The Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) has captivated the attention of alarm companies and public safety communications centers alike by shifting the way we communicate with public safety for the better. ASAP speeds up the alarm notification delivery from central stations to public safety answering points (PSAPs). By transmitting data digitally, the program reduces the number of phone calls in an emergency. It also reduces the potential for miscommunication between alarm company operators and 911 call-takers. By shortening the critical processing and response times in a security event, ASAP can help save lives and increase criminal apprehensions.
The electronic security industry is highly automated by computers, as are most 911 centers. Yet, for the past hundred years we made the critical reporting of a security event via voice calls. After years of hard work by countless volunteers and an investment by about a hundred central station companies, the path to fast, efficient computer- to-computer communication is upon us. Through a program spearheaded by the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA), a new ANSI standard has been adopted for the automation of this communication.
Work on the ANSI standard began years ago and was tested in a very small environment between one central station and two PSAPs: Vector Security of York County and Vector Security of Richmond, Va. To demonstrate scalability, two central stations in Texas were added to the system: UCC and Monitronics as well as the PSAP for Houston, the fifth largest in the nation. These early participants have contributed countless hours to perfecting the process and paving the way for the rest of the industry.
Once the program was functioning, it became apparent that the key to success rested in a data delivery system that would earn the trust of the public safety community. Last year a strategic partnership was forged with the International Justice and Public Safety Network (NLETS) to link together the criminal justice networks of all 50 states and a number of federal and international networks. To date, 6,500+ PSAPs in the United States are already connected with NLETS. This relationship will enable an unprecedented flow of information between agencies while also limiting private company access to the network.
With the equipment in its final stages of testing, additional central stations and PSAPs will be added to the system. This is a long-term, aggressive project with far-reaching goals. ASAP will define the true meaning of public/private partnerships by taking the best aspects of both partners and supply a superior solution. A host of technical details, procedures and equipment are required to assure the free flow of our information. To be successful, ASAP requires investment in software upgrades, training and a change in mindset from everyone involved.
The benefits of this system will have a positive impact on the efficiency of our government communications centers and the general safety of the public. The ASAP program will allow the security industry to provide “best in class” information to public safety for all kinds of emergency situations. By eliminating the human-to-human interface, the system will be faster, more accurate, use less manpower in the PSAP, and be able to provide much more feature-rich data.
Our industry is capable of delivering so much to responders through Internet-based technology. We can imagine a day in the not-too-distant future when a fire truck pulling up to a property has already reviewed the building blueprints, CCTV cameras inside, door locks, lighting and elevator control. ASAP is the first critical step in this direction. What was once a dream for public safety improvement is now a reality.
Ed Bonifas is Vice President of Aurora, Ill.-based Alarm Detection Systems.