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.
Has your department been suffering from budget cuts?
We’ll just pause now that you’ve snorted coffee all over the screen.
Of course your department has been suffering. Budget cuts at the state level, local level, you name it. Public safety agencies like your have a tougher, more challenging job than ever-but all too often that’s been accompanied by cuts in the resources needed to meet those challenges and keep both the public and your personnel safe.
But… what do you do about it?
Here are some ideas.
Conduct a needs assessment. Triage your department’s needs for equipment and training. You can only work on solutions once you understand the specific problems. Contact us for a free consultation
Get data to support your case. Solving your problems means backing up the situation. Get solid data on your area, demographics, critical infrastructure, agency injuries, you name it. The better your data, the stronger your case, and the greater the likelihood that you can find more resources. Here are some resources
Did you know that our own Kurt Bradley is a retired law enforcement officer and administrator, with 25 years experience?
When Kurt talks about grants, he understands them not only as a grant writer, but as a public safety professional who understands the challenges faced by today’s law enforcement, fire service, and emergency management organizations.
That’s why Kurt brings his insight, analysis, and understanding to the Fund Finder News, his occasional columns and commentaries about all things public safety grants.
So far Kurt has written 27 Fund Finders, with more on the way. Each piece helps you understand the grants game-and what it takes to win.
Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant
Why Should I Solicit Letters of Support for My Grant Application?
Departments frequently ask me, “Why should I solicit letters of support for my grant applications?” So let’s take a few minutes here and discuss letters of support (LOS). It’s an important but little understood part of putting together a solid grant application.
For Starters, Download This Template
Our simple Word .doc template below gives you what you need to write an LOS:
When departments ask me about getting an LOS, my first response to that question is usually “Why would you not want to do that?” Let’s face a simple fact here. The federal grant system is a political mechanism, plain and simple. We need to remember that when we elect a new cadre of US Congressional types and put them on the hill in Washington D.C., most of them have never held that office before and they really have absolutely no idea what makes this country tick.
It’s also pretty safe to say that most of the freshman Senators and US Congressman probably don’t have a really good idea of what their actual job entails. Quite a few of them probably find out the hard way that many of those political promises they made to get elected are in fact going to be impossible for them to accomplish singularly. Oh, they are well-meaning. Most of them “think” that they can truly make a positive difference. There is, however, a learning curve for many of them.
How many newly elected members of Congress do you think have any background whatsoever in public safety? A scant few. If we are lucky, maybe 1% could check that box in the affirmative. That means they literally have no idea what it takes to run a modern fire department or police department. All they pretty much know is basically what most citizens know about us: when their house in on fire or the burglar is kicking in the front door, when they pick up the phone and dial 911 they expect to hear sirens in the distance getting closer and closer to their abode, and they better be hearing it pretty darn fast too.
But do you think they know how much it costs to have those two fire trucks, with 8-12 FFs on them, to show up? Do you think they know how much a bulletproof vest, body camera and a squad car actually costs? Well, no. They haven’t a clue in most cases.
This is where seeking a letter of support becomes so important.
About More Than Just Your Grant Application
When you are seeking an (LOS) from a Congressional Representative of Senator, it’s not just about your grant application. It’s an opportunity to educate them about our profession, our communities and the challenges that we all face on a daily basis.
If you are soliciting your letter of support correctly, then you will have sent your request for a letter along with a complete copy of your grant. When you do that, you are now giving them a real chance to find out a little about what is going on in the communities and towns that they were elected to represent and support.
An LOS Lobbies Congress for Your Agency
Think about your grant application for a minute. What all is talked about in there? You usually have the following sections in most grant applications:
Program Approach or Project Description
Cost Benefit statement
Impact or Statement of Effect
In a single document you have educated the reader as to who you are, where you are, what problem(s) you are facing and why you cannot handle this problem alone. You are asking the Congressman or Senator to support your effort to get back some of the Federal Income Tax money that you, and your citizens, have been paying every year.
