Carthage Gets Grant to Buy VIPER Radios
BY JOHN CHAPPELL
Carthage is getting a $10,000 grant from the state to buy more VIPER radios, Police Chief Bart Davis told the Town Board last week.
Moore County's 11 municipal police departments, 17 fire departments, 10 rescue squads, Sheriff's Office, Emergency Medical Services, the public schools and college police forces, and other county agencies like the health department and Animal Control, are all part of one unified communications system.
"The federal government is requiring we go to a different type of broadband," Davis said Friday morning. "The county decided on VIPER, part of going through 911. They say its antennas will do better. That's what the Highway Patrol uses, and we are going to work off their towers."
VIPER (Voice Interoper-ability Plan for Emergency Responders) is the system currently in use by the Highway Patrol, which will hold the license and administer the program on behalf of Moore County as it does others. A number of neighboring counties were already in the process of converting to VIPER last year when the Moore County Board of Commissioners picked that system.
The Federal Communi-cations Commission (FCC) had issued a requirement that all nonfederal public safety licensees switch to a narrower band of the spectrum by the first of next year. The part of the airwaves used for emergency communications was getting more and more crowded because of the growing number of units.
The county is funding part of the cost for Carthage, and County Manager Cary McSwain emailed Davis information about the possibility of state grants.
"We received notification there were equipment grants from the Governor's Crime Commission that might be available," Davis said. "The county manager emailed us about them. We applied in the spring and were notified around June 1 that we'd been approved."
Situations like the tornado that struck southern Lee County last year call for quick communication between many agencies and across county lines, Davis said. At the time Moore County started considering VIPER, its agencies could not communicate with Cumberland or Hoke counties because of the difference in systems.
With VIPER, this gap in emergency communications should be filled. Most neighboring counties have already either switched to VIPER or are in the process of doing so.
"There are so many agencies in the county working together - if you transfer a call (from one type of system to another) you have a time delay; you lose precious time," Davis said. "You have to consider situations like that tornado in Lee County when several officers from here went to assist. The VIPER system is going to enable all agencies to give our citizens better protection."
Davis worked with deputies from Sheriff Lane Carter's office when VIPER was tested.
"I have not tested them personally, but have been with officers from the Sheriff's Office when they tested them. Coverage was good here in Carthage. We had a couple of weak (cellular service) areas that we had known were weak over the years, but we had no trouble (with VIPER) in those areas."
Town Manager Carol Sparks said the chief could go ahead and start buying the radios now.
"I don't know how many (the county) is actually providing," Davis said. "This should pay for three or four radios. There are, from what I understand, two approved companies where we can buy them."
Converting the entire county and all its 911-connected agencies will be costly. Estimates have run as high as $4.9 million. The FCC is requiring the change, but not paying for it. County Commissioner Larry Caddell said VIPER was the least expensive choice.
The system will connect fire, rescue, ambulance and law enforcement units throughout the county.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
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