If you're like most of us in the fire service you spent the better part of this summer wondering when the 2011 Assistance to Firefighters Grant was going to open.
There were constant predictions from grant mystics claiming that the opening was going to occur on a certain date based on some logic that they put forward only to have that date go by without an announcement.
Then, without much fanfare, the 2011 Guidance Document appeared, announcing that the grant application period would open on August 15 and close on September 9.
New changes for 2011
The 2011 AFG process features a number of changes from previous programs. I detailed the changes related to this year's application process in my previous column. Today I would like to focus on changes to the actual program activities for 2011.
First, if you haven't already read this year's Guidance Document, I highly suggest that you do so.
This publication details the guidelines and establishes the priorities for the AFG program.
In years past, this document was quite technical and very dry reading.
This year's document has been drastically revamped and is much easier to read and understand for those of us who are not bureaucrats.
The document describes funding priorities by activity in an easy to read and follow chart.
The chart depicts what are high, medium and low priorities for urban, suburban and rural departments.
Vehicle, PPE policy changed
While reading the guidance, you will notice that requests for new ambulances has moved to a high priority item across all three geographic types, placing it in the same category as engines and tankers.
This is a major shift in policy from previous years when ambulance requests were typically ranked as one of the low priority items.
As you look over the Personnel Protective Equipment section you will notice that this year you can request individual pieces of turnout gear as opposed to only complete sets.
In addition, those of you who are contemplating a request to replace your SCBA will find that a higher priority is being given to replacement of SCBA manufactured before the 2002 edition of NFPA 1981.
While we're on the subject of PPE, this year the purchase of PPE and SCBA are an eligible activity under Regional Projects.
Remember, if you are assembling a regional PPE application, FEMA will check to see if any of the participating organizations in the regional application have been awarded an SCBA grant in the past.
Other important notes
If you're looking at a Wellness and Fitness Program for your department then you need to pay special attention to this year's program guidance.
In 2011, requests for Wellness and Fitness funding must have a Behavioral Health component.
If your department doesn't have a behavioral health program, you must request funding to initiate such a program before you can ask for financial assistance to undertake any other wellness or fitness purchases.
One final note to keep in mind — if you are requesting funds to purchase equipment under this year's program, you can include extended warranties and service agreements as part of your request.
But remember, the request for warranties and service agreements can only be for the period of performance of your grant. This is typically one year from the date of award.
This year's AFG program has an additional $15 million over the 2010 program and given the budget cutting philosophy that is prevalent in Washington, this may be the last time we will see this level of funding for awhile.
With this in mind, take the time to research, plan, assemble and review your application.
Good luck, and as always, keep checking back with us to receive the latest updates on AFG.