Now, let’s think back to the campaign trail for a minute, when these Congressman and Senators were trying to get your votes. What is almost every one of them promising you at election time? No more tax increases. Now, if grant money comes from federal income taxes, are you not just giving the Congressman or Senator the chance to deliver on what they said they were going to do?
You also doing your part to effectively lobby for your particular career path, be that Fire, Law Enforcement or EMS.
If a Senator or Representative understands your challenges and needs better, don’t you think that just might have an influence on how they might vote when considering the appropriations for our grant programs? The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program was supposed to be funded at $1 billion dollars per year; in 2014 there was only $304 million available for funding. 75% of the money that should be there, is not there. Part of the reason it is not there is because there is very little advocating occurring for why that funding needs to be there, every year.
After reading your grant application, that Congressman or Senator just might think a little harder about what they approve or disapprove in the coming years as far as funding for grant programs for public safety agencies is concerned.
A letter of support can extend itself far beyond just your application this year. It just might have benefits for you and your department in future years as well.
Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant
The end of the year is coming fast and furious, and it’s time to look ahead to 2015. What is your department’s strategy for next year’s grants? How will you bridge the gap between your agency’s needs and budget?
As you look to next year, here are some things to remember that we can help you with:
Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant
During the past 10 years that I have been teaching grant writing across the country, I am consistently asked “Where do I go to find out all the information and statistics that you are saying needs to be included in my grant applications?” Here’s my answer.
This answer used to be a long, long list of various websites along with instructions on how to find the data that you needed. Over the last couple of years though, the Internet has provided a single resource for finding about 80-90% of the information and statistical data that you would need for most grant applications being filed by public safety agencies. That resource is called City-Data.com.
This edition of the Fund Finder will give you an idea of how to use this valuable research tool to assist you in finding some of the critical data that you will need for your grant applications. Follow along here as I explain the mounds of data to be discovered and exploited to your advantage on just this one site.
An Intro to City-Data.com
Are you trying to find information regarding your city, town, township, village or county? All you have to do to access this site is to simply go to a Google search bar and type in the name of your city or county, state, and >City-Data.com (e.g., Lakeland, FL city-data.com). Look in the Google returns until you see something like this:
Once you are on that page you will scroll down below the couple of photos that will appear your area. You will start to see the statistical data and information on your screen like in the screen shot below.
Explain Your Community and Establish Financial Need
In this area there is a myriad of statistical data that can be used in your application to help explain your community, assist in developing your financial need statement, etc. such as:
Population of the area from 2012 US Census. You will need this in describing your community and how many people you serve. It is also needed to calculate the cost benefit of your project.
Estimated median household income and how it compares to the state average. This is a demographic that needs to be quoted in your financial need statement.
Median value for the average home or condo. In the financial needs section you need to be showing where your income revenue is coming from. If your income is derived from property taxes then it would be wise to show what the average value of a house is so they can see how much property value is being taxed.
Per capita income. Once again a key demographic to show how “poor” your residents are. Be sure to look up the average per capita income for your state or the US figure for comparison.
Median gross rent being paid by your residents. This is also useful demographic financial data which depicts how much money the average citizen is paying out of their paychecks a month to afford housing in your area.
Population and Geography
If you continue to scroll down you will see the following data and information being displayed:
A map showing the boundaries of the town, city or county. Useful if you truly do not understand exactly where your jurisdictional boundaries are.
The cost of living index for the area against the US Average. Good information for financial need section.
The total land area in sq. miles. You need this when you describe the size and type of area you cover.
The population density per sq. mile. Essential in describing how many people are concentrated or spread out across your area.
A chart showing the home sales for 5 or 6 past years. Good for financial need section showing if growth is occurring or declining in your area.
Median real estate property taxes being paid. Gives a reviewer reading your financial need section an idea of how much tax revenue you have access to for income.
Geographic reference to larger well known cities. Geography is the #1 subject now failed by high school graduates. It is important to geographically orient your reviewer to exactly where you are located. Most reviewers will not even be from the state that you are in so it is important to give an accurate depiction of exactly where you are.
