How many alarm companies are currently involved with ASAP? Can an alarm company partner with a monitoring provider to become involved?
Eight of the 11 largest alarm companies have made the commitment to participate in ASAP. There are probably at least 30 more that are coming onboard. But what happens when an alarm company can’t afford it? That is when maybe an alarm company might consider going with a wholesale monitoring provider. Through the ASAP standard, we know two things: No. 1 who it is that is sending this alarm notification to the PSAP, but we also know who the service organization is too. They might not always be the same. Several of the ASAP-using alarm companies that are onboard with us today are wholesalers. But we do see this in the message that the notification is originating from this large [wholesale provider] but the service organization that provides service for that particular alarm system is the smaller company.
The PSAP has all that information at the time we get the alarm notification. All the data that is sent within the alarm notification becomes part of what we call the “call for service record.” This is the same thing as if we were collecting this information by telephone but instead it is being sent electronically through automation and it gets put in as the location of the alarm, the trigger points, what attempts were made to reach somebody at the premises and any other details. There might be some special directions how to get to the premises. Other information such as the alarm operator made contact with somebody who didn’t know the proper code. All that information will come in within a matter of seconds and appear before the radio operator.
In Richmond we took this one step further. If it is a hold-up alarm, our CAD will send a notification out to all the police mobile data computers and let them know a hold-up alarm has been received at a certain address. They will see this on the screen even before they hear the voice dispatch. It is very fast; we have caught a few people that way too.
Do alarm companies need to develop strategies to work with law enforcement in their respective jurisdictions?
They have to work with their local jurisdictions or any PSAP that they are going to participate with. Let’s say we have ABC Alarm Co. that wants to get onboard with this. They will go through all the contract stuff with the CSAA. Once they are approved, then what will happen next they will work with the contractor for the CSAA to establish a VPN connection to the message broker in Phoenix. They will be provided a firewall and a router to be able to do that. At that point the alarm company will contact the PSAP and let them know they joined ASAP and request to begin working together to transmit their alarms. We are making the assumption the PSAP is already a participant with the ASAP program.
The next thing is to get the automation set up so that we can receive tests from the alarm company. Once we have proven the test environment works well, we will switch over. We will sign an authorization letter from the PSAP in Richmond, send it back to the CSAA and confirm we have tested with ABC Alarm Co. and are satisfied their stuff is working well and we are ready to accept production traffic from them. The CSAA contractor will then allow traffic to pass through the production side of the message broker. There are two environments: the test environment and a production environment. The next step is to run a quick test to make sure we have connectivity through production, then we will ask the alarm company to send and address verification for every address that they monitor in the City of Richmond.
The CAD system will respond back with every address that it receives and will respond back to the alarm company and say this is a good address or it is not a good address. Then it is up to the alarm company to work with somebody at the PSAP; in a lot of cases they can identify what the problem is with the address. You can go with the U.S. post office standards for the most part and that would work fine. If there are issues with a handful of addresses that the alarm company just can’t figure out then that is when a liaison from the PSAP would get involved to help.
How can alarm companies serve as advocates for ASAP in their communities?
If the alarm companies learn the ins and outs and all the benefits of ASAP then they can certainly be proponents of the whole program and explain to and educate the PSAP. But if the alarm company is fairly new to ASAP and doesn’t feel comfortable in that role, then the CSAA has an outreach committee. Part of their main purpose is to reach out to a lot of PSAPs and educate them. We have been doing a lot of outreach work for years but we are still trying to get the word out to everybody.
The CSAA has plenty of resources online to become educated about the program. Also, APCO’s Web site has a lot of information and resources available. Just making these responsible officials aware that ASAP even exists to begin with is very important, not to mention the alarm companies.
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Automated Secure Alarm Protocol