How to secure fire prevention grants


By Glenn Gaines
DHS Fire Grant Program Office

Full coverage of Fire Prevention Week


Photo Tod Parker/PhotoTac.com
Indianapolis firefighters tackle a house fire that killed two people in March.
It is budget cutting time. Local economies are suffering from the downturn in the real estate market and rising hydrocarbon fuel cost. Fire departments and organizations across the country are feeling the sting of reduced revenue.

Some of the first programs to take a hit during budget time are fire prevention, public education, and code enforcement. Elected public officials are reluctant to close fire stations or place emergency response units out of service. Eliminating a public education program is just not that visible and does not cause uproar from their constituents.

Fire prevention and mitigation programs work and need to be funded for a variety of reasons. Taking advantage of federal grants makes good business sense.

Safer communities
Savvy fire chiefs leverage status with their political leaders by taking advantage of federal funds to retain an important service that makes the community safer, and brings federal tax money back to the community.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program Office (also known as the FIRE Act Grant) will soon launch the Fire Prevention and Firefighters Safety (FP&S) Grant for the sixth consecutive year.

The Assistance to Firefighters Grant stands ready to support the efforts of progressive fire departments that are seeking funding assistance in implementing fire prevention and mitigation programs.

Why focus on fire prevention and mitigation? To stop fire deaths and painful life-long fire injuries to firefighters and the citizens we serve.

Fire departments and fire service organizations work diligently to provide personnel and equipment to mitigate fire. The horrific loss of life and property resulting from fire is paramount and life changing. Modern interior decorative materials produce huge volumes of deadly smoke and chemical compounds killing inhabitants and destroying valuable personal belongings. According to the NFPA, more than 80 percent of citizens who die in fires die in their homes; and more than70 percent of fire-related injuries occur in residential occupancies.

More firefighters are injured and killed fighting fires in residential occupancies than in any other type of structure. Reducing the number of fires reduces firefighter injury and death. The NFPA estimates that 53 percent of firefighter injuries occur on the fire scene, 64 percent of firefighter fatalities occur at fire scenes, responding to, or returning from incidents.

How to begin
Many applicants want to know where to start. One of the most important steps to take when determining where to focus your fire prevention or mitigation is identify a high risk group population. The Fire Prevention and Firefighter Safety (FP&S) Grant is designed to target fire prevention and mitigation efforts at high risk populations within a community. Applicants are expected to assess civilian and firefighter fatalities and injuries as well as fire loss to property. Commonly defined as a risk analysis, some unanswered questions one should consider include:

  • Where are fires occurring (by census track, magisterial district or box number)
  • When is it happening (month, day of the week, time of day)
  • Who is affected (demographics by age, ethnicity and gender)
  • What are the response times (based on time of day and day of week)
  • What are the causes of these fires

These data can be used to determine your primary at-risk population and best define the nature of the risk. Answers to the questions posed above should lead you to the specific prevention activities supported by FP&S grants that can most effectively reduce the risk. For example, if you find that most fires are occurring at dinner time in homes occupied primarily by senior citizens, your focus should be to seek out avenues to reach these at-risk citizens. There are at least two strategies that could be considered:

1) Seek to prevent these fires utilizing public education programs

2) Mitigate the damage and loss from these fires through code enforcement. Funding for both of these strategies are offered in the FP&S Grant.

FP&S grants are competitive. Accordingly, it is very important to select only top priority projects and ensure that you are focused only on at risk populations. Additionally, the more impact (referred to as cost/benefit) your project has on the community, the more appealing it is to the grant program. 

Projects that reach large percentages of high risk populations and applicants that continue to fund the project after the grant period elapses receive extra credit. Applications that include requests for props that are used to reinforce education (a trailer, a safety house, etc.) then seek partnerships with other fire departments and/or organizations in the region and plan how to increase frequency of use and population reached also receive favorable consideration. To improve opportunity for success, it is important to request materials and personnel costs that are critical in accomplishing the project goals.

Favorable consideration

Instituting a juvenile fire setter program in a community that has experienced an inordinate number of residential fires started by children playing with matches should result in a reduction of these types of fires. Gaining recognition of the project through the juvenile court system could also increase the value of the program as judges would be able to refer violators to a fire department’s life safety education staff for prescribed intervention and counseling. This recognition by the court system increases cost benefit.

Describing how the project will be implemented is where a number of applicants fall short. It may be that they have not thought through the steps that must take place, and the time necessary to complete the project.

  • Remember to list how the project will be marketed or communicated to the target population.
  • If partners will be included, what role will they play in the project? How will the project be presented, or distributed? Will you use on duty staff or make use of partners.
  • If you are requesting assistance in purchasing educational props, make sure to include specific goals, measurable results, and details on the frequency for which the prop will be utilized as part of the implementation plan. The total number of people you plan on reaching through the proposed project should be included.  

Projects that include evaluation of their own effectiveness receive extra credit. Projects are also evaluated by examining the value of the outcome that is expected as a result of completing it.

If you are proposing to distribute smoke alarms in a neighborhood where an abnormal number of fire fatalities have occurred in residential occupancies, then you should expect to see a measurable reduction in losses and casualties in this neighborhood.

Applicants seeking to carry out awareness and educational projects, for example, should identify how they intend to determine that there has been an increase in knowledge about fire hazards, or measure a change in the safety behaviors of the audience. Measuring the knowledge gained by the target audience might include surveys or documented observations (data searches in number of fires, fire loss, and death and injury experience) before and after completion of the project.

There are other evaluation criteria that you need to be aware, such as financial need. All of these criteria are important. The applicant tutorial has a work sheet that will assist applicants drafting a narrative.

Small match
FP&S grants are available to fire departments, state fire service agencies and regional fire service groups. There is a small local match for fire departments, but no match for grants under this activity to eligible national, regional, state, local, or community organizations.

There are a number of ways fire departments, state and regional fire service groups can benefit from the FP&S Grant. The use of federal funds makes good business sense when faced with budget cuts. Saving lives and property while offering a unique opportunity for members to serve the organization is enhanced by obtaining federal funding.

Watch for more information about this grant in the next few weeks including the beginning of the application period. When it opens, you only have 30 days, so start preparing to apply now.

For more information the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, contact the help desk on 1-866-274-0960, email Firegrants@dhs.gov, or visit Firegrantsupport.com. For further articles and tips, check out Firegrantshelp.com.

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