Single-family new house construction permits for last 10-15 years. Is your area growing in size and outpacing the ability of the department to keep up with that growth? This is a good way to show that in your financial need section.
Daytime population change due to commuting. Are you a bedroom community that is empty during the day or do you double your population in the daytime hours from schools and workers coming to your area.
Employment Statistics and Natural Disasters
Continue scrolling down and you will find the following information:
Current unemployment rates locally and for your state for comparison. Important financial need demographics. Unemployed people cannot donate to you and frequently they don’t pay their property taxes.
Most common occupations and industries charts. What drives your economy? These two charts should give you an indication to be able to state what the primary economic factors are in your area.
Tornadoes, earthquakes and other natural disasters. Is the equipment that you are asking for going to have a bearing on disaster recovery or response? This would give a reviewer a good indication of the frequency and historical probabilities that you are going to need such equipment for a response.
Medical, Transportation, and Education Facilities
Hospitals/Medical centers. Hospitals are critical infrastructure so it is important to list the medical surge capacity available in your area.
Airports, heliports with pertinent information. Airports can also be considered critical infrastructure so this needs to be listed if it is moving commercial passenger or freight traffic through them or if they have military ops going on there.
AMTRAK location. Finding a listing for this should trigger that you need to find out how many miles of rail lines that you have and how many passengers and freight cars are moving across that line daily or annually. Needing to be prepared for a train derailment is a big issue and rial lines are critical infrastructure.
Educational institutions with student enrollments. This is an indicator of how many citizens you are covering at any one time and colleges and universities frequently do government sponsored research with radioactive materials and or other information critical to national defense. It could be a justification for the need for CBRNE related equipment.
Adult obesity rates and diabetes rates. If you were an EMS agency trying to justify a bariatric ambulance or hydraulic operated cots, this figure is a critical piece of information for you.
Media and Communications Infrastructure
Local radio and TV stations. Commercial radio and TV antennas located in your area, are critical infrastructure as this is typically how most emergency broadcast message would be sent.
National Bridge Inventory. Major bridges over water which if they collapsed would cause catastrophic loss of life or disruption of public safety services and economic commerce are critical infrastructure and should be listed.
FCC registered radio communication antennae. Many communication antennas (not cell phone towers) but microwave transmission, maritime or aviation navigational antennas and public utility or public safety antennas are critical infrastructure also and should be listed.
A Better Way to Build a Comprehensive Picture of Your Community and Needs
As you can see this reference resource can be extremely valuable and save you huge amounts of time when trying to research information you need to supply in a grant application to DHS or many State type grant programs.
The difference between this site and Wikipedia is that Wikipedia is “user contributor” driven. In other words, anyone can post something into Wikipedia and it is not independently verified. On the contrary, >City-Data.com gathers its data through a web crawler that seeks the data from official federal, state and local government websites. The reliability factor is much, much higher here on this site, and I have every confidence in using it for my clients.
Use of this resource can make your quest for this type of data much easier. It can also add extra points to your grant application, in allowing you to take credit for what you protect or have responsibilities for.
Remember: most failed grant applications present a black-and-white photo, when an 8×10 color glossy is what they need to succeed.
City-Data.com provides you vital data to put together a big, glossy picture of your community and situation. Draw heavily on this resource to include data to back up your case for financial need, and you will build a much stronger, more competitive grant application.
Public Safety Grant News and Tips by, Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant
Updates for the 2014 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG)
At the recent FRI–IAFC convention in Dallas, officials from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program put on a town hall-style meeting and presented some information that will be useful to all of those who wish to apply to the program in 2014.
When is the 2014 program going to open and what should I be doing right now?
It would appear from the information related at FRI, and from our inquiries at the program office, that the 2014 AFG program will open for applications on Nov. 3, 2014.
Now please note, this is a “tentative” date and is not cast in stone at this time.
The final date won’t be set until the FOA is officially published. For planning purposes though, count on this date as being your opening date for you to submit.
What about SAFER and FP&S? As an FYI, program officials are predicting that both the 2014 SAFER and the FP&S programs will not be open for applications until early 2015.
