Duke grant aids county emergency services

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Fire Marshal Ricky Leonard uses a VIPER radio to communicate from the EOC. –

Yadkin Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal uses a VIPER radio to communicate with other emergency personnel in the field. –

Yadkin County Emergency Services will be adding to its bank of VIPER radios thanks to a Storm Resiliency Grant from the Duke Energy Foundation.

“The viper system gives us more frequencies to be able to operate on,” explained Yadkin Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal. The radios are particularly useful during large scale emergencies such as winter storms.

During major storms the county emergency department opens an Emergency Operations Center through which all storm-related communication goes. With multiple entities needing to communicate about various things, the regular VHF communication radios can be overwhelmed.

“When we have a lot going on, like with Hurricane Florence, Tropical Storm Michael and our big winter storm this past year, and in years prior, we have a lot of the fire departments and rescue squads out doing lots of different things from helping with patients, to cutting trees to opening up the roadways,” Vestal said. “Yadkin County operates on a VHF frequency range for our emergency dispatch. We only have a couple of channels they can dispatch us on calls. These radios operate in that bandwidth and also operate in the 800 megahertz VIPER system that the state owns. It’s like two radios in one.”

By increasing the number of VIPER radios available for county emergency personnel, it will allow for storm-related communications to go through the 800 megahertz frequencies and leave the VHF frequencies for all other emergency communications that is not related to the storm, Vestal said.

Vestal said the goal is to have a bank of VIPER radios that can be distributed to fire departments and rescue squad officials during major storms or large-scale emergencies. In cases where National Guard teams are dispatched to assist in the county, they too, will be issued a VIPER radio.

“The need for the additional VIPER radios was clearly identified during the hurricanes last fall,” said County Manager Lisa Hughes. “They provide better reception and allow us to use a different radio systems than our primary communications dispatch system.”

Vestal said they are extremely grateful to Duke Energy for the $5,000 grant which will allow for purchase of two additional VIPER radios.

Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.

Fire Marshal Ricky Leonard uses a VIPER radio to communicate from the EOC.

Yadkin Emergency Services Director Keith Vestal uses a VIPER radio to communicate with other emergency personnel in the field.

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