My September 2015 article dealt with what I thought was an unfair distribution of Fire Prevention & Safety Grant funding to large national organizations as opposed to local fire departments.
It was a step outside the box for me because a college professor once told me don't ever pick a fight with the media or the government because they have all the resources and you will never win.
However, I have spent my life in the frontlines of the fire service and I didn't feel that awarding large sums of money to national organizations was going to translate to a fire prevention activity in Small Town, USA.
I wrote the article and held my breath. There were several comments to the article all agreeing with my viewpoint, and then nothing.
Nothing that is, until I read the guidance document for the 2015 Fire Prevention & Safety Grant, which opens April 4.
Then I noticed it. Tucked away in the middle of the document was the list of changes for 2015.
The first change states that departments may now apply for micro grants to the FP&S program. A micro grant is defined as a request for fire prevention activities for which the federal request does not exceed $25,000.
Score one for the small departments all over this nation. We now have a slice of the FP&S pie available almost exclusively to us.
What it means
Let's take a minute to celebrate this victory and realize that our voice is being heard.
Now, I hope you didn't take longer than a minute for that celebration because if you did somewhere in the nation a department was dispatched to a structure fire. If you took more than 33 minutes, a civilian was injured somewhere in this country as the result of a structure fire.
So it's time to get the department fire prevention committee together and discuss what you want to apply for under the 2015 program.
FP&S activities are projects designed to reach high-risk target groups and mitigate the incidence of death and injuries caused by fire and fire-related hazards. Accordingly, the four project categories eligible for funding under this activity are:
- General Education/Awareness
- Code Enforcement/Awareness
- Fire and Arson Investigation
- National/State/Regional Programs and Studies
At this point you may be asking, "How can our department conduct a successful education and awareness program if we apply for a micro grant of less than $25,000?" Here are three suggestions to help you stretch that micro grant.
The U.S. Fire Administration website is a source of videos and written information that you can access for free to use in your presentations to school children or the general public.
Check with local insurance agents and financial institutions to see if their company offers small grant programs for activities like community-wide fire prevention programs.
Discuss your program with service clubs in your community. They are a good source of funding and additional volunteers.
One final point to help entice you to file an FP&S application this year, sustainability is no longer a scored evaluation criteria under the FP&S activity.
Thus, the evaluations criteria weights have changed under the FP&S activity from previous years. In other words your application no longer has to contain detailed information as to how your department will sustain this activity in future years without grant funding.
Please don't pass up this grant opportunity.