Hints and Tips: Applying for the Fire Prevention & Safety Grant By: Dayna Hilton

Thursday, 06 July 2006

Before you realize it, the application period for the Department of Homeland Security's Fire Prevention and Safety Grant (FP&S) will be here. Under the auspices of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, the FP&S grant period will open in September. However, it is not too early to start thinking about the application process and how to request funds for your Fire Corps program.

Whether it is your first time to apply for a grant or your third, there is one important thing to remember- you will not get funding if you do not ask. Although there is no guarantee that by applying for a grant that you will receive one, it is well worth the effort of trying for a piece of the $27 million in funding to be appropriated this year.

You may be wondering if the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant can help support your Fire Corps program, and the answer is a resounding "Yes!" In February, the Johnson County (AR) Rural Fire District (RFD) #1 was fortunate enough to receive a Fire Prevention and Safety Grant for its Fire Corps activities. This Fire Corps team is comprised of sixty members of the University of the Ozarks Phi Beta Lambda (Future Business Leaders) organization. These students help the departments' firefighters conduct fire prevention and safety programming throughout the year.

In operating this Fire Corps program, the Johnson County RFD #1 found that they incurring expenses for food, travel, training and for Fire Corps uniforms. As a result, they decided to seek funding from the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant Program. The departments' Fire Corps activities were a vital component of their total grant request. Fortunately, funding was received to help supplement their program.

The Arnett Auxiliary Engine Company, a Fire Corps unit that is sponsored by the Gatesville Volunteer Fire Department in Texas, is another Fire Corps program that received funding from a Fire Prevention and Safety grant. Supporting a total of nine volunteer fire/EMS departments across Coryell County, the auxiliary was recently awarded $86,000 to support its fire prevention and safety program. Part of these grant funds were used to provide smoke alarms for children and seniors within their community.

Whether your group has projects that include installing smoke alarms in your community, helping with code awareness, arson prevention or awareness, fire prevention, or public education programming, the possibilities to enhance your Fire Corps program are endless.

So, where to begin?

First, it is important to understand the importance of the grant. The purpose of the grant is to enhance the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire and fire-related hazards. The primary goal of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program's Fire Prevention and Safety Grant is to reach high-risk populations to mitigate high incidences of fire-related death and injuries. Those eligible to receive a grant include national, regional, state, local, or community organizations, including fire/EMS departments. Private and public nonprofit organizations are eligible to apply for funding for these grants. The best part of this grant is that no matching funds are required.

Second, it is essential to realize that the Department of Homeland Security will be releasing the Program Guidance for this grant in August. Follow the Program Guidance and you will be in a better position to receive a grant. Many departments have found that they did not receive funding because they missed a key point in their grant application, such as not having an effective evaluation measurement in place. If you know and understand the Program Guidance, your chances for funding will increase.

In the meantime, it is a good idea to download the 2005 Program Guidance available on the DHS fire grant website at www.firegrantsupport.com. Use this guide to plan your application. Please note that there will be changes in the 2006 version, but know that it will have many of the same basic components. Also coming in August will be an online tutorial which will explain more about the application process. The "Frequently Asked Questions" (FAQ) section will give more detailed information about questions commonly asked throughout the grant cycle.

Third, due to the decrease in the allotment of funds this year, it is essential to realize that grant funding will be more competitive, so get started now.

Tips for a successful grant application:
 

 

  • Determine your department or organization's risks and needs. Successful applicants match their greatest risks to the program priorities. The risk assessment section identifies gaps in your department or organizations capabilities. Applicants that establish their project scope based upon the risk assessment generally receive the highest consideration.

    For example, do you have a high number of fire related deaths due to the absence of working smoke alarms in homes? Perhaps your Fire Corps team could undertake a smoke alarm installation program in your community. Does your public education program need help reaching those at risk in your community? Then perhaps you need items such as computer and projector to help your Fire Corps team reach the target population.
  • Have a plan for implementing and evaluating your programs. You must have these plans in place when you get ready to write your narrative.
  • Be sure to match your priorities with the priorities of the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant Program.
  • Have your fire department or EMS officials meet with members of your Fire Corps team to determine what needs to be addressed to complete the application process. Assign team members to certain tasks.
  • Have a plan to submit your application early. The earlier that it is turned in, the less traffic there will be on the grant website.


