On 18 September, 2001, just one week after the terrorist attacks on the United States, President Bush announced the formation of a White House Office of Homeland Security. The responsibility of this office was to develop a plan to coordinate counter-terrorism efforts at the local, state and federal levels in order to protect the country from further terrorist activities. In 2002, legislation was passed creating a permanent Department of Homeland Security. A Homeland Security Grant is a gift of money from the federal government offered through this department to a state or local entity to be used to achieve one of the Homeland Security initiatives.
The Homeland Security Grant Program issues budgets and grant guidelines for each fiscal year. The core focus of the program is to assist state, local, tribal and territorial governments, as well as private responders, to be prepared to prevent and respond to emergencies such as terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Submission guidelines and application packets are available from the US Department of Homeland Security. The funding programs support a variety of initiatives which include planning, exercises, equipment, training, and support for law enforcement and medical responders.
Federal law requires that at least 25% of any Homeland Security grant received by a state be spent on law enforcement support and initiatives. Qualifying programs include training in disaster response, improved communication systems which allow interdepartmental contact, terrorism prevention planning and equipment. Grants are also available to help firefighters and disaster medical response systems. Operation Stone Garden is a Homeland Security grant initiative which offers funding for increased law enforcement and border security for states which border Canada, Mexico and international waters.
Public schools can apply for a Homeland Security grant to be used for training administrators, teachers and bus drivers in security and to purchase necessary equipment for emergency preparedness. Funds are also available for modifications to existing buildings to make the school less vulnerable to attack. These funds are available through subprograms such as the Safe School Initiative (SSI) created by the Department of Education and Secret Service to train school staff and law enforcement to identify student behaviors which precede a violent attack.
Fire departments may apply for a Homeland Security grant to pay for updated equipment and systems. Many of these grants are designed to improve firefighter safety. One example is a grant given to a department in order to install a vehicle exhaust vent system for the fire station. Other grants provide funds to purchase equipment such as thermal imaging cameras, fire hoses, and distant source water redactors which help pull water from nearby streams and lakes. Funds are also available to build fire stations, upgrade existing buildings and provide additional safety training for firefighters.
The United States fiscal year begins on 1 October. After that time, the new Homeland Security Grant Program initiatives are posted. Organizations that could benefit from a grant need to be cognizant of the current programs and submission guidelines. Submission deadlines and processes are rigidly enforced, but grant preparation guidance is available at both the state and federal levels.