FEMA Seeks Input On First Responder Grants Program

Washington, DC — The director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Joe M. Allbaugh, has announced that as part of a preliminary process, FEMA is seeking ideas on the design of a first responder grants program and process for providing $3.5 billion to state and local responders to help them prepare for terrorist attacks.

The funding, requested in President George W. Bush’s FY 2003 budget, would include grants for planning, training, exercises and equipment for responding to acts of terrorism. While Congress has not acted on the President’s budget proposal, FEMA wants to be ready if the funding is approved.

The agency requested written comments in a notice published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, April 16. The Federal Register notice follows a listening session with first responders and representatives of first responder and emergency management organizations from around the country that took place April 10-11 in Washington, D.C.

The listening session involved over 50 representatives of the state and local responder community, including fire service, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel as well as state and local emergency management. In addition to FEMA, officials representing the Office of Homeland Security, the Office of Domestic Preparedness at the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services also participated in the one-and-a-half day session.

Discussion at the meeting centered on possible conditions of the grants, the appropriate definition of ‘first responder,’ factors to be considered in deciding allocation formulas, and effective grant mechanisms. The session was the first in a series to be organized by FEMA’s Office of National Preparedness (ONP), which has been asked to implement the First Responder Initiative.

President Bush established FEMA’s Office of National Preparedness in May 2001 to address the critical need for a central coordination point for the wide range of federal programs dealing with terrorism preparedness. ONP’s mission and overriding objective is to help state and local emergency responders be prepared to handle the consequences of acts of terrorism.

ONP specifically is looking for ideas and recommendations on ways that state and local governments can collaborate in a planning process that builds on existing emergency response plans and strengthens first responders’ ability to respond to acts of terrorism. FEMA envisions a planning process that sees local response plans and first responder capability-building as part of a broader state strategic plan. In addition, ONP is seeking suggestions regarding eligibility criteria and factors that should be considered when determining how much grant recipients should receive.

Written comments must be received by May 16, 2002, and may be mailed to Rules Docket Clerk, Office of the General Counsel, Federal Emergency Management Agency, 500 C Street S.W., Washington, D.C., 20472; faxed to the Office of the General Counsel at 202-646-4536; or e-mailed to OGC at rules@fema.gov.

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