Helpful tips on the application and narrative:
 

  • Be accurate.
  • Be complete.
  • Be honest.
  • Start groundwork now.
  • You may or may not have a lot of experience in writing a grant narrative. Have no fear! If you follow the Program Guidance, it will inform you of all of the critical narrative elements.
  • Write the narrative off-line. The grant website "times out" after 20 minutes, even if you are still working on the website. Take it from someone who learned the hard way, work offline and then cut and paste into the application.
  • Avoid using templates from other sources. The last thing that you want is to draw a red flag to your application.


Elements of the Narrative

1. Application Background Information

In this section of the narrative, note who you are, agency type, where your organization is located and what your needs and risks are. Avoid lengthy information on the history of your organization.

2. Project Description

Note details of the project, such as what your needs are and the details on the cost of the various elements of the project (budget). Be sure to itemize costs by activity. For instance, if you are contributing a smoke alarm installation program, include those items you will need, such as smoke alarms, tools to install the alarms, printing costs for surveys and release forms, etc.

Can the project be completed within the Period of Performance? This is an essential part of your grant as your projects must be completed within a year of receiving the grant. Have those in your department or organization agreed on the project? Note their support in the project description. Be sure to address the goals that will be met for the project. Also list the personnel that will be carrying out the project you are proposing.

3. Elements of Financial Need

In this section of the narrative, you must justify why your department or organization needs the funding. Provide information on how much funding you receive in a typical year and from what sources. Also provide information on how much money you spend in a typical year and what type of expenses you incur. Be sure to include information about what monies are in your savings or reserves. If you are saving money for a vehicle for instance, mention what portion of your savings will go toward this expense. If there is an increase in responsibilities and/or population that affects finances, be sure to include that information as well.

4. Elements of Cost/Benefit

It is imperative to understand the frequency of use versus cost. If you want to purchase a laptop and projector for your Fire Corps to present fire prevention programs, it is unlikely that the project will get funded if they are used infrequently.

Will the item requested provide more efficiency and interoperability? Be sure to include that information as well. Discuss whether or not your project has a "regional" approach. That is, "will you play with others nice in the sandbox?" Do you involve other agencies or organizations? Be sure to document that information as well. Also note the consequences of not receiving the grant award.

5. Measurable outcomes

Be sure to note how the Fire Prevention and Safety Grant will enhance day-to-day operations for your Fire Corps program and include information on how the grant will enhance the protection of lives and property. Have an evaluation plan in place. For more information on evaluating your fire prevention and safety program, you can order the booklet Public Fire Education Planning, A Five Step Process (FA219) from the United State's Fire Administration website, www.usfa.fema.gov, free of charge.

How are grants evaluated?

Application Evaluation- Phase I
Questions in the application are electronically scored. Scoring is based on program priorities. Remember, applications focused on funding priorities have a better chance of reaching the competitive round. Try not to mix low priority requests as this will lower your score.

Application Evaluation- Phase II
Highest scoring applications in Phase I qualify for the competitive range. These applications are evaluated by a panel of three peer reviewers. These reviewers focus on the project narrative.

Panelists rate applications that make it to this phase based on the quality of:Project description and budget

  • Financial need
  • Cost benefit
  • Improvements to daily operations

You must be sure to address all of these items.

The funding of your Fire Corps program is limited only by your imagination. Dig in there, do your homework and prepare for the upcoming grant cycle. Hopefully these tips will provide you with the information you need to write a successful grant and together we can help keep America fire safe.

For more information, visit the Department of Homeland Security's Fire Grant website at www.firegrantsupport.com, Fire Corps at www.firecorps.org, or feel free to contact me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 Dayna Hilton is the Public Fire and Life Safety Educator for Johnson County RFD #1 in Clarksville, Arkansas. A successful grant writer, her fire department has received almost a quarter of a million dollars in grants and awards.

 

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