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Brunswick fire departments finally hooking into VIPER radio network
[January 30, 2013]

Brunswick fire departments finally hooking into VIPER radio network

Jan 30, 2013 (Star-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Brunswick County was notified Wednesday that 400 radio identification codes were ready to be installed in fire department receivers throughout the county, ending a wait that has left some expensive new equipment idle.

Once installed, the identification codes will help the departments hook into the VIPER network, a wireless radio transmissions system advanced enough to connect emergency personnel statewide.

Anthony Marzano, emergency services director, said they will be installed and dished out within the next week in mostly portable handheld radios.

"(The 400) doesn't cover everything but allows us to cover all the fire department portables," said Marzano.

John Grimes, Leland Volunteer Fire and Rescue chief, said about 166 radios still need identification codes.

"They don't cover everything, but we ended up getting a doggone good portion of 'em," he said.

The news partially puts to rest months of mounting frustration from a shortage of identification codes for $2 million worth of equipment the county and fire departments bought through a grant.

Without the identification codes, Marzano has said it's like owning a cellphone without a phone number. The situation grew worse last year when the legislature cut funding for expansion of the program.

The system, monitored by the N.C. Highway Patrol, can handle only a certain number of radios on the network at one time.

The county's fire departments have been waiting for the codes for a year. The sheriff's office and paramedic crews received identification codes last summer.

In the interim, fire officials used the limited SmartLink radio system, which makes it hard to communicate with other county agencies.

The SmartLink system was also costing the county money through the lease of a radio tower. Marzano said the lease costs upward of $25,000.

"As frustrating as it was to wait, the state has seen the VIPER program explode," he said. "The state agencies did the best they could." Jason Gonzales: 343-2075 On Twitter: @StarNews_Jason ___ (c)2013 the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) Visit the Star-News (Wilmington, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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