Determining if your AFG request is eligible for funding
By Steve Meyer

One of the major hurdles in developing a successful AFG application is to determine what is a need verses what is a want? What a fire department sees as a need may not necessarily be viewed as a need by the AFG system or an AFG evaluator.

Having worked on nearly a thousand AFG grants in the history of the program, I feel that I have a reasonably sound idea of what is viewed as a legitimate need and something that is eligible for funding. Following are some general guidelines about what has a chance of getting funded and what does based on my experiences and observations.

Legitimate Needs:

• Equipment that is aged beyond what is permissible in accordance with NFPA standards or other applicable regulations
• Equipment that has deteriorated or has been damaged beyond repair to the point where it is unsafe for fire and EMS personnel to use or inhibits fire and emergency operations
• A lack of basic safety equipment such as a complete set of PPE for every firefighter
• A lack of, or inadequate supply of, basic firefighting or EMS equipment, such as hose or a defibrillator
• A lack of a functional front-line piece of firefighting or EMS apparatus, such as a pumper or tanker (tender)
• A lack of training resources and a need for basic training for firefighters such as FFI, FII, SCBA training etc.

Some examples of grant requests that have not fared well in the AFG system include:

• A request to replace an aged fire truck or ambulance when there is a new piece of equipment of the same type sitting in the station. An example would be replacing a 30 year old pumper when there is a 10 year old or newer pumper in the station.
• Replacing a truck just to stay on a truck replacement schedule
• Replacing a truck because it is underpowered or has design deficiencies.
• Aerial trucks
• Customized fire apparatus
• Requesting a new piece of equipment that addresses a limited exposure. A good example for this would be requesting an ATV when the department can only document one or two incidents a year (or less) that it could be used for.
• Replacing PPE that is less than 10 years old
• Replacing SCBA that is less than 15 years old

Exceptions to all of these observations can be found.

Every year I answer the question hundreds of times: Do you think my fire department can get this, or this or this? I have a series of questions I ask them to help them make a determination if they have a legitimate need that has a chance of getting funded. I am making this information available to help fire and EMS departments determine if the apparatus, equipment or training they are thinking about applying for under the AFG has a chance of being funded or not and is worth the effort or the expense if you are working with a grant consultant. If you have several items you are considering, this guidance may also help you determine which item has the best chance for a successful AFG award.

What must be kept in mind at all times is that the AFG Program is designed to address basic firefighting and EMS operations and training needs. You must be able to demonstrate that you cannot and never will be able to pay for the apparatus, equipment or training that you have determined you need.
Another consideration to keep in mind is that a particular want or need that does not have a good opportunity for success in the AFG program may have an opportunity with some other grant. There are literally thousands of other grant sources available through private and corporate foundations. In my experience, however, very few provide funding for fire and emergency services. Determining what may be available requires research and often times the services of a professional grant consultant.

Steve Meyer is a fire chief, grant writing and emergency management consultant. You can find out more about his services at his website

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