If you are contemplating an application to the 2009 Fire Prevention and Safety Grants program (FP&S), you are about to enter one of the most competitive applications processes for this fiscal year. The FP&S program last year had more 2,600 applicants requesting $265 million in funding. For 2009, the FP&S program will award approximately $35 million to successful applicants.
If you've decided to enter this field, then our objective is to help you become more knowledgeable about the application process so that your project can effectively compete with all of the others that are filed.
This article will deal with the review and evaluation procedures used by the Department of Homeland Security to determine how applications are ranked.
Your submitted application is first screened by program staff to determine if you are an eligible applicant and if the project that you are proposing is qualified under the grant guidelines. All eligible applications are then forwarded to peer review panels called Technical Evaluation Panels (TEP).
The evaluation criteria
The TEP then reviews each application separately scoring your narrative using the evaluation criteria listed in the grant guidance document. The highest ranked applications are then turned over to program staff for a further technical review that assesses the applications strengths and weaknesses, how easily any weaknesses may be resolved and the expected impact that the proposed activities will have on the target audience. The highest ranked applications are then recommended for funding.
Your application should open with a vulnerability statement. This section should in a complete but concise manner describe the risk that your department has identified as a priority for your area. Your narrative should identify your target audience and it should explain how you arrived at this conclusion.
The process that your department used can either be a formal or informal risk assessment.
- A formal assessment is one that uses software programs or expert analysis that assesses risk trends.
- An informal assessment is one that uses in house data to determine fire loss, injuries and loss of life over a stated period of time and the cause for each occurrence.
Either method may be used; the important step is to explain the process you used to determine your risk, what the identified risk is, and who your target audience will be.
Annually the officers of Hose Company #1 conduct a risk analysis of the department's coverage area. Our first due area has a significant number of residents that are over the age of 62; in fact our senior citizen population is 10 percent higher than the national average. After reviewing NFIRS data from the last three years we determined that 50 percent of the structure fires that we responded to were in living quarters occupied by senior citizens. These calls resulted in five serious injuries and two fatalities. Further review of our incident reports indicated that 60 percent of these structures lacked operating smoke alarms. After completing this risk analysis we determined that senior citizens living in our coverage area were at risk of losing their life and property because of a lack of properly installed and operating smoke alarms.
Common flaws found in 2008 applications
- Ignoring the evaluation section of the narrative
- Requesting ineligible activities or items
- Not identifying a target audience
- Not describing your risk assessment
- Not being an eligible applicant
Of course your narrative needs to go into a little more detail than this example, but this should give you an idea of the type of information your application should contain. Your narrative vulnerability statement is worth a maximum of 20 points or –one-fifth of your total evaluation score.
Now that you have identified your area's fire risk, the next section of your narrative should contain the process you will use to address this situation in a formal implementation plan. This should cover:
- Stating the proposed goals and objectives of your project
- Describing your project’s outreach plan and the number of people you hope to reach.
- Explaining in detail the specific steps that will be taken to implement your program and who will be responsible for taking these actions.
- Being sure to indicate any partnerships you have developed as a result of this project and the role your partners will play in the program. If you are requesting FP&S funds to purchase educational props (robots, safety trailers, puppets, etc.), your narrative must include specific goals, measureable results and how often the prop will be utilized.
- Detailing the marketing efforts you will employ to disseminate information about your program. This section of your narrative is also worth a maximum of 20 points.
Rescue Hook and Ladder is requesting financial assistance to implement a child fire safety program in our community in response to the findings of our department's risk assessment. The program will focus on children under the age of 10 and will be delivered with the assistance of our partners: The Lincoln Elementary School, Central Christian Academy, Tiny Tot Daycare and The Young Peoples Center. Our partners will be responsible for providing our committee with appropriate space for the program and disseminating information about the program to their students and parents. The goal of our program is to educate all 750 children under the age of 10 in our community about fire safety. The program will be initiated through a media event held at the Young People's Center.
Again, this isn't the complete implementation plan but it should give you an idea of some of the points your narrative should cover.
The next section of your narrative should address the evaluation plan for your project. In other words, how will we know if the program was effective in reaching our target audience? Detail what method of assessment you will use, what data will be collected and how the results will be measured. Also discuss how you determined that this change is due to your program. You may employ surveys, documented observations or you may conduct pre and post testing to determine the effectiveness of your program. This portion of the narrative is also worth a total of 20 points.
The cost/benefit of your project should be covered by the next section of your narrative. This portion, which carries a maximum score of 15 points, should detail the total program cost. It is essential that your budget illustrates that the maximum amount of federal funds possible are going into the delivery of the project. Another key factor in accumulating a high review score is justifying that the program that you have proposed is the most cost effective method available to reach your target audience.
Is it sustainable?
Sustainability of your project after the completion of the required grant performance period is the next factor considered by the TEP. It is critical that you lay out your department's plan for continuing your program after federal funds have been expended. Some possible avenues that you could highlight are: the continued presence of non federal partners, the long term benefits that will be derived from the project and your department’s commitment to the project. This section carries a maximum score of 15 points.
The next portion of the narrative should focus on your financial needs. This section should discuss the funding needs of the project and the overall financial situation of your department. Please provide an operating budget for the project and describe in detail each of the proposed expenditures and their significance to your project. Then, explain other avenues of funding that you have explored to fund your project. Finally cite reasons why your department is not able to undertake this venture with your own funds. This section carries a maximum score of 10 points.
Other criteria that the panel will review are your department's past performance and the degree to which your project meets the stated funding priorities.
Remember your project narrative cannot exceed five pages and you can only submit one FP&S grant application per grant period. However, you can apply for up to three projects under the FP&S Activity in one application. There is a required financial match for grant funds that you request and as always find someone else to go over your narrative before you submit it.
Good Luck and remember the application deadline is 5:00 p.m., EDT, Friday, October 23.