4 grant choices for buying firefighter PPE

Grants offer an alternative when operating budgets won't support new PPE, here are four strong options

Your department needs to purchase new turnout gear or replace existing turnout gear, but funds are tight. Grants are a great way for your department to receive funding beyond the limits of your operating budget, especially for one-time purchases like turnout gear.

Grants are meant to be a solution to evolving community problems when budgets aren't able to adjust quickly enough. And there is a wide variety of grants from state and federal sources as well as the private sector that can help pay for NFPA-compliant PPE.

But don't limit your grant search to just those that fund PPE. If you can obtain grant funding to replace other equipment or apparatus, that might free up funds that can then be used to purchase PPE.

The first step is to become educated about the basics of grants and how to properly complete a grant application so that it has the best chance of being funded. A great resource is the U.S. Fire Administration's publication, Funding Alternatives for Emergency Medical and Fire Services.

In order to better define first-responder equipment needs, government organizations established and continue to support the Inter-Agency Board for equipment standardization and inter-operability.

IAB established and maintains a standardized equipment list to help fire departments and other public safety agencies understand what equipment is eligible to receive funding from federal grant programs. Many state grant programs are also using this list to determine what types of PPE they will fund.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has further adopted specific standards for emergency response PPE that includes:

  • Structural and proximity firefighting protective ensembles (NFPA 1971).
  • Self-contained breathing apparatus meeting chemical/biological protection requirements (NFPA 1981).
  • Technical rescue protective ensembles (NFPA 1951).
  • Hazardous materials vapor-protective ensembles (NFPA 1991).
  • Hazardous materials liquid splash protective ensembles (NFPA 1992).
  • First responder chemical/biological protective ensembles (NFPA 1994).
  • Emergency medical protective clothing (NFPA 1999).

Here's a look at four grant-funding opportunities for PPE worth exploring.

1. Assistance to Firefighters Grant
The FIRE Act, or Assistance to Firefighters Grant, program is probably the best-known grant program for the fire service. AFG has provided many fire and rescue agencies with critically needed equipment.

One downside to AFG is that it's so well publicized, it's the grant source that gets the most applications and the available funding can't possibly address every application. The 2015 AFG Resource Guide walks you step-by-step through the trickier aspects of AFG applications.

2. State Homeland Security Program
The State Homeland Security Program supports the implementation of risk-driven, capabilities-based state homeland security strategies to address targets set in urban, state and regional Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessments.

The capability levels are assessed in the state preparedness report and inform planning, organization, equipment, training and exercise needs to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to and recover from acts of terrorism and other catastrophic events.

The State Administrative Agency is the only entity eligible to apply to FEMA for these funds. Recipients include all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

3. Private company grants
Several large companies offer grant funding through charitable foundations. Firehouse Subs and Georgia-Pacific are among the two largest with fire department grants.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation provides funding, life-saving equipment, disaster assistance and educational opportunities for first responders and public safety organizations, including local fire and EMS departments. Firehouse Subs has given away $15 million in grants to 1,154 emergency response agencies.

And don't overlook grants that may be available to your department from local and regional resources like the Georgia-Pacific Bucket Brigade grants. The Georgia-Pacific Bucket Brigade program partners with the National Volunteer Fire Council and provides grants to volunteer fire departments located near the company's facilities, as well as education and safety materials for presentations in local schools.

The company values its donations at $1.5 million since 2006. Those grants help departments obtain needed resources such as turnout gear, breathing apparatus, water pumps, hoses and nozzles, programming initiatives, and more.

4. Fireman's Fund Heritage Program
The Fireman's Fund Heritage Program is a national community-based program that provides funds for equipment, fire prevention tools, firefighter training, fire safety education and community emergency response programs. Fireman's Fund employees and agents award grants and provide volunteer support for local fire departments, national firefighter organizations and burn prevention and treatment organizations. 

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