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Applying for fitness equipment grants through SAFER

If you want to write a grant for fitness equipment, you need to focus on training and responder health and safety

By Bryan Jack

Question: “We are considering writing a SAFER recruitment/retention grant for fitness equipment. Is this allowable under the SAFER program?”

The SAFER program was designed with two distinct and separate activities in mind — the hiring of firefighters and the recruitment/retention of firefighters. Career departments are only eligible to apply for hiring activities, while combination and volunteer agencies may apply for hiring, recruitment/retention or both activities.

Since the question is in reference to the recruitment/retention portion of the grant, we will focus on that section.

Based on the recruitment/retention section of the 2009 SAFER Guidance document, DHS states that “the grants are intended to create a net increase in the number of trained, certified, and competent firefighters capable of safely responding to emergencies likely to occur within the grantee’s geographic response area.”

If you want to draft a narrative for fitness equipment, the word that I would focus on in the quote would be “trained,” as fitness training is a core foundation and fundamental within the fire service.

Additionally, you could also focus on the “safely responding” portion of the DHS statement as responder health, safety and wellness are all directly related.

Furthermore, DHS also addresses “Firefighter Health Measures” in the recruitment and retention section, specifically NFPA 1582-compliant entry-level physicals and responder immunizations.

Again, all of these items seem to fit perfectly into the concept of purchasing and implementing a physical fitness program as a recruitment and retention tool.

Additional criteria to consider
If you intend on writing a grant for fitness equipment or any other type of incentive, there are some additional criteria that you need to focus on to make your proposal more competitive.

First, you need to identify a recruitment/retention or volunteer coordinator.

Next, you (and your volunteer coordinator) need to design a marketing plan for your proposed program.

Additionally, according to DHS you have to establish a connection between your proposed project and your “identified” recruitment/retention issue. If funded, your project also has to be governed by adopted SOP/SOG’s.

Finally, you should identify how you will continue your program beyond the life cycle of the grant (up to four years for recruitment/retention).

All of these factors should help you with your competitive edge in seeking funding.

Some other options for recruitment and retention incentives (if you decide not to go with physical fitness) include: Insurance packages (accidental death and dismemberment, disability, health, dental, life), training reimbursement, marketing costs to recruit new volunteer members, alternative staffing and mentoring programs (Explorer, cadet, etc.), staffing needs assessments, tuition assistance for higher education, length of service awards and other retirement benefits.

No matter what you choose to apply for under the SAFER program this year, make sure you thoroughly review the program guidance (2010 when released), identify your issue/problem, establish a plan to address your problem , gather all pertinent data, and write an outstanding narrative.

Best of luck.

Bryan Jack is a grant consultant with and its sister site, A 15-year veteran of the fire service, Bryan is currently serving as Battalion Chief at Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District in Monument, Colorado. A certified Fire Officer and Paramedic, Bryan has been successfully writing, reviewing and consulting on grants for more than five years. For any questions related to grants, you can contact Bryan at He will be featuring some of the questions – and his answers – in upcoming columns.