VIPER---sounds like a snake or perhaps an alarm protection system for your car?
Nope, it's the state's effort to get all emergency personnel on the same page when it comes to radios (walkie talkie not the type blasting Justin Timberlake!).
Three years ago the state began efforts to create the statewide system and three years later less than half the state has access. The numbers are even lower for local agencies who have bought the radios ($1500-$5000 a piece).
Today at the Emergency Response Commission meeting state leaders said they jus got $22.1 million in funding that will push the range from roughly 45% of the state to 60%. Local governments are getting more grants as well to buy radios.
The 60% will come by 2010 or earlier.
It's a big help, but the state still needs at least 5 years to get the full system up and running and needs millions more.
Essentially if you think of it this way, local agencies can't talk to other local agencies easily on traditional radios. That causes problems when multiple agencies respond to the same incident or disaster.
Sec. Bryan Beatty used this example for me. Imagine a National Guard helicopter spotting someone on a roof stranded but they couldn't use the radio to call people on the ground.
This issue came to the forefront after 9/11 and again after Katrina.
Beatty claims NC is the only state to offer VIPER to all state and local agencies for free.
Before I'm off for the weekend, make sure to check out Political Connections tonight at 6 or online or ondemand (CH. 1234) when we take on new elections laws. Wake Co. Elections guru Cherie Poucher and Democracy NC's Bob Hall join us.
Sunday in place of our regular program from 11-12 we'll air highlights from this weekend's GOP gubernatorial debate in High Point.
Have a good one!