Organization offers grants to public safety agencies
Modern technology can help police and fire departments do a better job of protecting the public, but some agencies cannot afford the equipment. When budgets do not allow for needed equipment upgrades, local governments may have another option: a grant from the Washington, D.C.-based Telecommunications and Information Infrastructure Assistance Program (TIIAP).
TIIAP, administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, helps fund technology projects for public safety entities and other nonprofit organizations. In the past two years, TIIAP has awarded 55 grants totaling $20.9 million and matched by $25 million in non-federal funds.
Typically, grants are used to purchase equipment for connection to networks, including computers, video conferencing systems, network routers and telephones; to buy software; and to pay for employee training. Grants have helped fund projects such as an EMS telemedicine system for accident victims in rural areas and a computer-aided dispatching and fire management system that provides weather information to fire management specialists, helping them to deploy resources efficiently.
In 1996, Winston-Salem, N.C., received a $500,000 TIIAP grant. The city had long believed if fire personnel had information that was readily accessible, they could respond faster and with better information, resulting in reduced losses and injuries. The city proposed equipping each fire vehicle with mobile data computers that integrate GIS, routing applications, a document management system, 911-dispatch and other components.
The data is updated monthly by employees in several city agencies and stored on a mainframe accessible by the mobile computers. The data includes floor plans, names and locations of persons with impaired mobility, and locations of fire hydrants, hazardous materials, exits and sprinkler heads. The touch screen computers in the vehicles can show the best routes, alternate routes and vehicle staging areas for each location, taking into account closed and one-way streets as well as rush hour traffic. “This application is unique,” says Dennis Newman, information services director for the city. He adds that the project was in its final stages of implementation in late summer.
Applications for public safety projects are reviewed by professionals in the field using the following criteria: * purpose — an identification of each of the problems the agency needs to solve, the proposed solutions and the expected outcomes; * significance — the degree to which the proposed project demonstrates innovation and is exemplary; * feasibility — the technical approach, the applicant’s qualifications, the budget and the project’s sustainability once federal funds are exhausted; * community involvement — the degree to which the community was involved in developing the project, the involvement and diversity of partners, and support from the project’s end users; * reduction of disparities — efforts to help economically disadvantaged areas, areas with a need for faster police and fire response times, and entities with inadequate access to the Internet and other relevant technology; * evaluation, documentation and dissemination — the methods of project evaluation, how the results will be recorded and in what ways they will be disseminated (for example, at professional conferences or in papers).
To receive more information, fax a request to TIIAP at (202) 501-5136.