Local News

Proposed Statewide Radio System Not Coming In Loud, Clear

Posted December 8, 2004

— When it comes to a quick response, public safety workers say communication is key, but a new initiative to get state and local agencies on the same frequency is running into static.

When

Abdullah Shareef

ran down five people and led authorities on a three-county chase, different law enforcement agencies could not talk to each other because their radios were incompatible. When

hurricane remnants

battered western North Carolina this year, the communication breakdown stalled the emergency response.

"We had multiple agencies coming in to help the locals that couldn't talk to the locals," said Capt. Woody Sandy, of the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Sandy is project manager for a proposed statewide public safety radio network called the Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders (VIPER). The estimated cost for the equipment and transmitter sites is $189 million, which does not include the radios, which run anywhere from $1,500 to $4,200.

"The concept is great, but we're just a little apprehensive," said Jason Barbour, 911 director for Johnston County.

Barbour said Johnston County recently invested millions of dollars to make sure local police, fire, and EMS can communicate by radio. He doesn't plan on abandoning the system for VIPER, and he believes many other counties will decline because of cost.

"They're used to paying two, three, four hundred dollars for a radio. Now, you're not in the $100 range. You're in the thousands of dollars just for one radio," Barbour said.

"We do not have any intention whatsoever of forcing those agencies to come on VIPER," Sandy said.

Some question how Motorola won a "no bid" deal to supply the radio equipment. Sandy said the state found Motorola compatible with the most agencies. Plus, backing out after spending millions would be costly.

The state is still trying to pay for the VIPER radio system. Homeland Security money, a bond issue, and higher taxes are all under consideration.

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