Equipment, training and outreach are a few fire department expenditures that federal grants can help pay for.
Fire departments aren’t strangers to the budget axes that have hacked tax-funded agencies’ budgets. But diminishing financial resources haven’t decreased the need for adequate fire coverage. Departments needing to buy specific pieces of equipment for new stations can find thousands of dollars of assistance from federal grant programs.
Fire Administration Grants
The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), a sub-agency of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), offers some of the largest and most encompassing grants for fire departments through its Assistance to Firefighters Grants program. The program awarded an average of about $160,000 in 2009 for equipment purchases, training and other expenses related to improving fire departments’ quality.
The USFA offers two other grants for fire departments: Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants and Fire Prevention and Safety (FP&S) grants. SAFER grants are intended for hiring and training firefighters and other fire department personnel. FP&S grants are awarded to fire departments so they can conduct programs such as prevention education and outreach.
Outside the USFA’s grants with their broad goals to improve fire departments’ quality, other federal agencies award funding for projects with purposes aligned with the agencies’ goals or to departments in certain geographic or demographic areas.
The U.S. Forest Service, for example, has the Volunteer Fire Assistance Program, which awards grants to volunteer departments in communities of 10,000 people or fewer.
Other agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), offer funding programs that target non-fire-related goals that benefit firefighters. HUD offers the Good Neighbor Next Door program, which helps firefighters and other public servants pay for homes.
Searching and Applying
Federal agencies typically provide information and application instructions for each of their grants on their websites. For more thorough searches from multiple sources, the federal government’s database for grants, Grants.gov, can help. Independent organizations also have databases for state and federal grants and other funding programs.
Federal grant programs often award money competitively, meaning that an urgent project might not receive funding. Preparing narratives for grant applications can also be difficult and time consuming, according to Fire Grants Help. In certain cases, other types of assistance, such as loans, can be easier for departments to receive, and they may award more money.
Federal grant programs also don’t always award money directly to fire departments. Instead, the programs give money to state or local government agencies, which are supposed to use the money to help pay for fire department projects.
Agencies that award grants also provide help with the applications. The U.S. Fire Administration, for example, offers workshops to help fire departments learn write better narratives. Websites are available that offer tutorials of assemble strong applications for grants (see Resources).