Earlier this month, fire departments and non-affiliated emergency medical service agencies across the country were notified that the FY2021 U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) application period is now open. Since its inception in 2001, the AFG program has helped firefighters and other first responders obtain critical equipment, emergency vehicles, training, and other resources necessary for protecting the public and emergency personnel from fire and other related hazards. 

While a valuable resource, the AFG program is a notoriously competitive grant program that requires a strong technical approach and keen attention to detail when preparing an application. In addition, the AFG program historically has a narrow application window leaving applicants with limited time between when the application period first opens and ultimately closes. 

While many departments find themselves frantically maneuvering to plan, prepare, and file their applications the Dover Fire Department is preparing months in advance for this exact moment. Located in Morris County, New Jersey, the Dover Fire Department has been able to secure more than $350,000.00 in grant awards through the AFG program over the past four years. Details pertaining to these grant awards are outlined below.   

  • AFG-S FY2021 Cycle – $27,866.00 for COVID-19 personal protective equipment.
  • AFG FY2020 Cycle – $47,185.00 for fire inspection training. 
  • AFG-S FY2020 Cycle – $10,243.49 for COVID-19 personal protective equipment.
  • AFG FY2019 Cycle – $41,862.85 for firefighter training and extrication air bags.
  • AFG FY2018 Cycle – $178,729.00 for the purchase of a new ambulance.
  • AFG FY2018 Cycle – $49,964.00 for gear washer and dryer.

While the AFG program has continued to evolve in terms of complexity and competitiveness, the Dover Fire Department has identified several steps that can be taken to help increase their chances for success year in and year out. The first step in this process is planning. The Dover Fire Department strategically reviews the needs of the Department on an annual basis to determine what they would like to apply for in advance, ensuring there is a justifiable need for it. Once the application period opens, and the funding guidelines are published, the Department is poised to compare and align their priority projects with those priorities identified by FEMA.

In addition to planning, the Department also focuses on data collection. Once a project has been identified, the Department will integrate compelling project-related data, that they have gathered throughout the year, into their application.

Some examples of the data being gathered includes call volumes, maintenance costs, and the age/condition of equipment. This detailed data will help to make a strong case for how their proposed funding request will help to improve their daily operations, keep their firefighters and members of the public safe, and promote cost-effectiveness and fiscal responsibility when utilizing taxpayer funds.

Ambulance purchased by the Department with grant funding secured through the FY2018 AFG cycle. 

Gear washer/dryer purchased with grant funding secured through the FY2018 AFG cycle

Lastly, the Department collaborates regularly with its grant consultant. Millennium Strategies has had the privilege of working with the Dover Fire Department since 2012. During this time, we have focused on building a true collaborative partnership with the Department. Through our hands on approach to grant writing, we work with the Department to draft compelling narratives that resonate with grant reviewers, and clearly articulate the need for the funding being requested.

Through our work with Dover Fire Department, we have seen firsthand how their approach is unique among their peers, so it is no surprise that it has paid high dividends when award time arrives. With a similar approach, your department could also recognize these same levels of success. If you would like to learn more about the work we have done on behalf of the Dover Fire Department or how we can partner with your organization to help you prepare for future AFG funding cycles, please contact us today.