VIPER and FirstNet are Vital for Public Safety Interoperability, but VIPER Requires Upgrades (April 2018)

North Carolina’s Voice Interoperability Plan for Emergency Responders (VIPER) and FirstNet technologies share the common purpose of improving interoperability for public safety first responders, but the Program Evaluation Division found the two systems complement rather than duplicate functionality. Each system possesses important capabilities for first responders that the other system does not offer. In addition, the VIPER system is supported by equipment purchases and in-kind contributions from local agencies and PED found that charging user fees could reduce participation in the network and diminish statewide interoperability. Furthermore, approximately 70% of VIPER’s 220 sites contain infrastructure or equipment from non-state entities, and these partnerships are crucial to VIPER’s success. PED found that failure to upgrade VIPER’s base stations and related software will adversely affect VIPER’s continued reliability and interoperability. The General Assembly should direct the Department of Public Safety to increase its VIPER outreach programs and determine the value of in-kind contributions. The General Assembly should also consider appropriating funds to upgrade VIPER base stations and establish routine software updates.

Final Report

Executive Summary



Relevant Legislation:

  • Session Law 2018-5, Section 16B.1 directs the Department of Public Safety to determine the value of all in-kind contributions made by units of local government, the federal government, and nongovernmental entities to support VIPER; increase outreach to VIPER stakeholders beyond those that participate in the State Interoperability Executive Committee, to potentially include zone or regional meetings conducted by the State Highway Patrol with local chiefs of police, sheriffs, fire chiefs, and representatives of emergency medical services; and conduct an annual survey of local, state, and federal users of VIPER in order to track and measure user satisfaction and feedback over time.
  • Session Law 2018-5, Section 16B.2 transfers $16.5 million for VIPER support and upgrades.

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