That means that you should be actively developing your applications at this time.
Note for current clients I would like to remind our current clients that if you are planning on submitting a 2014 AFG application, you should be making contact with me immediately to pick your project and start developing your application. DO NOT WAIT till the program opens to start work on this and then expect that we will have time to review, edit and comment on your application. The early bird gets the worm here, so plan accordingly.
For those of you who are not currently clients but are contemplating using our services in developing your application this year, you also should not delay in contacting us now to get the process started for you. We have a limited amount of time slots to set aside each year to help just so many clients. Those slots fill quickly. Don’t delay, call today!
So how much money does AFG have and for what?
For this year and 2015, the breakdown of the money Congress has allocated for AFG, SAFER, and FP&S is as follows:
2014 and 2015 Assistance to Firefighters Grant money available = $306,000,000
2014 and 2014 Fire Prevention & Safety Grant money available = $34,000,000
2014 and 2015 SAFER program total money = $340,000,000
In terms of the AFG program the funding allocation breakdown goes something like this:
75% goes to the Operations and Safety side of the program, with an equal share of 25% to career, combination and volunteer departments
Up to 25% can be used for vehicle acquisition
Speaking of vehicles, starting with the 2014 AFG program, used vehicles will no longer be eligible for AFG money
State Fire Training Academies: 30 awards totaling $8,143,666
What is the “big deal” about with the OMB (Office of Management and Budget) Super Circular we keep hearing about?
Starting with the 2014 award cycle, all agencies that are eligible to receive an award from ANY federal grant program will need to have a “written procurement policy” that governs their procurement process and which at minimum complies with the federal requirements set forth and listed in 44CFR 13.36 or 2 CFR 200.318.
So what does that mean to me? It means that everyone, right now, should be looking at your local procurement policy and assuring that it meets those minimum federal requirements.
If you don’t have a written procurement policy, specifically for your department, then you must either have one fashioned for you and put it on file, or you can look to formally adopt and mandate usage of a local city, county, or state procurement policy, as long as that policy also meets the minimum federal requirements spelled out in those documents listed above.
This is not something you can ignore.
If you do not meet this requirement, you cannot receive any federal grant award!
This is not something to put on the back burner until you wait to see if you get a grant award. The process of setting up the procurement policy can take several months to accomplish before something legal is in place.
If you get an award notice, you only have 30 days to accept the award. If you cannot demonstrate that you meet this requirement, then you will be passed by. Your award will go to someone who has complied with the new requirement.
What you do not want to do is blindly trust that whatever process you have been using in the past, will still pass muster after December 2014. Do not assume that just because you used a State or a County procurement policy in the past, that it meets the standards that are now being stated in those documents. Check and be sure, as it is your award that will suffer the consequences of being out of compliance.
What other federal requirements do I need to be concerned with?
Many departments are still having problems with the requirements for DUNS number and registration at SAM.gov. The biggest problem still seems to be that departments do not have the exact same information recorded in DUNS as they do in SAM.gov. This is a 2-step process to complete, and you cannot do it out of order.
You must first ascertain what your DUNS number is and exactly how the information about your department is listed. For example, is it listed as the “ABC Fire Company” or “ABC VFC”? Is it “City of Burbank Fire Department” or “Burbank, City of Fire Department”? Once you have determined that all information in your DUNS record is correct and up to date, then and only then do you want to go to SAM.gov and get registered using the exact same information.
But you are not done yet. This is not a one-and-done deal here.
Both DUNS and SAM.gov require verifications of existing information. Now think about this for a moment. If you went in now, checked, and got everything right, then in November applied for AFG, it is conceivable and possible that your grant award might not occur until September 2015, which would be more than 12 months since you checked that information. DUNS and SAM.gov require an update and verification, at minimum, of once every 12 months.
And then there you are, waiting for a grant award and being delayed in getting it because you did not check as required.
I just had a client who received an 1199a update which indicated he was set to get an award from 2013 AFG. It was just this week that FEMA called, and he discovered that he had the wrong Employer Identification Number on his 1199a. It did not match what was in SAM.gov. This one error has been holding up his award now for over 90 days.
