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CHEMTREC, NVFC join forces to sponsor HELP Award program

The awards help volunteer fire departments enhance their response capabilities for hazmat incidents

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The 2020 application period is open until Sept. 1, 2020. An expert panel selected by CHEMTREC and the NVFC will review the applications and determine award recipients.


CHEMTREC – the world’s leading source of 24/7 call center support and information during hazmat incidents – has once again joined forces with the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) to sponsor the 2020 Hazmat Emergencies Local Preparedness (HELP) Award.

The award is provided annually to two volunteer fire departments in the United States that are also members of the NVFC. The awards are intended to help the fire departments enhance their response capabilities and increase local preparedness to respond to and prepare for hazmat incidents.

In 2019, the Willow Grove (New Jersey) Fire Company and the Prairie View (Texas) Volunteer Firefighting Association were each awarded a $7,500 grant through the HELP Award program.

This year, the award amount has been increased to $10,000.

The 2020 application period is open until Sept. 1, 2020. An expert panel selected by CHEMTREC and the NVFC will review the applications and determine award recipients. The winners will be announced by Nov. 1, 2020. The winning departments will be contacted directly before a public announcement is made.

HELP Award criteria

To be eligible to apply for the CHEMTREC HELP Grant Award, departments must meet the following criteria:

  • Department must be all-volunteer or mostly-volunteer (over 50%).
  • Department must serve a population of 25,000 or less.
  • Department’s annual revenue must not exceed $250,000 for the most recently completed fiscal year.
  • Department must be located in the United States and be legally organized under state law.
  • The department chief or individual applying on behalf of the department must be a member of the NVFC.
  • Department must demonstrate its need to receive the $10,000 award; describe the equipment, resources and/or training the department would purchase and/or the training they would attend to increase their response capabilities for hazmat incidents; and describe the potential hazmat incidents that could occur in the community.

Note: Only one application will be accepted per department. Any subsequent applications received for that department during the award year will be disqualified. Additionally, past recipients of the HELP Award must wait 5 years before reapplying for the award.

The application process

The HELP Award application, available on CHEMTREC’s website, is relatively easy to complete. The application asks for chief’s and department’s contact information and contains characteristics questions about the department’s coverage area and budget.

The HELP Award application has only one narrative in which you need to make your case in 1,000 words or less. As with all grant narratives, keep in mind that the panel reviewing your essay knows nothing about your department, your coverage area, or the critical infrastructure you protect. As such, it’s important to be as complete as possible when describing your area, the potential for hazmat incidents, and the reason your department needs the equipment or training. Also address whether this is a first-time purchase or if you are replacing existing equipment that is unrepairable. Elaborate on the reason your department cannot fund the project on its own. Also cover how your department and the community you serve will benefit from receiving the $10,000 award.

The three items that reviewers found that were consistently missing in the narrative include:

  1. The applicant did not thoroughly demonstrate their need for the funding.
  2. The applicant did not adequately describe the equipment that the department would purchase and/or the training they would purchase or attend to increase their response capabilities for hazmat incidents.
  3. The applicant did not describe the potential hazmat incidents that could occur in their community.

If you are applying for equipment, make sure you get a cost estimate from a vendor. The last thing you want to do is be awarded $10,000 and find out that the equipment you want is $12,000.

Further, if you are applying for training funds, make sure to detail who will provide the training, where and when it will be held, and how many firefighters will be trained. If the training will lead to any type of certification, note that in your narrative as well.

As always be sure to get an additional set of eyes to review your essay before you submit it.

Note: If you have questions about the application, contact Erica Bernstein, director of outreach, at or (703) 741-5524.

How to use HELP Award funding

The departments that receive the award must use the money to increase their department’s hazmat response capabilities and not for any other purpose. The award cannot be redistributed.

The departments that receive the $10,000 award agree that their department name, details from their application essay, and all photos taken during the award presentation may be used in media by CHEMTREC, TRANSCAER, American Chemistry Council and the NVFC for the purposes of promoting the award program.

The departments that receive the awards also agree to a department visit by CHEMTREC and the NVFC for the award presentation within 60 days of notification of the announcement of the award.

Jerry Brant is a senior grant consultant and grant writer with FireGrantsHelp and EMSGrantsHelp. He has 46 years of experience as a volunteer firefighter in west-central Pennsylvania. He is a life member of the Hope Fire Company of Northern Cambria, where he served as chief for 15 years. He is an active member of the Patton Fire Company 1 and serves as safety officer. Brant graduated from Saint Francis University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. In 2003, he was awarded a James A Johnson Fellowship by the FannieMae Foundation for his accomplishments in community development, and in 2019, he was honored as with the Leroy C Focht Sr. Memorial Award from the Central District Volunteer Fireman’s Association. He has successfully written more than $70 million in grant applications. Brant can be reached via email.

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