Sometimes a federal acronym hits the nail on the head. Or fits the helmet on the new hire, as it were. The purpose of FEMA's Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program does just what it says: provides funding directly to fire departments and national, state, local, or tribal organizations representing volunteer firefighters to help them increase the number of firefighters to help communities meet industry minimum standards and attain round-the-clock staffing to provide adequate protection from fire and fire-related hazards. Those "industry minimum standards" include compliance requirements established by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which call for a minimum number of firefighters depending on the density of the area served/type of zone (urban, suburban, rural and remote) to decrease call response times.
Previous Recent Winners
For the FY 2016 award round, approximately $348 million was distributed to 383 organizations (262 awards for hiring and 121 awards for recruitment). Winners included the following (dollar amounts exclude matching funds):
- Tulsa Fire Department (OK): $5.86 million to assist with hiring 60 new firefighters over 12 months. Read more here.
- Xenia Fire Division (OH): $452,000 for hiring.
- Cathedral City Fire Department (CA): $1.39 million for hiring.
- Ocoee Fire Department (FL): $1.46 million for hiring.
- Northwest Florida Volunteer Firefighter Weekend: $938,000 for scholarships to volunteer firefighters for classes and workshops, as well as gear and reimbursements for medical exams. Read more about this organization.
So What Happens When the Grant Ends?
All good grants must eventually come to a close-out. The SAFER grant is competitive/discretionary, and therefore is not renewable. Some fire departments negotiate with the city to find a way to fund firefighter salaries, whereas others are stuck having to lay off staff after the period of performance.
Are you a fire chief who has faced a similar situation? We'd like to hear your story of how you dealt with this issue. Your story matters, and we can help share it. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to connect with our team. We're hear to help you spread the word.
Next Solicitation and More Information
Although this year's solicitation has not been released yet, previous years suggest the release is around this time in February. And as you may know, the application window is but 30 days.For more information about application assistance tools, previous grant awards, grant statistics, and more, visit FEMA's SAFER page.