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How SAFER can benefit volunteer and combination departments

The recruitment and retention section is very flexible in type of resources you can fund through your application

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant application opened recently and will close on August 10 at 5 p.m.

Since the program's introduction, it has been commonly viewed to be a funding source for career departments.

It is true that SAFER funds can be used to hire new firefighters and rehire those laid off, but the SAFER program is equally beneficial to volunteer and combination departments.

Under the recruiting and retention activities of the SAFER grant, volunteer and combination departments can apply for funding to acquire resources to recruit and/or retain firefighters.

Unlike most federal grant programs, this section of the SAFER grant is very flexible in the type of resources that you can fund through your application. The grant allows you to fix your problem with your own local solution, and you don't have to fit your solution into some predetermined federal program.

Choosing your approach to the SAFER Recruiting and Retention application is basically a three-step process:

  1. Examine whether your department currently meets NFPA Standard 1720.
  2. If it does not, will additional firefighters help you meet this standard?
  3. If the answer to this question is yes, then you need to determine what barriers currently exist in your recruiting and retention programs.

Now you have laid the foundation for your application.

For example, if you are experiencing difficulty in attracting or keeping younger firefighters, then you may want to ask for funding to establish a junior, cadet or mentorship program.

Another example is initiating a live-in program. A number of volunteer stations are located in or near communities that have colleges or trade or technical schools. A live-in program could help pay these students' tuition expenses in exchange for their services in answering alarms.

Today a large number of prospective younger members are employed in positions that do not have health insurance. Health insurance, life insurance and length-of-service awards would be a great incentive to people in this situation. Wouldn't it be nice to tell a potential member that they could be eligible to receive health and life insurance if they met your department's eligibility standards through this program?

These are only suggestions. Your department knows the reason it hasn't been recruiting and retaining sufficient members.

Please don't think that your idea is too far-out to get funded. But remember that the grant will not pay for personal services to members. In other words, you can't use SAFER funding to hire someone to shovel your members' snow-covered driveways so they can get to the fire station.

The first step in preparing a completive application for SAFER funding is to determine the barriers that your department is facing in recruiting and/or retaining firefighters.

The next step is to decide what incentives you can offer individuals in your area to overcome these barriers and become volunteer firefighters.

You still have sufficient time to develop a competitive application for submission before the program closes. If you need assistance in preparing your application, FireGrantsHelp is only an email or phone call away.

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