Oh, and by the way, are you still dealing with a SAFER award that is 2-4 years old, or an FP&S award where you are drawing down money? If your SAM.gov account goes into “update or verify information status” and you do not catch it and be sure you are “current,” you will not be able to draw down your funding.
Best policy? Check and be sure.
What about reporting requirements?
While we are on the subject of complying with federal requirements, let’s touch base here for a moment on “reporting requirements”.
Do you have a grant that has not been closed out? If you fail to file your semi-annual and annual performance reports, or the required SF425 financial forms, on June 30 and December 31, well, then 90 days later (if you still have money left to draw down on those grants) you will be locked out of your money until such time as you get the reports filed and they have been accepted.
No, it does not matter that AFG may not have the closeout document form available yet for you to close that grant out. If your grant is not in “closed grant status,” then you must file the reports. That also applies to NFIRS reporting for fire departments. No reports, no money!
Failure to comply with the reporting requirements can also be cause for AFG to reject a submitted application and/or to prevent you from filing a future application.
No excuses now! Managing the grant is half the job, so do it right!
What about cost sharing?
Cost sharing for the 2014 and 2015 program is determined by your first due population and is currently set in this manner:
15% for populations over 1 million
10% for population of 20,000 to 1 million
5% for populations of less than 20,000
5% for the FP&S grant regardless of population
What happened with the “micro-grants” introduced in 2013 AFG?
The final totals are not all in as of this writing. However, we can tell you that there were somewhere between 1,300-1,400 “micro-grants” submitted. Based upon what we know from our own clients here at First Responder Grants, the micro-grants were greatly successful.
Interviews with AFG program officials also seem to indicate that they are viewing the program as a success. It is expected that the micro-grants will be back in the 2014 and 2015 AFG.
The whole idea behind the micro-grants is to spread what AFG money is available out among more departments. This approach lets more departments get a piece of the pie, so to speak. In my honest opinion, this tactic is particularly geared towards smaller, rural volunteer and combination fire departments with smaller call volumes and smaller populations. These departments typically have a hard time scoring high enough to make it past the computer competitive range scoring, and receiving an adequate score from the peer panel, to end up with a mean grant score high enough to be in the award rounds.
Want to take go for a micro-grant? Then follow these 3 simple rules:
Remember that the federal share limit for the project cannot be any higher than $25,000 Additional scoring consideration will be given to those departments who have not received an AFG award during the last 3 years (no award since 2010 for those of you trying to do the math).
Pick a project seeking only a “HIGH” priority item
That last thing applies not to only the micro-grants but to the entire AFG program.
Plain and simple here folks: If you insist upon going for a “Medium or Low” priority item, you will most certainly receive the dreaded “Dear John” rejection notice. You will more than likely not even make it past computer scoring into the competitive range.
For those of you grant writers who are not in “Top Dog” status as far as choosing the project to go after, sit down with your chief or board prior to ever putting pen to paper. Drive this point home with a sledge hammer if you have to. Going after anything that is not a “High” priority is an absolute total waste of a grant application.
It is always better to get 80% of something than 100% of nothing!
What is this I am hearing about Ballistic Protection Equipment (BPE) being eligible for AFG this year?
Let me just say something first about this hot topic. There is a huge difference between something being eligible on a program and it being marked as a “High” priority. Please refer back to the last paragraph. Remember to read what I said about only going after “High” priority projects. BPE will NOT be rated as a “High” priority!
There are just too many moving parts here right now to make this work right. There need to be rules and regulations established, and there are many facets of this conundrum which must first be examined, researched, and worked out prior to seeing this being something that AFG will prioritize as being “High”.
We have to give AFG time to wrap their heads and arms around this prior to opening the flood gates and just saying we will fund bulletproof vests for firefighters. Give this idea a year or so for them to bounce around a little and play with, before expecting that you will be successful choosing this project.
