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SAFER 2010: Here’s what you need to know

Here’s a quick overview of what changed between the 2009 and 2010 processes, what stayed the same, and everything in between

By Bryan Jack

It seems as though just yesterday SAFER 2009 closed, peer review was conducted, grants were awarded and those dreaded “Dear John” letters went out (the bulk of them being sent just a few weeks ago).

Magically, the SAFER 2010 process pops out of nowhere and is now upon us — and it seems to be moving at rapid-fire pace (probably a good thing as this is a true government “jobs” program).

The official 2010 guidance document was released on August 16 and the grant application process officially opened the next day. In years past, guidance has typically been released two to three weeks in advance of the grant opening, giving organizations plenty of time for data gathering, narrative development and application completion.

This single factor alone has significantly decreased the amount of preparation time for agencies that are planning on applying for a grant, which may ultimately decrease the number of applicants (or at least the number of well-prepared applicants).

That being said, I would encourage anyone that has ever considered applying for this grant to throw their name in the hat this year.

What is new with SAFER for 2010?
First, right off the bat, the intent of the SAFER grant has been expanded for FY 2010.

When SAFER was originally started, the intent was to provide assistance in increasing the number of firefighters in a community, to provide adequate fire and emergency response.

Based on national economic trends, the shift in intent for 2010 is to “improve or restore local fire department capabilities.”

Throughout this year’s guidance you can see the term “enhance or restore” staffing levels (we’ll discuss priorities later).

The performance periods for hiring have again been reduced to two years with a retention commitment of an additional year for new hires (there is no retention commitment for rehired employees).

Lastly, there is no agency cost share required for the 2010 program and there are no annual salary limits.

What’s the same?
Now that we have touched on the changes, let’s talk about what has remained the same.

There are still two categories under the SAFER program, including: hiring new firefighters or rehiring laid-off firefighters, and the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters.

Volunteer and combination agencies can apply for either or both programs, while career agencies may only apply for the hiring or rehiring of personnel.

Additionally, the type of eligible applicants has not changed.

You must either be a volunteer, combination or career fire department, or a municipality or fire district who is applying on behalf of a department that lacks the legal ability to apply.

Essentially, the 2010 program has not significantly changed from the 2009 program with the exception of some serious clarification on the rehiring of laid-off firefighters and a priority shift for hiring.

What are the hiring priorities for 2010?
Under the “hiring of firefighters” category, the priorities for FY 2010 are as follows:

  1. The rehiring of laid-off firefighters
  2. The retention of firefighters who may face layoffs in the future
  3. Filling positions vacated through attrition but not filled due to economy
  4. The hiring of new firefighters

There are several timeline requirements that must be met or proven by the applicant for qualification of rehiring or retention grants.

Additionally, as in years past, certain percentages of the SAFER grant program must be spent on specified projects or categories:

  • 15 percent is dedicated to the hiring of new firefighters
  • 10 percent is dedicated to the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters
  • 10 percent is dedicated for grants to volunteer or mostly volunteer agencies

Again, there are no limits for the number of positions that you may apply for, there is no salary cap, and there is no limit to the maximum award amount.

We have discussed hiring, what about recruitment/retention?
The recruitment and retention portion of the SAFER program focuses on volunteer and “mostly” volunteer combination agencies.

Under this program section, organizations can fund programs and items to boost their volunteer ranks.

Some of the items that can be funded include: insurances items (AD&D, health, dental, life, etc.), reimbursement for expenses for members attending training, tuition assistance for higher education, responder physicals, recruitment marketing costs, explorer or cadet programs, staffing needs assessments, or the salary and benefits for a recruitment and retention coordinator.

This list is not all-inclusive and you could possibly fund many other programs or items as long as you can justify how your proposal will help improve your recruitment and retention capabilities.

So where do you go from here?
First and foremost you should read and review the SAFER 2010 “Guidance and Application Kit.” This document is available online at

After reviewing this document you should identify which programs your agency qualifies for under SAFER.

Next, make sure your agency has a DUNS number (if you need to obtain a DUNS number you can call and request one (866) 705-5711).

You also need to have an updated and current Central Contractor Registration (CCR) (confirm at

Once you have established, updated or verified the above information you need to log on to and initiate an online application.

In the next article we will discuss the actual application process, including the narrative aspect.

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.