Body armor for EMS: 4 success tips to fund through AFG

Ballistic protective equipment for active shooter response is eligible for Assistance to Firefighters grant funding

As of April 10, 2014 fire departments and EMS agencies are able to apply for grant funding through the Homeland Security Grant Program and Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program to purchase ballistic protective equipment for fire/rescue and EMS personnel.

Ballistic protective equipment is for response to active shooter and mass casualty incidents to support the entry of EMS personnel into a warm zone for triage, treatment and extrication of the wounded. However, like many federal grants, the HSGP is extremely competitive, especially since fire and EMS agencies are competing against police departments for a limited amount of funding.

To mitigate the funding limitations and competitiveness of the HSGP, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant has made Ballistic Protective Equipment eligible as a new mission under personal protective equipment. BPE is to include one vest, one helmet, one triage bag and one pair of goggles. This is considered specialized PPE and of medium priority.

Here are four keys to successful fund BPE through AFG:

1. Personnel are trained for active shooter response
Fire and EMS personnel should be properly trained and qualified in the use of the ballistic protection equipment and active shooter/mass casualty incident tactics and procedures. This means demonstrating the department's ability to train personnel if equipped with BPE or that the process of training employees in active shooter and MCI response has already begun.

Provide evidence of training with ICS trainings, table top exercises and full-scale drills. Reach out to state and local emergency management divisions, police departments, fire departments and other agencies to collaborative plan and deliver training because these are highly encouraged.

2. Define use of BPE
Clearly define that the BPE will be used for active shooter and mass casualty incidents to enter and operate in the warm zone. Remember that an active shooter and mass casualty incident is defined by FEMA as incidents "involving one or more subjects who participate in an ongoing, random or systematic shooting spree, demonstrating their intent to harm others with the objective of mass murder."

3. Demonstrate BPE is essential
Demonstrate incidents where BPE was essential for the safety of EMS personnel while supporting law enforcement. Provide evidence in the grant application of previous incidents that the EMS agency faced where EMS personnel were unable to enter a warm zone due to the lack of BPE.

Expert analysis of recent active shooter and mass casualty incidents has revealed the value of having medical and rescue personnel who are properly training and equipped to enter the warm zone to maximize victim survival. Therefore, FEMA encourages first responder agencies to develop this capability through BPE.

4. Show financial need
As with any grant, especially AFG, demonstrating financial need in the application is critical. Show need by citing previous grants or times when your department asked its funding agency to support the purchase of BPE and were denied. Show evidence of the department's budget being reduced or the loss of funds outside of the department's control, such as declining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates.

AFG can be a great resource for funding of BPE. Though in FY2015 it was of medium priority with the ever increasing threat of active shooter and mass casualty incidents there is a possibility of BPE moving to the high priority category in future funding years. Articulate these success keys clearly and concisely in your narrative and remember you can always reach out to or with questions.


1. FEMA, “Grant Programs Directorate Policy” FP 104-010-035-1 81e1374a13f98ee59461eca0962424ac/Ballistic%20PPE%20Policy.pdf

2. The Department of Homeland Security Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), “FY2015 Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG)”

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