It has been a slow progression, but finally central stations are benefiting from the plethora of technology that is commonly available. Mobile apps now enable consumers to arm/disarm their alarm panels, cancel dispatches via text and initiate chat sessions with operators.
Of even greater significance is our reaching the tipping point for addressing that one area of monitoring that has defied the adoption of technology — the transmission of alarm data to the responding agency. With more than 100 central stations contracted to participate in the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) program from the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA); and new Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) either adding the capabilities to existing computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems or providing specifications in new RFPs, we have the momentum to change the very foundation of how central stations communicate.
The Latest Status of the Program
For the last several years, ASAP has battled the “chicken and the egg syndrome,” with new PSAPs unwilling to invest because there were not enough connected alarm companies. As this article is printed, Protection One and Diebold will both either be live or within days of having live connections and transmitting on the ASAP network; while, in the background, both ADT and Tyco have initiated internal testing in anticipation of connecting in 2014. This major thrust from national companies provides the necessary volume to gain significant inroads with PSAPs that are looking for an ROI on their CAD investment. This is great news for smaller alarm companies that have been waiting for PSAP adoption in their geographic areas.
Are You Connected and Involved?
If you still aren’t, now is the time to get involved. All major software vendors have either built the ASAP interface or are in the final phase of testing. MAS, Bold, SGS and DICE have software offerings that have been tested and are in release; SIMS and IBS are developing software and preparing to test.
Typically, testing involves validating the connections with an existing ASAP-ready PSAP such as in Houston; York County, James City County and Richmond, Va.; Washington, D.C.; and Tempe, Ari. Once we have successfully connected with an experienced PSAP — ensuring that signals and responses are being sent and received appropriately — then testing can be done with a new one. Technical documentation exists for software vendors to participate in the program.
The CSAA’s ASAP Outreach Committee, co-chaired by Joe Carr (UCC) and Kathleen Schraufnagel (Monitronics), is working on a “hot list” of PSAPs that are currently on the existing CAD platforms that support ASAP connectivity. They need your help to effectively reach PSAPs across the United States. This is a large volunteer effort that needs local presence to be effective.
The team has developed extensive material to train and market the ASAP program. Having local alarm companies present the business case to drive acceptance in their area is the most effective marketing approach. The Alabama Alarm Association (Kristi Jennings of ESC Central) has taken on the challenge of working on ASAP acceptance on a statewide basis.
Be the champion for your state association — areas with active alarm companies gain the fastest adoption!
What About Your Data?
Yes, CAD system acceptance is dependent on an exact match between the alarm company and the CAD database. If in the past your operator verbally relayed a street address as 104 Center Avenue, and the Call Taker put into their CAD system 104 Centre Avenue, everyone was happy. Now, you will need to have the exact spelling to get a clean transmission. This is accomplished by completing a database validation. Alarm companies coordinate — with the receiving PSAP or a third party — a database scrub to authenticate address information. Once completed on the existing database, this becomes a procedure that is done regularly as part of your data entry process through a script provided by your automation vendor. This validation process/tool allows for confirmation of correct dispatch jurisdictions at the time the customer is added, eliminating what many central stations handle manually or leave to the chance. No more calling the dispatch number to be told an address is not in their response area.
Initially it does take time, but training and establishing DE protocols leads to a better end-result.
Are the PSAPs Progressing?
Thanks to individuals like Bill Hobgood and Robert Turner, many of the PSAP CAD vendors are aware of the ASAP initiative and are incorporating the capabilities into their products. CAD vendors with existing ASAP connectivity include Intergraph, Versaterm, Northrop Grumman and SunGard.
Motorola, one of the top tier CAD providers for 911 centers, has just tested and released its latest upgrade version that has ASAP connectivity, opening up opportunities within their entire customer base of 911 centers for ASAP implementation.
ASAP CAD vendors New World, TriTech Software and Tiburon are scheduled for releases in 2014 with ASAP functionality, which will add to the PSAPs capable of adopting ASAP connectivity. Your efforts to educate the PSAP managers to request ASAP Services from their CAD vendor will drive adoption.
Will the ASAP Program Be Opening to New Alarm Companies?
If you are a NRTL-approved central station and not currently an ASAP Charter Member, you will have the opportunity to participate in the near future. As PSAPs connect in geographic areas where we do not have Charter Members or all existing Charter Members have had the opportunity to connect, new applications will be taken for ASAP connections.
The CSAA, as a strategic partner of NLETS, has been assigned the responsibility for vetting alarm companies that participate in the program to confirm that they are and remain NRTL-certified to ensure the integrity of the data being transmitted. As such, CSAA will remain the gatekeeper for new entrants into the program.
If your central station has not progressed beyond the archaic practice of picking up the telephone to verbally relay alarm information to the PSAP, then you are not taking advantage of the technology available to efficiently, accurately and speedily communicate with 911 centers. Based on the foundation that has been built and the progress that has been made, we are anticipating explosive growth in ASAP connectivity in the next 24 months. Don’t be left behind.
For more information and to watch the ASAP Video please visit www.csaaintl.org and connect to the YouTube video link at the bottom of the page.
Pamela Petrow is President and CEO of Vector Security Inc., as well as the First Vice President of the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA). Her leadership and industry involvement additionally extends to the Pennsylvania Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (PBFAA) and the Electronic Security Association (ESA).