are they staffed?
What is the condition of each?
Do any need major repairs? If so, how much is it anticipated to cost to repair?
Do you have living quarters in them?
Do they have an auxiliary emergency generator supporting them?
Do they have Vehicle Exhaust Removal Systems?
Are they ADA compliant?
Do they need expansion in terms of living space, admin offices, training rooms, wellness and fitness rooms etc.?
Call Volume & Incident Response
Next, you need to do an analysis of the past three years of your department’s call volumes.
Are you seeing increases in certain areas and why?
Are you staying level with call volume, or are you increasing or decreasing?
What kind of critical infrastructure are you exposed to exactly?
How much mutual aid are you calling for or responding for?
What to do once you have the data
Once you have gone through these questions and gathered the data for them, you should be able to sit down and do a comprehensive report delineating data and statistics for them all. This now becomes a planning tool not only in budgetary matters, but in looking toward the future operations of the department. It also becomes a sheet you can turn to in deciding what you might need to be asking for in your grant applications.
Knowing where shortcomings are helps you to develop a “wants vs. needs” list, and there is a distinct difference between the two.
A “wants” list is items or equipment which would make your tasks easier to perform or give you additional capabilities, but it is not a critical piece of equipment for you to perform your basic mission tasks. It’s good to know what your department wants, but wants won’t help you get grants.
Identify the needs and seek grants to fill those needs
When you are dealing with federal grant programs, you want to be looking at your “needs” list and seeing which items or equipment on that list are listed as a priority of the funding source to whom you are applying for.
Most of the federal grant programs (including AFG, FP&S and SAFER) pretty much require you to make your request based upon the results of a “Needs and Capabilities” study you have either had prepared or accomplished on your own.
When you read the RFP/NOFO of the grant program, it will always spell out what priority certain requests will have. Never go for anything other than a high priority on any grant program if you expect to be successful. This is where the document you are producing comes in really handy, as it will allow you to prioritize the wants and needs on your list according to what the program funding source’s priorities are.
Although it might seem like the proverbial pain in the backside to do, once you’ve completed your needs assessment it can be a guidance document for you in many different decisions involved in efficient and safe operations for your department. Having completed a needs assessment can also increase your likelihood of being funded, by assuring that you have formed the proper nexus between your needs and that of the program funding source. Many grant programs will give higher priority to those requests that are submitted based upon a “Needs and Capabilities” assessment.
It’s time to look ahead to next year. How will your department bridge funding gaps, and acquire critical training and equipment?
Plan. Learn. Train. Here are 3 steps you can take now to get ready for 2017 grants.
Step 1: Plan
What grants will your department go for?
Every year, grants are available from public, private, corporate, and non-profit providers, and those funds can benefit Law Enforcement Agencies like yours.
Review our list of available Law Enforcement Grants
Bookmark programs your agency should try for
Review each grant and its requirements
Do the work, write the application, and get it done
Step 2: Learn
Solid data and a strong narrative make a big difference.
Just as you need solid evidence to build a good case, grants need solid data and a strong narrative to give you a competitive shot at a program. We maintain comprehensive lists of data and statistical resources plus government websites that you can turn to get that critical information.
Understand the grant’s requirements
Review our resources for the sites you need
Pull the data into your application and narrative
Follow the rules of the grant
Step 3: Train
Get the training to get the gear.
Whether you are writing your first or your hundredth grant, there is always more to learn and improve. Grants can also be confusing, but solid, “meat and potatoes,” down-to-earth plain-talk training can give you the skills and confidence you need to tackle any grant.
Discuss with your superiors and administrators how grant-writing training can help your agency
Review available resources
Check our National Training schedule or take our Online Grant-Writing Course on your schedule and wherever you are
With a $310,500,000 awards pool, America’s largest fire grant program, the FY2016 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG), is open for applications Oct. 11-Nov. 18. AFG is expected to make 2,500 fire grant awards to protect firefighters, EMS and the public against fire hazards.
But with thousands of applications vying for this pool of grant money, how can your grant stand out from the pack? Kurt Bradley, Senior Grant Consultant for First Responder Grants, has these 5 tips:
Bring your A-game
Money is the same as last year, which will mean it’s going to be a very competitive grant. Your application and narrative will need solid data and a strong need to help it stand out from the pack.
There is very little funding for Vehicle Acquisitions
Out of the 2,050 applications funded under FY2015 AFG, only about 160 were for Vehicle Acquisition fire grants. Only 25% of total AFG money can go to vehicles, and AFG has pledged 10% of that money to ambulances. That gives you an effective 15% of the total AFG money going for new apparatus.
Since the grant money is now so low when it comes to replacing apparatus, and since so few apparatus are being funded, departments are wise to have a Plan B in mind for replacing their apparatus. AFG is a real long shot right now to win a vehicle. If you need apparatus, look at non-AFG ways to fund it, and focus your AFG application on a higher-priority need.
Alternatively, if you really need a vehicle, your application must scream and bleed with the urgency of your need.
High-priority projects only
There is absolutely no sense in writing your grant around a project that is rated as “low or medium.” Plain and simple, it will not get funded. Focus only on high-priority projects. Your grant will be far more competitive.
Haven’t won AFG in a while? That could help you
Departments not having received a grant in at least 3 years will earn extra points. That could help your application move up the ranks and increase your likelihood of getting funded.
Micro-grants are still a very good option.
FY2015 AFG saw many “micro-grants” under $10,000. These micro-grants are a good way to fund high-priority but lower-dollar projects. If the need is great but the cost is smaller than, say, replacing apparatus or procuring dozens of sets of PPE, write the grant and make a strong case.