Funding Your Public Safety Dive Team

By: Thomas Powell

Public safety dive teams provide underwater criminal investigations, evidence recovery, property recovery and courtroom testimony for law enforcement agencies and emergency services. Using SCUBA equipment, wet suits, search equipment, regulators, cameras and compressors, PS divers mount rescue, search-and-recovery operations and map underwater areas. Some of the more sophisticated and better funded teams now rely on surface supplied systems. Teams of divers work tirelessly to protect their communities. Unfortunately, underwater activities require specialized, expensive equipment and expert training, and funding dive teams can prove challenging for state and local governments and emergency services organizations.

Options for Getting Dive Equipment and Training

Funding options for underwater equipment include public, private and business resources, but departments need to do their own research, hold private fundraisers or seek alternative solutions for their underwater equipment needs.

Police and Law Enforcement Grants

Finding private and law enforcement grants takes time and research, but you can simplify your search by researching and subscribing to grant newsletters. You can also consider using a commercial grant-locating service. Consider the following information when searching for grants:

  • Think creatively, and stay positive about your chances for qualifying
  • Focus on private grants as well as government resources. For example, Walmart offers community grants for service agencies in the community.
  • Grants require detailed information, but after applying for your first grant, the information will be readily available and easier to organize for future grant applications.
  • Learn how to use statistics to bolster your cause.
  • After receiving money, read all the conditions carefully before spending the funds, or you risk losing your ability to qualify for grants.
  • You might need to report how your department spent the money, so document everything professionally.

Surplus and used equipment offers an alternative source of funding for budget-challenged departments.

Grants are critical sources of funds for departments and agencies throughout the country, but increased budgetary pressures on service agencies have reduced some of the monies available. Police department grants have shifted to the Department of Homeland Security, so you may need detailed data for your application such as arrest statistics, UCR reports and documentation about past use of funds. Speed your search for grants by using the following keywords:

  1. Law enforcement grants
  2. Homeland Security grants
  3. Project Safe Neighborhood
  4. Community block grants
  5. Police computer grants
  6. Technology grants
  7. Private grants for law enforcement
  8. Police vehicle grants
  9. Grants for divers’ equipment
  10. National Institute of Justice funds for equipment
  11. Volunteer fire department grants
  12. Firefighters grant program

Social Media Fundraising

Social media platforms offer unique forums for cash-strapped enforcement agencies to raise funds for essential equipment. You can use the various social media platforms to appeal for citizen and business donations and peer-to-peer funds by appealing to the global online community. In particular, volunteer fire departments can use social media effectively to raise funds for equipment in rural areas by focusing attention on the benefits of underwater equipment.

  • Appoint a spokesperson to spearhead fundraising efforts.
  • Find a business or influential supporter to galvanize community action.
  • Market your fundraising efforts with statistics, photos and videos.
  • Don’t just post about fundraising but engage audiences with descriptive content about your organization’s accomplishments in the community.

Peer-to-peer Fundraising Strategies

Peer-to-peer fundraising offers many benefits including possibly getting donations of older equipment from urban departments and sister agencies. Effective strategies for engaging active members, peers from other departments and retired PS divers include:

  1. Share updates about training to keep donors engaged.
  2. Encourage viewers to share your website, fundraising emails and newsletters with friends and associates.
  3. Post videos and photos that demonstrate why the equipment is needed.
  4. Highlight fundraising milestones to generate a sense of immediacy.
  5. Consider sponsoring parties, walk-a-thons and other peer-to-peer events.

Overcoming Fundraising Challenges

Tough economic times confront all law enforcement agencies and EMS departments, but grants, private organizations and social media fundraising offer viable alternatives for budget-challenged departments.

Equipment dollars are scarce, and many city and county budgets are being cut by zealous administrators. Grant dollars are available for police, fire and EMS teams, yet many departments are unfamiliar with the grant process and lack the knowledge or resources to apply for grants. PS divers and active underwater teams often lack administrative experience and grant-writing and fundraising skills, but critical underwater operations and evidence gathering have become increasingly essential in modern culture. Strategies for getting specialized equipment include pursuing grants, seeking money from equipment manufacturers, engaging community resources and taking better care of existing resources. Proper training of dive teams is essential to keep equipment in good shape and extend the useful life of sensitive underwater instrumentation. You just have to dive-in and start searching to get started. You can raise money by being creative, sharing your goals, tapping online and community resources and finding corporate, community, local, state and federal funds for public safety dive team.