Homeland Security plans to issue firefighter grants

The Homeland Security Department today announced that it would begin accepting applications from fire departments for $750 million in grants, including funds for technology initiatives.

'Effective firefighters in every community are critical to America's homeland security,' department secretary Tom Ridge said in a statement. 'We want to help the fire service to move quickly to develop and acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and equipment to respond to all emergencies, large and small.'

The grant guidelines note that fire departments can request funds for computers used in training.

The department noted that the program aims to promote interoperable communications for first responders and will award grants for integrated communications systems for base stations, computer-aided dispatch systems and communications gear. Applicants must describe how their project will promote interoperable comm, the guidelines said.

Ridge last week sent the grant program guidelines to all governors. The application form is available online at www.usfa.fema.gov. Fire department must submit applications by April 11. Homeland Security plans to start distributing funds no later than July.

The Fire Administration, a branch of the Federal Emergency Management Agency that has become part of Homeland Security, will administer the Assistance to Firefighters Grants Program.

Last year, FEMA issued 5,316 firefighter grants totaling more than $334 million.

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