By Jerry Brant
The Department of Homeland Security is expecting to receive between 5,000 to 10,000 applications for funding from the Fire Station Construction Grants Program (SCG). It envisions awarding just over 100 grants from the applications that are received.
With these figures in mind, is it better for your department to apply for SCG funding or to travel to the closest convenience store and buy a lottery ticket? Only you can make that decision. But if you choose the application process, there are ways to help ensure your application competes effectively with the thousands of others that are filed.
Your department should begin by thoroughly examining the funding priorities established by DHS. There are two related sets of priorities it has developed to assist in evaluation of applications. One deals with general program objectives and the other focuses on specific project and department characteristics. The more in line with these priorities that your proposed project is, the better your chances of receiving funding from this program.
These general priorities are:
1. High unemployment and poverty rates for your first due coverage area.
2. Departments that already have control of the property on which they plan to build or modify their station.
3. Departments that already have the proper zoning and building permits for the proposed project including an environmental assessment.
4. Communities that are in good standing under the National Flood Insurance Program.
5. Projects that can begin and be completed on an expedited schedule.
6. Projects that have the necessary utilities in place or adjacent to the proposed site.
7. Departments that can provide a match commitment to the relevant costs of the program.
8. Departments that have a significant number of firefighters that are certified to NFPA 1001.
9. Departments that have forgone capital building plans for an extended period of time.
My suggestion is to do a self assessment of your proposed project to see how well it scores against these general priorities. This could be used by your department as a guide to see if you want to move any further with your application or not. This self assessment can also be used as a tool to highlight areas of your application that you may need to concentrate on in order to make your application more competitive.
In addition to these general priorities, DHS has also established these project specific priorities:
1. Departments that will use grant funds to repair or replace any unsafe or uninhabitable structures.
2. Fund projects that expand fire protection coverage to meet increased service demand in compliance with NFPA 1710 or 1720.
3. Modify or expand existing structures to provide sleeping quarters and /or facilities that would allow for full time occupancy.
4. Projects that follow the latest codes, requirements and standards for fire stations established by NFPA and the International Code Council. These include the installation of smoke and carbon monoxide detection devices, vehicle exhaust extraction systems and sprinkler systems.
5. Improve the department's ability to provide mutual aid.
6. Departments that have a higher call volume and serve a larger population.
7. Departments that also provide EMS services.
Another self assessment of your proposed project against these established priorities should give you some indication of your proposal's ability to compete against the sizable number of applications that DHS expects to receive. If you feel that you're ready to move forward with an SCG application, then be sure to check our next column, which will feature suggestions on developing a viable narrative.
On the other hand, if your department needs a new station but you don't think your application would score high enough under this funding opportunity, don't give up completely there are other existing sources in place to possibly assist your project. I will cover some of these other opportunities in future columns.