By Jerry Brant
The application period for the 2009 Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants opened Monday — and the program features several changes this time around.
The basics are the same: Grants from the SAFER program can be utilized by career, combination and volunteer departments to ensure that the communities they serve have adequate protection from fire and fire-related emergencies.
Career departments can apply for funds only to hire new firefighters or to rehire firefighters who were laid off between January 1, 2008, through October 31 this year. Combination and volunteer departments can apply for SAFER funds to hire new firefighters and for recruitment and retention activities.
For those departments contemplating an application under the "hiring activity," the 2009 and 2010 SAFER programs will feature a number of modifications as I mentioned at the start that you should note.
1. Salary Limits — There are no annual salary limits.
2. Cost Share — There is no prescribed cost share for the applicant.
3. Retention Commitment — Successful grantees that are rehiring laid off firefighters do not have to commit to retaining SAFER funded firefighters.
4. Period of Performance
a. New Firefighters — Grants to hire new firefighters have a two-year period
of performance and require the grantee to retain the SAFER funded
firefighters for a period of one year after completion of the grant.
b. Rehiring Laid–off Firefighters — Grants to rehire firefighters that were laid-off between January 1, 2008, and October 31, 2009, also have a
two-year period of performance; however, the grantee does not have to retain the SAFER-funded firefighters after the period of performance.
5. Grant Limitations — SAFER Grants may be used to pay for 100 percent of the salary and benefits of firefighters hired or rehired under this program. This is exclusive of overtime pay.
As with other DHS grant programs, SAFER applications will go through a two phase evaluation process to determine the applicant’s score. The first is an automated review of the application to determine how closely the application matches the program’s priorities. The second phase is a peer review of the applicant's narrative to determine the worthiness of the proposed program.
After scoring is completed by these two methods, the program office then reviews the highest ranking proposals to determine their cost effectiveness and makes recommendations for awards.
If you are applying for funding under the hiring of firefighters activity, your application needs to address the following program priorities in order to make it competitive:
Meet NFPA 1710 and/or NFPA 1720 standards
The highest score will be given to departments that are currently not in compliance or who have fallen out of compliance with these standards, whose applications, if funded, will bring them into compliance in the most economically feasible fashion. Higher scores will be achieved by applicants that show a larger percentage increase in compliance. If you are not familiar with these two standards, they deal with minimum response requirements by departments and you can access them at Nfpa.org.
Meet OSHA Respiratory Protection Standards
To receive the highest consideration, your application must adequately address the OSHA 1910.134(g) (4) standards that deal with procedures for interior firefighting, most notably the two in, two out rule.
Highest consideration will be given to applicants that have formal policies in place governing their hiring and personnel practices. In addition, volunteer and combination departments requesting assistance to hire new firefighters will receive additional consideration if the new position will serve multiple roles such as chief officer, training officer, fire inspector, fire marshal, or fire prevention/education officer providing that the new hire's primary assignment remains that of an operational firefighter.
Applicants must assure that their SAFER-funded firefighters will be certified to Firefighter I standards within their first 12 months of employment and be trained to Firefighter II or equivalent before the end of the two-year performance period. In addition, applicants that will train their SAFER funded firefighters to have EMS certification at the minimum level will receive a higher consideration.
Call Volume and Population Served
Departments that respond to a higher number of incidents and those that serve a larger population will receive a higher consideration.
Firefighter Health Measures
Applicants who specify that their SAFER-funded firefighters will receive an entry level physical in compliance with NFPA 1582 and receive immunizations will receive a higher consideration than applicants that do not specify these benefits in their application.
Four Firefighter Standard
Applicants that have compliance with the minimum four firefighter standard on the first arriving engine by requesting the fewest number of additional personnel through the SAFER program will receive a higher consideration.
Applicants who have automatic and/or mutual aid agreements will receive a higher score. Also, departments whose request for hiring firefighters is based on a staffing needs assessment will receive a higher consideration.
I recommend that you use these priorities as an outline to develop your narrative for the application. This method ensures that you will include all of the established priorities in your response. In the next article, I will focus on the Retention and Recruitment Activity. Good luck and remember the SAFER application period closes at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time on December 18.