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SAFER 2021 grant application is now open

$560 million is available for fire department hiring activities, plus recruitment and retention – a funding level not seen in over a decade


The SAFER grant program aims to ensure that communities have adequate fire protection. Fire departments help accomplish this by expanding their staffing and deployment capabilities so they may more safely and effectively respond to emergencies.

The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant is now open, with applications due on Feb. 4, 2022, at 5 p.m. ET.

The SAFER grant program aims to ensure that communities have adequate fire protection. Fire departments help accomplish this by expanding their staffing and deployment capabilities so they may more safely and effectively respond to emergencies. With enhanced staffing levels, citizens should see a reduction in response times and an increase in the number of trained personnel who respond to incidents.

Eligible activities

SAFER grants cover two types of activities – hiring activity and recruitment and retention activity.

Hiring Activity: The current SAFER program will award Hiring Activity grants to volunteer, combination and career fire departments to help them increase their cadre of frontline firefighters by providing financial assistance for three functions:

  1. Rehire firefighters who were laid off within the two years prior to Jan. 3, 2022;
  2. Retain firefighters facing imminent layoff (within 120 days of the close of the application period on Feb. 4, 2022); or
  3. Hire new additional firefighters.

The period of performance for applications funded under the Hiring Activity is 36 months.

Recruiting and Retention Activity: This activity offers grants to assist fire departments with the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters who are directly involved in the emergency response of the department. The result of a SAFER recruitment and retention award should be a net increase in the number of trained firefighters responding to an alarm. These awards may be used for a period of 12, 24, 36 or 48 months. The period of performance must be selected by the department as part of its application. The period of performance automatically begins 90 days after FEMA approves the grant. If the grantee wishes to start before this 90-day period, they must file an amendment with FEMA.

An important reminder

Whether you complete the grant application yourself or hire the services of a grant writer, you are responsible for the information contained in your application. FEMA utilizes the information you provide in your narratives and the answers to the questions contained in the grant application to make key decisions on awards. At any time during the application review process, including the technical review stage, FEMA may request additional documentation from applicants, including but not limited to:

  • Copies of official or certified documents demonstrating the claimed financial need.
  • Copies of the applicant’s needs assessment report, survey or any documented other efforts undertaken to identify the applicant’s unique project objectives.
  • Copies of the risk analysis conducted to ascertain how said project will address the applicant’s unique needs in alignment with their mission and AFG grant purpose.
  • Additional information or evidence detailing the applicant’s particular risks.
  • Any other information deemed necessary to adequately weigh the applicant’s assistance request for funding under this discretionary competitive grant program.
  • No applicant is guaranteed funding.

If you cite documents in your SAFER narratives, please keep a copy of these documents in a place where you can quickly access them if requested. Don’t just invent statistics for which you have no documentation just to make your application stronger. Your grant will be denied, and you could find yourself facing criminal charges.

[Read next: Grant applications struggles: How to describe your department and coverage area]

Items to keep in mind

As you plan your SAFER grant application, it’s important to keep the following in mind:

  • No more than 3% of a SAFER grant may be used for grant management and administration. Management and administration costs are not eligible under the Hiring Activity.
  • LED and electronic signs are eligible only when they are part of a comprehensive marketing program for recruiting and retention. SAFER will only award one sign per application and at least 75% of its usage must be dedicated to recruiting and retention activities.
  • Physicals and annual exams are only eligible for new recruits.
  • Funding for new PPE can only apply to new firefighters who join the department after the date of the grant award.
  • There is no minimum budget requirement or Maintenance of Effort for the FY2021 SAFER program, meaning the applicant does not need to keep their funding constant from one year to the next during the grant period.
  • There is no cost share or match for this year’s grant, and there are no position cost limits.

This may be the best of times

$560 million has been made available for the 2021 SAFER grant program. We have not experienced this level of funding for SAFER activities in over a decade. If your department has considered applying for a SAFER grant, this year’s program provides the best opportunity to access that funding.

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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