The workshops have started, and it won't be long until the 2012 AFG Grant application period opens.
Is your department adequately prepared to assemble a competitive application, or will this be another year of chaos and a last-minute attempt to get funded?
I recently attended the AFG workshop that FEMA held in conjunction with FDIC. FEMA representatives informed the audience that the majority of the AFG applications are filed in the last 48 hours of the application period.
They went on to say it is obvious that some of these applications were thrown together at the last minute. Some of these last-minute applications simply had placeholders for answers to some of the questions.
Other applications had blanks inside their narratives, and still others gave incorrect answers to informational questions.
In the past, emphasis was on the narrative portion of the AFG application. In recent years, the application has changed, and now the narrative and the informational questions are scored equally.
Remember, your application is first subject to computer review, where the answers to the informational questions are scored against the AFG priorities.
If your application scores high enough, it is sent to peer review. At this stage, your narratives are read and scored. The two scores added together become your final score.
What can you do to avoid a low scoring application? If you haven't planned for this year's AFG, begin immediately. Start by conducting a review of your department's operations over the past few years. Look at your call volume. Has it increased? Are you responding to more of a certain type of call? Does your current equipment allow you to respond to this type of incident adequately?
Examine the demographics of your area. Are you experiencing increases in population? Are these increases occurring in certain age segments? Again, do you have the proper equipment to respond?
If your analysis indicates that you need new or additional equipment to respond to alarms, then your next focus is to review your department's finances. Does revenue allow for the purchase of this equipment? If you are thinking of applying for a grant, will your current revenue allow you to meet any mandated financial match?
After completing this review, you should have a good idea of your department's needs for developing your application.
AFG will open soon. Begin planning now so your department doesn't receive one of those dreaded turndown letters this year. Good luck.