Liberty Township’s Fire Department was awarded a grant for $118,446 to purchase power load EMS cots from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Taxpayers have saved $1.1 million on the purchase of fire equipment through grants.
Power load cots reduce the risk of “back injuries”and “Bureau of Workman’s Compensation claims” said Mickey Smith, paramedic, firefighter. Smith also was the one who wrote the grant for the cots.
The grant is provided through FEMA’s program, the Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
“FEMA received 10,489 grant applications in 2015 for the Assistants to Firefighters Grant program,” said Mark Peterson, spokesperson for FEMA. “In the same year there were 2,049 grants awarded.”
Smith said the department needed equipment and that it was going to be expensive. “I also knew we couldn’t keep paying for it out of the general fund,” he said.
Working as a volunteer firefighter, Smith said he realized the value and the cost of good equipment. “I knew what it’s like to not have good equipment,” he said. “I’ve tried to make the equipment as affordable as possible.”
Smith said his “crown jewel” was a $607,952 grant to purchase Opti-Com Traffic Signal Preemption systems for 35 intersections in Liberty Township. He said the system is used to clear intersections for emergency vehicles to pass through quickly and without incident.
“The GPS system works up to a mile away,” Smith said. “I wanted to make sure the intersections are as clear as possible.”
Fire Prevention Lieutenant Tim Jensen said since that time the preemption device has been written into the township’s fire code. Any new intersection with a traffic light is required to be equipped with the device.
“I think we’re the only community that has full coverage with the pre-empters,” Jensen said.
Jensen said Smith has a knack for knowing what the federal government wants when writing grants. “I think that’s why we’ve been so successful,” he said.
For each grant awarded from FEMA, the township pays 10 percent of the award total, Smith said.
Smith said he volunteers his time to the township as a grant writer with the majority of the work is done in his off duty hours, but he does some work when on duty during down time.
Smith said a success rate of 15 percent is needed to be considered an accomplished grant writer. “I’ve written close to a hundred grants,” he said. “Overall my success rate has been 90 percent.”
Before accepting a job to write a grant, Smith said he makes sure it’s something he can obtain. “I don’t take every project. I read the rules first to see if it qualifies,” he said. “If it doesn’t, I don’t take the job.”
In 2014 Smith started a grant writing business for fire departments called Ohio First Responders Grants. He doesn’t advertise anywhere except by word of mouth and through Facebook.
D. Anthony Botkin may be reached at 740-413-0902 or on Twitter @dabotkin.