If you own a business related to forestry or wildfire response, you will want to look into doing business with the US Forest Service (USFS). To do that, you’ll want to register in the Virtual Incident PRocurement or VIPR System. Now is the time to register in VIPR for the 2023 fire season.
VIPR helps the USFS prepare for mobilization when fire season begins. The system allows them to dispatch vendors to the needed areas without the delay of negotiating a contract for each action. USFS creates open-ended solicitations during the off-season, and vendors submit quotes for the services they can provide in VIPR. USFS awards agreements to vendors in the form of Incident Blanket Purchase Agreements (I-BPAs). An I-BPA doesn’t guarantee work and payment. Vendors get paid when dispatched and perform specific jobs as the need arises during fire season. This system helps everyone – vendors and agencies alike – focus on the crucial work of controlling fires.
Here’s what the process looks like. (And yes, PTAC counselors can help with every step of the way!)
1. Check the VIPR National Solicitation Plan to see if your equipment/services are being solicited in 2023. Zone-specific solicitation categories rotate on a 3-year cycle, so you may have to wait a year or two until your equipment is in demand for the Forest Service if your timing is off. The equipment needs opening up in the 2023 season include:
- Bus, Crew Carrier
- Faller, Single and Module
- Fuel Tender
- Heavy Equipment (Dozer, Excavator, Tractor Plow, Transport)
- Mechanic w/ Service Truck
- Mobile Laundry
- Vehicle w/ Driver
2. If this list includes your equipment/service, then you should be registered in SAM.gov if you haven’t already. This is a requirement for any entity that wants to do business with the Federal government, including bidding on VIPR solicitations. This can take a month or even longer if there are any issues with your company address or documentation showing your start date. If you’ve registered before, check to make sure it hasn’t lapsed. If so, you’ll need to renew your registration.
3. Once your SAM registration is active, sign up for an “eAuthentication” account on the USDA website. Click on “Create” account, select “Customer,” then follow the instructions. Once activated, you’ll need to log into your account at least once every 90 days, or you’ll need to sign up for it again.
4. Use the login information from this process to log into the VIPR Vendor Portal for the first time and register your company as a vendor. You can find plenty of step-by-step instructions on navigating VIPR using the Overview document the Forest Service provides.
- Most of your company information should be ported in from your SAM registration, but you’ll be asked to fill in and double-check some details to get established in the VIPR system.
5. Add your company resources to the profile. Click on “Add Resource,” then follow the instructions.
- Some equipment requires an inspection before you can bid on solicitations. Some equipment requires inspection only upon winning a solicitation or being called on for a job. You can read more about equipment compliance and inspections here.
- If it’s not noted and you’re unsure, you can contact the appropriate contact for your region and equipment category.
With those steps complete, you’re ready to submit quotes on the solicitations once they’re released. They typically open these up sometime in mid-January to February, but there is no hard and fast rule—it could technically happen earlier or later than that. Submitting a quote for a solicitation in VIPR is straightforward (instructions here). Once you submit and the solicitation closes, you’ll be notified via email if you are awarded an agreement. As mentioned, getting on an I-BPA (an agreement) makes getting called for jobs for the next three years much simpler. You will receive notifications about specific call orders if your equipment is required on a fire. Once you perform and follow the Forest Service’s invoicing procedures, then you will receive payment.
Your PTAC counselors can help with every step of this process and beyond. So, if you feel unsure of the process, please reach out to your procurement specialist or apply to our website if you’re not yet a client.