Washington, D.C. – The Assistance to Firefighters Grant program awards one-year grants directly to local fire departments, enhancing their abilities to respond to fire and fire-related hazards in their communities. For FY 2003, the $750 million in the firefighters grants program distributed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) marked a significant increase from the $360 million in grants announced in 2002.
This program seeks to support departments by providing them the tools and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and their firefighting personnel. These awards are used to increase the effectiveness of firefighting operations, fund fire fighter health and safety programs, acquire new fire apparatus, enhance EMS programs, and conduct fire prevention and safety programs.
In 2003, there were four program areas that are supported through the Assistance to Firefighter Grants:
- Fire Operations and Firefighter Safety Program. Includes training, wellness and fitness, firefighting equipment, personal protective equipment, and modifications to fire stations and facilities.
- Fire Prevention Program. Includes public education and awareness activities, fire codes enforcement activities, fire inspector certifications, purchase and installation of smoke alarms and fire suppression systems, wildland fire mitigation, and arson prevention and detection activities.
- Emergency Medical Services Program. Includes equipment, training, and wellness and fitness initiatives for fire-based EMS units.
- Firefighting Vehicles Acquisition Program. Includes pumpers, brush trucks, tankers, rescue, ambulances, quints, aerials, foam units, and fireboats.
For the 2003 program, Congress appropriated, and President Bush signed into law, $750 million in direct assistance in support of the nation’s firefighters and the services they deliver. FEMA received approximately 19,950 applications for the 2003 grant program. The application period closed in early April 2003 and the total request of all departments, including the non-federal share, totaled approximately $2.5 billion.
Summary of 2003 Applications by Program Area
- Fire Operation and Firefighter Safety, 13,759 applications or 53%
- Firefighting Vehicles, 5,554 applications or 45%
- Emergency Medical Services, 213 applications or 1%
- Fire Prevention, 422 applications or 1%
Funding priorities for each of the activities were established based on recommendations from nine major national fire service organizations. The applications most closely conforming to program priorities were reviewed and scored by peer review panels, which began in mid April and were completed in early May. Awards will be announced on a weekly basis beginning in June 2003, with the competitive funds obligated by the end of September 2004.
In the application, applicants had to demonstrate financial need and articulate the benefits to be derived from the grant funds. The grants are intended to supplement a fire department’s current budget rather than supplant it. To this end, grantees must agree to maintain expenditures in the selected grant category at the average of their department’s expenditures from the previous two fiscal years.
Volunteer and combination departments must receive a proportion of the total grant funding that is at least equal to the proportion of the population those firefighting departments protect. According to the statistics provided by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), volunteer and combination departments protect 55% of the population.
Summary of 2003 Requested Funding By Department Type
- All Volunteer Departments, 63% totaling $1.3 billion in requests
- Combination Paid/On-Call Departments, 24% totaling $501 million in requests
- All Paid/Career Departments, 13% totaling $277 million in requests
Grantees share in the cost of the funded project at a percentage based on the population of their respective jurisdiction. Grantees that serve jurisdictions of 50,000 or fewer residents are required to provide a non-Federal cost-share of 10%, while grantees that serve jurisdictions of over 50,000 provide a 30% cost-share. The match must be in cash without the use of in-kind contributions. In addition, the maximum amount of federal funds that an applicant can be awarded is $750,000 during any fiscal year.
A complete state-by-state listing of applications, financial information and known data from the fire service requests can be found at http://www.usfa.fema.gov/inside-usfa/03requests.cfm.
Fire departments having questions regarding the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program can reach the FEMA/USFA Grant Program staff at (866) 274-0960, or by writing to email@example.com.