If you absolutely, positively have true and immediate need for these items, you can always turn to your State Homeland Security Grant program, which already funds these items frequently.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program remains the primary grant finding program for all fire departments and non-affiliated EMS agencies to apply to, regardless of size or make-up.
It is still a robust program funded at $306,000,000 this year and next. Can you think of a reason why you shouldn’t be going after your piece of that pie? You don’t have to be a Cordon Bleu Culinary School graduate to bake a pie and get a slice. You just have to read and follow directions carefully!
Remember: don’t ever trade professional experience and knowledge for luck. We here at First Responder Grants deal with these programs 24/7/365. Get out there and attend one of our classes, or sign up for our Annual Grant Services Program subscription service. It’s more budget-friendly than you might think, and the payback can be worth 300-400 times the original investment.
It does not cost you a single dime to call and talk to us about your needs, and we will be glad to give a free evaluation of your needs and tell you how we can assist you.
Public Safety Grant News and Tips by Kurt Bradley, Certified Grants Consultant
AFG Body Armor Grants for Firefighters?
Many of you are aware that with the occurrence of active shooter and mass casualty incidents (AS/MCI) there has arisen a strong argument for making Ballistic Protection Equipment ( BPE) available to firefighters and EMTs to use in the “warm” zone of these critical incidents.
The current train of thought seems to center on providing Ballistic Protection Equipment (BPE) to firefighters and EMTs who may be deployed during a tactical response to these incidents but, only for the purposes of “casualty/survivor” recovery and only with a minimum of two law enforcement officers presence who are equipped with long rifles in a relatively secure “warm” zone and not directly into the “hot zone” where an active shooter threat has not already been neutralized. For the record let me say that I am certainly not opposed to BPE for FFs/EMTs but get all your facts first here.
BPE coming to AFG eligibility list, but…
This morning the following letter was posted on the Internet which appears to state that the 2014 Assistance to Firefighters Grant program will be adding BPE to their “eligibility” list this coming year. This is creating a lot of questions for many in the fire service and EMS. So let’s take a look at what was actually said and what is actually occurring and consider some stark realities here.
Here is the letter that is making its rounds on the Internet
As you know, I met with Rep. Capps’ staff to provide background on the issue and to seek her support for ballistic protective equipment (BPE) to be made eligible for funding through AFG, which she agreed to strongly support.
Although the guidance has yet to be released, I am extremely pleased to report that Rep. Capps was just told that FEMA has for the first time agreed to make BPE eligible in the FY 2014 AFG funding round. While BPE equipment may not initially be a high priority of for funding, as the role of fire/EMS evolves with regard to active shooter and mass casualty situations, FEMA anticipates working with Congress to potentially adjust the funding priority of this equipment. I have attached FEMA’s response to Rep. Capps for your records.
After the FY14 awards have been made, we will look at whether FEMA provides funding for any BPE and inquire about the number of requests that were made for this equipment, which will provide us with a measure as to whether to reengage with FEMA regarding BPE’s priority.
The inclusion of BPE on the FY14 AFG funding eligibility list is a big win, especially considering how difficult it can be to get quick action on any agency request. We will be sure to draft thank you letters to Rep. Capps on behalf of the City for her support on this issue.
Nathaniel J. Potter
Manager, Government Relations
Van Scoyoc Associates
Let’s take a moment to absorb that
Alright folks everyone sit back down in your seats here, quit flashing victory signs and take a breath, this is not the opening of a floodgate to BPE by any means. Although it is apparently true that BPE will in fact be eligible on the 2014 AFG, this is not going to be one of those opportunities where you are going to be able to request a bullet proof vest (BPV) for each of your firefighters, simply because it is eligible.
You need to remember here folks that “eligible”, is only one piece of the three part conundrum you must solve to get funded by AFG.
Equipment requested must also be tagged as a “high priority” item to get funded in AFG. I doubt seriously if you are going to see a BPE start out in AFG with a “High” priority for everyone. I seriously doubt that BPE would be prioritized above Structural Turnout Gear or SCBA that is used on almost every single call daily vs. an item that might be needed once or twice in the five year service life of a BPV.
