Fire Station Stimulus Funding: The Narrative
By Jerry Brant
The narrative section of the Fire Station Construction Grant application contains four elements, each of which carry an equal weight for scoring.
Begin your narrative by describing your existing station and the reason that you need to build or renovate. Some items to reference in this portion are any reports, citations or orders that have been issued declaring the building or portions of it to be unsafe or unusable.
These documents may have been issued by your municipality, your insurance carrier or by a building consultant engaged by your department. Reference any health code violations, heating or boiler inspections, or electrical inspections that indicate any serious deficiencies. Remember, you do not have to include these documents as part of your application but I suggest you create a folder for any documents that you reference, in case they are requested at a future time.
Also, any reports regarding the condition of your facility must be dated before the enactment of this program. In other words, don't go get someone to give you a building deficiency report dated last week because it will not meet the program criteria.
Next, justify your choice of new construction or renovation and the process you employed to reach your decision. Be sure to discuss all key elements that were considered in making this decision.
If you have chosen to build a new facility, explain the procedures you used to select the site. Then elaborate on the actual project itself. Include details like number of rooms, their projected use, square footage, number of bays, sleeping quarters, utilities, and other similar information. Then break out the estimated cost as specifically as possible.
Finally, discuss the current status of the project. In this section include information on any site or building plans you have acquired, the availability of utilities to the site, the completion of any environmental assessments, the status of zoning for the property and last, but certainly not least, what type of control does your department currently have over the property.
Does your department own the property outright and unencumbered; have an agreement to purchase, an exclusive option to purchase, or a letter or similar instrument donating the property to the department if your grant is approved? Again, there is no need to include the document but it should be filed with other SCG documents for future reference.
The objective of this element is to determine why your department needs assistance from the federal government to undertake this project. Your narrative should discuss your coverage area's current economic situation in detail focusing on statistics like poverty, unemployment, average household income, property values and other pertinent data.
Then elaborate on your department's current financial condition and the effect the recent economic recession is having on your department and its fundraising abilities. Next, specifically discuss your financial situation with regard to your building project.
This segment should include information on how long you have been planning for this project, what type of efforts you have undertaken to generate funds for the project, how successful these attempts have been, and whether you have applied for other grants or sources of funding. Also detail any funding commitments you have lost because you could not secure the balance of funds needed.
This section should focus on the benefits your firefighters and the community will receive if your project is funded. From your firefighters' standpoint, how will this project provide them with a safer work environment? You should include items like smoke and CO detectors, sprinkler systems, exhaust extrication equipment, better lighting, easier access to public streets, better visibility and any other similar information.
From the community's standpoint, how will this project improve your department's response capabilities? Some possible examples are:
- Your department's ability to purchase desperately needed equipment that previously would not fit into your station
- The availability to house additional personnel
- The fact that your new or renovated station could serve as a primer for other development in the area.
You should also address in this segment any innovative and/or energy saving elements that are incorporated into your project. This section should also detail the amount and source of any local match commitments to the project. Finally, you need to explain the possible consequences if this project is not funded.
Effect on Daily Operations
Your narrative should conclude with a description of how this project will improve your department's effectiveness to protect lives and property. How it will positively enhance your department's ability to provide mutual aid? You'll also need to provide assurance that your department's resources and personnel will not be stretched too thin by this new project.
Your total narrative may not exceed 10 pages in length. As always, I suggest that you type your narrative offline and when completed, you copy or cut and paste it from your word processing document into your application.
Also have someone review your narrative for clarity and spelling or grammar mistakes. Currently, the SCG program is only funded for this fiscal year; by adequately portraying the dire financial situation of the fire service through our application narratives, we may be able to open the eyes and coffers of federal agencies for the future. Good luck!