“Critical infrastructure.” It’s a phrase you might find in many grant guidelines and requests for proposal. But what is it? Where is it? How much does your area have? The answers might surprise you.
What is critical infrastructure?
According to DHS, critical infrastructure comprises physical and virtual systems “so vital to the United States that their incapacitation or destruction would have a debilitating effect on security, national economic security, national public health or safety, or any combination thereof.”
There are 16 sectors:
Food and Agriculture
Healthcare and Public Health
Nuclear Reactors, Materials, and Waste Sector
Water and Wastewater
Where is critical infrastructure?
Critical infrastructure can be anywhere.
How much critical infrastructure does your area have?
And that, folks, can be the big hairy unknown. Critical infrastructure can be in or around your area, and you might not know it.
What to do about it?
We are working on some new resources to help agencies like yours plan around critical infrastructure and how to include details about critical infrastructure in grant applications.
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?
Two Kentucky-based First Responder Grants clients won a combined $294,100 in fire grants from the FY 2017 Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG) program. Both awards were announced as part of the 86 Round 6 AFG fire grant awards announced Aug. 17, 2018.
A first-time AFG applicant, New Castle VFD & Rescue Squad in Kentucky will use its $84,500 fire grant to procure new SCBAs and SCBA masks.
Nelson County Fire and Rescue of Bardstown, Kentucky, had applied on their own to AFG in both 2015 and 2016. However, those efforts were not successful. In 2017 NCFR became a First Responder Grants client. We were successful in gaining them an award of $209,600 to purchase new SCBA and masks for their entire department.
To-date First Responder Grants clients and students have won a combined $1,958,149 in fire grants under FY 2017 AFG this year.
AFG fire grants are administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“Sometimes departments think that they’ll never have a shot to win, or that if they’re rejected they think they shouldn’t try again,” says Kurt Bradley, Senior Grants Consultant at First Responder Grants. “These two Kentucky fire service organizations are reminders of two important things: Even a first-time applicant can win a vital fire grant. And, if you get rejected one year, the best thing to do is try again next year.”
About First Responder Grants
Public safety agencies nationwide rely on First Responder Grants for grant writing training, grant consulting, and the latest news and tips and news for writing winning grant applications. Since 1998, our Certified Grants Consultants have helped public safety agencies like yours win over $1,000,000,000 in grant funding. Our grant writing training students learn to write competitive grants that bring home additional funding dollars to your agency, but that’s not all. Students receiving First Responder Grants training in grant writing maintain a documented +80% success rate at winning a grant award after attending our classes—many on their very first application.
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.
Before we know it, summer will be on the wane. Vacations will be ending. School will be starting. Someday the temperature might even cool off…
As we start to think about fall and–can you believe it?–the year to come, it’s also a great time to talk with your department and municipality about getting grant-writing training. Since our training is only for first responders, emergency management, and public safety agencies, it’s tailored exactly for what you need to write and send out the most competitive grants you can.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and emergency management partner organizations today released two new PrepTalks from Michele Gay and Kristina Anderson focused on improving school safety.
NIMS Alert 21-18: FEMA and Emergency Manager Partners Release School Safety PrepTalks
Gay’s PrepTalk, “Rethinking School Safety”, relays her personal experience as the parent of a child killed in the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. She highlights some of the simple solutions that students and staff needed during the crisis at Sandy Hook, and presents Safe and Sound Schools’ Framework for Comprehensive School Safety Planning and Development: Emergency Management, Community Engagement, Physical Safety, Mental and Behavioral Health, Climate and Culture, and Health & Wellness.
Anderson’s PrepTalk, “Safety is Personal: Lessons Learned as a Survivor of the Virginia Tech Tragedy”, begins with her experience of the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, when she was shot three times. She translates her experience into a focus on the importance of threat assessments in schools to identify and mitigate potential threats. She explains that it’s important to improve physical safety, but it’s just as important to encourage people to monitor their environment and to build a supportive culture in a school.
The next PrepTalks Symposium will be held on September 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. All PrepTalks, question-and-answer sessions, discussion guides, and related resources are available at https://www.fema.gov/preptalks.
PrepTalks are presented by FEMA, the International Association of Emergency Managers, the National Emergency Management Association, the National Homeland Security Consortium, and the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security.
What does this mean for your department?
Here are things to examine in your organization:
What are your policies and procedures for responding to incidents at schools, colleges, and universities?
How will your department coordinate with other responding agencies?
What protocols are in place to protect your personnel or minimize risk?
If you are trying to figure out how your organization can better prepare for and respond to school-related incidents, we may be able to advice on grants or other programs that may be able to assist your department.
On June 11, 2018, FEMA released the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Implementation Objectives for Local, State, Tribal, and Territorial Jurisdictions. NIMS is a key component of U.S. incident management efforts. It helps prepare the nation for catastrophic disasters by enabling organizations from across the country to work together during all incidents, regardless of size or type. Implementing NIMS across the nation is a fundamental part of building a culture of preparedness. The NIMS Implementation Objectives identify the specific activities that are involved in NIMS implementation for state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) organizations and jurisdictions.
FEMA most recently revised the NIMS Implementation Objectives for these organizations and jurisdictions in 2009. This update ensures the objectives are consistent with the third edition of NIMS released in 2017 and incorporates stakeholder input, resulting in a more useful tool for organizations seeking to implement NIMS.
FEMA has developed implementation indicators for each Implementation Objective. These indicators serve as actionable activities that jurisdictions can use to demonstrate NIMS implementation. The indicators are not requirements or criteria, nor are the indicators intended as a checklist for achieving the objectives. The indicators are a tool to assist jurisdictions and organizations in meeting the new implementation objectives.
Beginning on April 27, 2018, ALL entities renewing or updating their registration at www.SAM.gov will be required to submit an original, signed notarized letter confirming the authorized Entity Administrator associated with the DUNS number before the registration is activated.
As a reminder, FEMA will not make an award to an entity until the entity has complied with the requirements to provide a valid DUNS number and maintain an active SAM registration with current information. If the applicant is noncompliant with this requirement at the time of award offer, then FEMA will determine the applicant is not qualified to receive an award
What are the circumstances behind the SAM.gov process changes?
The General Services Administration’s System for Award Management (SAM) is supporting an active investigation by the Office of Inspector General (OIG) into alleged, third party fraudulent activity in SAM. At this time, only a limited number of entities registered in SAM are suspected of being impacted by this fraudulent activity and have been notified.
What changes have been made to the SAM.gov registration process?
The proactive steps taken by SAM to address this fraudulent activity include requiring an original, signed notarized letter identifying the authorized Entity Administrator for the entity associated with the DUNS number before a new SAM.gov entity registration will be activated or an existing entity is updated or renewed.
GSA posted instructions for domestic entities and instructions for international entities for easy reference. Notarized letters must be submitted via U.S. Postal Service Mail. No electronic submissions are being accepted.
What should entities registered in SAM.gov do to protect themselves and confirm that their bank account information has not been changed?
Entities registered in SAM are advised to log into SAM and review their registration information, particularly their bank account information for Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) on the financial information page.
Contact the supporting Federal Service Desk at www.fsd.gov, or by telephone at 866-606-8220 (toll free) or 334-206-7828 (internationally) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EDT), for FREE assistance.
Entities are responsible for ensuring that their information is current and correct in SAM in accordance with paragraph (b) of Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause 52.232-33 or Title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulations Part 25 (2 CFR § 25.310 and Appendix A), as applicable, and should routinely review such information for accuracy.
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.