I mean, let’s be realistic here folks. We still have far too many departments out here struggling to replace turnout gear that is still 10-20 years old and departments using SCBAs with elephant trunk, belt-mounted regulators. If AFG follows its past history and sticks to its historical funding patterns, they are still going to fund this “basic” safety equipment before they will fund BPE.
After all, basic structural turnout gear and SCBA are in fact the most “basic” of firefighter personal safety items that there is, because your primary function (for which the grant program exists) cannot be performed without same.
The vest isn’t all
The third thing you need in an AFG application to get funded is to “prove the need”. By the time you buy a BVP and a ballistic helmet you are talking a $1500-2000 expenditure per man.
Forgot about needing that ballistic helmet didn’t you?
When the bad guy routinely knows you are wearing body armor, they just aim higher, for your head! Pretty hard to justify a $1500-$2000 per man expenditure for these items when your frequency of facing an active shooter, random gunfire or mass casualty incident is next to nothing as compared to law enforcement who routinely deals with armed suspects on a daily basis.
What will AFG’s FY2014 funding be?
Let’s also not forget that AFG is still struggling to keep from losing any additional funding it has still retained. They struggle yearly to hold on to what they currently have and, try to gain more dollars from Congress to fund as many departments as they possibly can. Each year they try to supply those needs and with the current level of funding, they are lucky to fund maybe 2,000 departments yearly out of 16,000 who are applying.
Here is another consideration that should be kept in mind. We are talking about a piece of equipment that must be worn over a t-shirt and under your structural turnout coat as well. You will also have to carry an additional helmet. If it is to be considered as a basic item of safety, like normal PPE, that means you have to wear it on every call; you can’t leave it hanging in your locker.
BPE weighs on average between 7-12 lbs. or more depending upon the threat level it is designed to defeat. That’s additional time to dress-out properly, delaying response time further. The retained heat inside your turnout coat is already almost unbearable… and you are now going to add an item which will increase that heat retention even further?
The heat is on
Take it from someone who wore a BPV for 20 years daily as a cop here in Florida. Body Armor raises your skin temperature another 2 degrees or better. And that was with me wearing only a poly-cotton uniform shirt over it… and sitting in an air-conditioned squad car on max cool. I was not dressed in a 12-15 lb. structural turnout coat that is scientifically designed to seal you away from heat and moisture which conversely traps it inside even more.
Now, throw yourself out on a fire scene on a hot summer day in 90 degree ambient air temp, and then push you into a burning building. I would venture to say that the frequency and length of rehab needed will increase no less than 25% or more.
So let’s just increase the heat factor, add some additional weight you have to carry as a load and think about the extra physical exertion it will cause.
I believe heat stroke and over-exertion are stress factors that would just contribute more towards the leading cause of firefighter deaths, cardiac arrest. This supposed solution may just end up killing more than it ever saves.
If AFG is all about increasing your safety it MUST devote its limited resources to the areas where the greatest need exists and greatest cost benefit will result. Unless we see Congress invest a significant amount of money back into AFG (which is unlikely), in my opinion you are going to see AFG awarding these out on, at best, a very, very limited basis.
Where are your department’s highest needs and priorities?
There will not be a willy-nilly blanket policy of “ask and you shall receive here”.
You are going to have to show need.
You are going to have to demonstrate that your firefighters have been properly trained in “tactical deployments” for AS/MCI.
You most definitely are not going to see a whole department get BPEs for every FF.
What to do for FY2014 AFG
There are still a lot of questions to be worked out here. My best advice is tosit back this first year, and watch and seewhere BPE funding lands on AFGs “priority matrix.” See how they score at computer, how the peer panel is going to review the apps during this first year, and who actually gets funded—and for what.
Don’t waste an opportunity here until you see what shakes out as a result this first year.
If you really feel the urgent need for the BPE, remember that the State Homeland Security Grant Program and Tribal Homeland Security Grant programs already allow such purchases as well. You may want to try there first, and stick to other priority items in your FY2014 AFG application.