In recent weeks I have received a number of inquiries concerning the FEMA 2012 Community Resilience Innovation Challenge Grants that were available late last year. The initiative focused on building local community resilience in the face of man-made and natural disasters, with an emphasis on innovation, collaboration with community stakeholders, sustainability, repeatability and measurable benefits to the community.
The funding opportunity was a partnership that included FEMA, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Foundation. This is the first time that a public / private partnership of this type has been used to help finance a federal grant program, but if successful it probably won’t be the last. At a time when federal and state budgets are stretched to the limit, an innovative program like this is just what is needed to illustrate that there are alternative ways to move a government agency’s agenda without direct federal financial assistance.
In this case the Rockefeller Foundation provided the funding, and the Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Foundation is administering the program. The Los Angeles group acted as an intermediary that encouraged local communities to engage in creative activities that enhance disaster resilience. Funding levels ranged to a maximum award level of $35,000, and applications were open to most local, state, and tribal agencies and governments; business entities; associations; organizations; and groups.
In developing the program, FEMA recognized that a government-only approach to disaster management is insufficient to meet the challenges posed by today’s incidents. To meet our nation’s preparedness goals, the whole community must be actively involved in all phases of the preparedness, response, and recovery cycle. Thus the Community Resilience Innovation Challenge Grants were designed to invest in and enhance the whole community effort.
Over 1,900 applications were received for the Challenge Grants, and FEMA recently announced the 30 recipients of the awards. The grantees range from traditional government emergency management groups like the Seattle Emergency Management Office to nonprofits like the Wisconsin Association of the Deaf.
Rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy
The Rockaway Waterfront Alliance (RWA) will create an updated emergency broadcast system using cellular technology and social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate real-time updates, videos, and alerts for millions of users to access vital information.
Schools, universities, community centers, and homes would serve as bases for people, young and old, to take part in emergency efforts. The project will involve creating a suite of selected videos, instructions, and phone tree software, as well as conducting a mock drill with hundreds of local high school and college students, seniors, multilingual individuals, and professional emergency responders in a collaborative exercise to prepare for a variety of disasters.
This RWA proposal is innovative in that it leverages the unique skills of non-traditional responders. Teenagers and college students are being tapped for their technology skills, and multilingual people can reach those who may miss information due to lack of formal interpretive services at the time of the disaster.
Putting up produce
Another successful recipient is Harvest of the Heart Gardens, located in Morgan County, Georgia. The group will use their Community Resilience Innovation Challenge Grant to purchase a new cannery. The proposed new cannery will make the city of Madison and Morgan County more prepared communities in the event of a disaster.
Residents will be taught hands-on how to garden and preserve produce at the cannery.
Harvest will also use the extra garden space and cannery to provide emergency produce for the ever-increasing numbers of Harvest recipients. Water will be bottled at the cannery to pass out with the canned produce, in the event of an emergency.
Harvest also plans to present emergency preparedness classes through the school system and at community assemblies. These classes will make the community as a whole work together to form a better region, and be prepared to survive until other emergency workers can come to their aid in the event of catastrophe.
This gives you some idea of the innovative ideas that the grant solicitation encouraged. Additional information and a detailed summary of each recipient’s project can be found at www.fema.gov and www.ResilienceChallenge.org.
Congratulations to the award winners.
About the author
Jerry Brant is a Senior Grant Consultant and Grant Writer with FireGrantsHelp and EMSGrantsHelp. He has 40 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter in rural west central Pennsylvania. He is a life member of the Hope Fire Company of Northern Cambria, where he served as chief for 15 years. He is currently an active member of the Patton Fire Company #1. For 20 years, Jerry was employed as the executive director and then president of a small non-profit community development corporation. Jerry has successfully written more than $52 million in grant applications and proposals. Jerry can be reached at Jerry.Brant@FireGrantsHelp.com.
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