The American fire service finds itself struggling to manage the new normal in the wake of the “Great Recession." The housing market collapse impacted revenue streams for fire services, and high unemployment rates have impeded fundraising efforts.
Fortunately, Congress has re-appropriated both FIRE and SAFER grant programs with substantial funds. These very competitive programs have become critical to performing safe operations by providing much needed personnel and equipment.
But successfully completing the grant-application process requires significant preparation and planning.
The first and most crucial step is to obtain's program guidance and review the program criteria and funding priorities. In order to have your highest opportunity for success, your request should be aligned with federal funding priorities. You also should be able to quantify the degree of fire protection and all-hazards risk that you must protect. This is critical, particularly if you are protecting critical infrastructure that — if damaged or destroyed — would cripple the functioning of your community.
The second step is to link your critical needs to national standards and expectations. Obvious excellent starting points include NFPA standards, NFFF's 16 Life-Safety Initiatives, OSHA standards and near-miss reports. This provides evidence of why your department needs assistance in meeting national consensus safety standards.
Demonstrating fiscal need is critical, particularly as the grant process so competitive for finite funding. Your local tax collector, property appraiser, local realtor and chambers of commerce that can assist in providing specific analytical data to support the financial need and urgency to fund. This also may require close coordination with your finance and budget personnel from your governing authority.
Finally, the ability to quantify the cost benefit of funding versus not funding your request for grant assistance must demonstrate a favorable return on investment. Examples can include items such as the cost of reducing injuries from the initial investment and up front grant revenue. The cost benefit also may show the long term economic benefit of a one time grant revenue injection.
Departments, large or small, must hone their abilities to enhance their revenue streams to meet the fiscal demands of providing safe and effective fire service. The several items outlined here will provide applicants with a competitive edge to better frame their critical needs.