With the rise of active shooter incidents and attacks on first responders, fire departments are looking for options to buy ballistic protection for their firefighters (helmets, bulletproof vests, etc.) While federal grant options are limited for fire departments, there are some programs that fire chiefs can consider:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
Probably the best way for fire and EMS departments to obtain funding for ballistic protection is through FEMA’s Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) or Tribal Homeland Security Grant Program (THSGP). In 2014, FEMA issued a policy guidance recommending that state administering agencies and tribal governments use the HSGP and THSGP to allow fire and EMS departments to purchase ballistic protection for the response to active shooter/mass casualty incidents. For HSGP, the fire department would have to get the ballistic protection included as part of the state Threat and Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment (THIRA).
Other options include the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) and the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program.
- U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)
The DOJ has a Bulletproof Vest Partnership (BVP) grant program that pays 50% of the cost of bulletproof vests. This funding can only be used for law enforcement and officers with arrest powers. Fire departments could be reimbursed 50% for bulletproof vests for sworn fire marshals and arson investigators with arrest powers. The application period usually is in April for six weeks.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
The Agriculture Improvement Act (P.L. 115-334) reinvigorates a HHS grant program for equipment and training for rural fire and EMS departments. The SIREN Act would require local departments to provide a 10% match. Because active shooter incidents occur across the nation, many fire and EMS departments in rural communities may wish to use SIREN funds to buy ballistic protection and train for active shooter/mass casualty incidents. The IAFC is asking Congress to appropriate $20 million for the SIREN program in FY 2020.
The IAFC Terrorism and Homeland Security Committee posted a presentation on purchasing ballistic protection as well as other resources in its Active Shooter Toolkit.
Ken LaSala is the IAFC’s Director of Government Relations and Policy.
PHOTO: Steven L. Shepard, Presidio of Monterey (California) Public Affairs.