By Daryl M. Buornat, FASNY Fire Prevention and Life Safety Committee Vice Chair
First, let me start out wishing that this article is finding everyone doing well in these difficult and challenging times. By the time you are reading this article, the recent fire prevention grant applications will have been submitted.
For those of you who put in a grant request, I wish you all the best in receiving it. But, whether you applied this year or not, now is the time to start planning for next year. You never can tell from year to year just what will or will not be available for a grant or under what circumstances. However, if you have a plan on what you need and the data to back it up, it will make the next grant application go much smoother.
Now is a great time to look over your current equipment and supplies. See if there are items that need to be replaced or updated. Also, investigate what new programs or equipment may be out there. Items like inflatable safety houses or interactive materials may not be part of your program now, but they could be something to add to your curriculum. Talk with the members in your department and see what they may want to explore. Some members are not comfortable speaking in front of people, but are very knowledgeable about how interactive or computer-based programs work. Or maybe there is a hands-on demonstration type activity they would excel at.
Another thing you should start doing, if you are not already, is collecting yearly data on your presentations. Information such as the number of presentations you do each year, how many students at each presentation and their ages. Who is the contact person at each site? How much funding was needed for the presentation? You may also want to consider doing a critique questionnaire after each program. Ask both students and administrators what they did and did not like about your presentation, and what they might like to see presented in the future. All of this data can be beneficial in making sure you are reaching your students with useful and inspiring information.
It will also allow you to put into the narrative of a grant just why you need a certain item and have credible and verifiable proof to back it up. If you’re thinking about a large item, such as a safety house trailer, now is the time to reach out to some of your neighboring departments. See if other local departments would like to join in on the grant as a regional request. Working this as a regional request will show that the items will reach a much larger audience and have additional personnel to run it. Speak with the department heads and make sure that everyone is on the same page with such a request. You should also spell out what each department’s role will be in the project. Trying to get this all set up and everyone on the same page a month or two before the grant is due is going to be very difficult, if not impossible.
Having your plan started now is not only beneficial for the federal grants but will be useful when applying for some of the industry and private grants that may be available. This data will also go a long way when requesting funds from your own agency or jurisdiction. You will know just what you need and have the information and data to back up your request.
In closing, I just want to express the need to keep communication lines open with the schools and facilities that you have been presenting at. Things have been greatly altered within school systems and may need to be handled differently during your fire prevention presentations this year. Finding out well in advance that you may need to alter your presentations will greatly reduce stress and allow you to present a beneficial and interesting safety message. Stay safe and continue the outstanding jobs you all do.