Application Tips for Fire Prevention and Safety Grants

By Jerry Brant  

The application period for the Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) Grants Program opened Monday — and $35 million will be allocated for projects that support activities in two broad categories:

1. "Fire Prevention and Safety, which encompasses activities that are designed to reach high-risk target groups and mitigate incidences of deaths and injuries caused by fire and fire-related hazards."

2. Firefighter Safety Research and Development, which includes research and development activities aimed at improvements of firefighter safety."

Applications may be submitted until 5:00 p.m., EDT, October 23, 2009.

Eligible applicants under the Fire Prevention and Safety category include fire departments and national, regional, state, local, Native American tribal organizations and/or community organizations that are known for their experience and knowledge in fire prevention and safety programs and activities. Private and public non-profit organizations are both eligible to apply under this activity. However, for- profit entities are not eligible for funding under this section.

Eligible applicants in the Firefighter Safety Research and Development category include national, regional, state, and local organizations such as universities, public health, occupational health, and injury prevention institutions. Fire departments are not eligible to apply for funding under this category.

So, focusing on the Fire Prevention and Safety category, your initial step to developing a highly competitive application must include an analysis of your area's characteristics and the actual or potential risks associated with these features.

Example #1: Your region has a higher than average elderly population that live in older residences (characteristic). After reviewing your department's records for the past three years, 50 percent of your structure fire responses have involved living quarters occupied by individuals who were age 62 or older. These calls have resulted in five serious injuries and two fatalities (actual risk).

Example #2: As a result of increased enrollment at the local university, a housing shortage is developing in your community (characteristic). Over the past two years, your department has responded to a growing number of calls at locations that were previously large, old, wood-frame, single-family homes that have been recently converted into apartments. Your municipality has never adopted a recognized set of building codes (potential risk).

Example #3: Your region has experienced a growing number of suspicious fires that have either been ruled as arson or undetermined in origin by investigators (characteristic). You are concerned because the pattern that started with small brush fires in remote areas has escalated to abandoned buildings in the community. Your department must rely on investigative personnel that serve a large area and sometimes can not respond to your incident for days (actual and potential risk).

Hopefully these examples have given you some guide for initiating the development of your application. The next step is to examine the following eligible categories to determine if your identified risk can be addressed with FP&S funding:

  • General Education/Awareness
  • Code Enforcement/Awareness
  • Fire and Arson Investigation
  • National/State/Regional Programs and Studies

General Education/Awareness
There are a significant number of eligible activities under this category, such as the examples that follow. However; new approaches and creative ideas to your identified risk are certainly welcome.

Smoke Alarm Distribution and Installation
If you are developing an application to provide free smoke alarms to your community, you must choose a target population and describe why they are the beneficiaries of this program. A possibility might be the scenario used in Example #1 at the start of this article or other similar situations. Remember, if you are proposing a smoke alarm program, you should also go through a home safety checklist with the resident as part of the process.

Be sure your application addresses who will be responsible for the installation of the alarms, and if it is not your department, how you will ensure that the alarms are installed. Also, your application should include a section on the type of batteries that you will provide with the alarms and justification if you are not providing ten-year lithium batteries as part of this project.

Sprinkler Awareness
If you are applying under this category, your program should be directed at the entire community. Your curriculum should educate the public about the benefit of residential sprinklers. It should also address some of the common myths of home sprinkler systems and include demonstrations of working models.

Public Education
Eligible projects under this activity are public education campaigns that address your community's identified risk. Possible programs include home fire drills, age appropriate fire extinguisher use, and escape planning or other similar topics that can be justified in your narrative. Eligible expenditures under this activity can include fire safety trailers, model homes and other curriculum delivery tools. You can not use funding under this activity to help pay for operational staff of your department.

Examples of other possible programs are:

  • Funding to train department personnel on the development and delivery of educational activities
  • General prevention/awareness
  • Wildland fire prevention programs including Firewise and Community Wildfire Protection Plans
  • Risk assessments
  • Juvenile firesetter projects.

Code Enforcement and Awareness Programs
A priority will be given to programs that lead to the adoption of building codes in communities that currently have none. Likewise, programs that propose code enforcement in municipalities that currently do not offer this activity will also score more highly. Eligible expenditures under this category include personnel costs, equipment or training assistance and support for enforcement activities.

Fire and Arson Investigation
Priority will be given to proposals that have a goal of aggressively investigating every fire to determine its cause and origin. Eligible expenditures include personnel costs, training and equipment expenses, education materials, surveillance equipment, and arson prevention training.

National/State/Regional Programs and Studies
Activities under this category must focus on residential fire issues and/or firefighter safety. Project outcomes must address how the proposed activity will change firefighter behavior or decision making.

The second set of broad grant categories concentrate on Firefighter Safety and Research and Development. Proposed projects should address major causes of firefighter morbidity or mortality. Applicants under this category should familiarize themselves with the National Fallen Firefighters 16 Life Safety Initiatives, and the Near Miss Reporting System. Potential applicants can also contact the AFG Helpdesk (1-866-274-0960) to obtain information on previously funded projects. Remember, fire departments are not eligible to apply under this category.

I hope that this article has provided you with a sufficient amount of information to initiate the design of your project. The most important points to consider when developing your program are to identify your target audience and justify your reason for choosing this segment of the population. My next article will focus on the application evaluation and review process. Good luck.

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