Your guide to 2017 AFG application changes

Jerry Brant

FEMA has announced that the 2017 application period for the Assistance to Firefighters Grant will open on Dec. 26, 2017 and close on Feb. 2, 2018, at 5 p.m. Along with this announcement, FEMA has released the Notice of Funding Opportunity, Get Ready Guide, Cost Share Calculator and other pertinent resources to assist in preparing a competitive application.

In addition, FEMA has announced the schedule for its 2017 Application Workshop Webinars. Participation in these webinars can provide a wealth of useful information for developing your application.

This year’s application will feature several changes to the equipment and PPE activities of the Operation and Safety portion of the grant. FEMA has made these changes and revisions to elicit a clearer understanding of why the applicant is requesting financial assistance for the request. If you are not cognizant of these changes, then you may find it difficult to accurately answer the questions in the Request Details section of your application.

A guide to priority changes for the AFG

Over the past few years, FEMA has developed an easy-to-understand matrix for those departments applying for an equipment project. The matrix can be found beginning on page 32 of the NOFO. The matrix indicates the type of basic equipment and what priority level it has within AFG.

Equipment either carries a high, medium or low priority. Because of funding restrictions, the emphasis is placed on high priority items.

The matrix also displays an age category. This category assigns an age value based on the equipment’s anticipated lifecycle. This category is utilized to compare like types of equipment in a similar age category.

For example, if you are requesting assistance to replace your five-year-old supply hose, you can study the matrix and see that hose replacement is a high-priority item. However, supply hose has a lifecycle of eight to 14 years. From this quick investigation, you can quickly determine that your five-year-old hose is outside of the eight to 14-year lifecycle and you will have a difficult time competing with other similar projects.

After determining the competitiveness of your project from the equipment matrix, you will next need to examine the reason for your request. In the past, there were three choices for your request. In 2017 there are five. They are ranked by priority as follows:

  • Obtain equipment to achieve minimum operational and deployment standards for existing missions (High)
  • Replace inoperable/broken/damaged to current standard (High)
  • Replace obsolete/non-compliant to upgraded technology (Medium)
  • Increase supply for minimum service requirement due to community growth (Low)
  • Obtain equipment for new mission (Low)

Changes to PPE AFG requests

In a similar fashion, if you are contemplating a request for turnout gear, the reason for your request has been revised but it still carries the basic benchmark that FEMA will not consider replacing turnout gear if it is not more than 10 years old. These new purposes for FY 2017 are ranked by priority as follows:

  • Replace damaged broken inoperable equipment to current standard (High)
  • Replace obsolete/non-compliant to upgrade technology (Medium)
  • Increase supply for new hires and/or existing firefighters that do not have one set of turnout gear (PPE) or allocated seated positions (High)

If you are replacing turnout gear for any other reason, it is a low priority and stands little chance of being funded. Remember, even though these new definitions utilize the term “inoperable,” it does not mean that the item must be out of service. If you are wearing 14-year-old bunker gear that is tattered and torn, it falls within the boundaries of the term inoperable.

FEMA considers SCBA obsolete if it is a minimum of two NFPA cycles and 10 years of age or older from the date of manufacture. Requests for SCBA need to fall within the following priorities:

  • Replace damaged broken inoperable equipment to current standard, NFPA 1981, 2002 edition or prior (High)
  • Increase supply for new hires and/or existing firefighters that do not have one set of SCBA for allocated seated positions (High)
  • Funding every operational member with their own individual face piece (High)
  • Replace obsolete/non-compliant to upgrade technology (Medium)

If you are replacing SCBA for any other reason, it is a low priority and stands little chance of being funded.

Tips for successful AFG applications

Remember to start your application early. There are no bonus points for submitting after 3 p.m. on Feb. 2. When completed, please get another set of eyes to look over your application.

Keep the following tips in mind to strengthen your application:

  • When you encounter any reference to the age of equipment or PPE in the application, you will utilize 2018 as your reference point for determining age. For all other references or questions about age, you will utilize 2017, as that is the year of the application.
  • Vehicle-mounted exhaust systems are now listed under the equipment activity.
  • The following items are now considered a medium priority for fire department applicants: props, simulators, mobile data terminals, computers used in training and mobile computing devices used on scene.
  • EMS training aids with an age category of “short" (five to seven-year life expectancy) are now eligible expense for FY 2017 (i.e., CPR mannequins, airway training equipment, IVs, etc.).
  • Monitoring and sampling devices are now categorized as “sampling devices.” This was done to avoid confusion within similar specialized monitoring devices, for use in medium and low priorities.
  • Nozzles, appliances and foam inductors are all high priorities and listed in one category. These items were combined and defined with an age category of long.
  • Wellness and Fitness category activities are now eligible when applying for a Micro Grant.
  • Cancer screening is now available under the Wellness and Fitness activity.
  • All NFPA 1583 training has been moved to Wellness and Fitness. This request was previously requested under Training.

Finally, invest an hour or two of your life and take part in one of the webinars that FEMA is offering on the 2017 application. It is the best advice that I can give you. These sessions offer you the opportunity to hear an explanation of the application, details about eligible activities and up-to-date information directly from FEMA’s staff.

Happy holidays and please be safe.

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