VIENNA, Va. — As the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) program continues to ramp up, the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) is actively recruiting charter members until Jan. 31. Once the cut-off date passes for the initial phase, CSAA-member operators will likely have to wait up to two years to join the program. Nonmember central stations are not expected to have access to ASAP until after 2014.
Developed by CSAA and the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials Int'l (APCO), the protocol provides a faster, more cost-effective means of sending alarm signals directly to public safety answering points (PSAPs), negating the need for telephone calls from alarm monitoring stations.
ASAP utilizes the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (Nlets) to provide listed central stations a secure connection to PSAPs. The charter membership program was created to defray the cost of deploying computer server equipment at the Nlets facility in Tucson, Ariz., as well as other development expenditures in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars," Ed Bonifas, immediate past president of CSAA and co-chairman of the ASAP committee, tells SSI.
Vector Security, United Central Control (UCC) and Monitronics were the first companies to participate in the beta program, using direct connection to PSAPs in Houston, and York County and Richmond, Va. At press time the three companies were expected to begin the process of connecting directly to the new centralized ASAP server.
CSAA has signed up about 75 charter members, each committing to a three-year pledge ranging from $1,000 annually for the smallest operators to $5,000 annually for national operators.
"Although we won't get all of them onboard, our mission is still to connect the entire professional alarm monitoring industry to every PSAP in the country," Bonifas says. "There are about 600 listed companies in the country. But we have all of the big national companies signed up right now."
Setting a deadline to join the first phase of the program was necessary due to the enormous amount of work involved in preparing for connection to the ASAP server. "It's not like you will never be able to get in, but we are going to have to put our technical resources into the people that brought us to the dance," Bonifas says.
A chief incentive for beating the Jan. 31 deadline is charter members will not incur a connection fee; the cost for subsequent membership has not been determined. Ultimately, operational expenses for the program, as envisioned, will be paid for by companies based on their alarm-signal traffic.
"A company's savings are going to go up because this is cheaper than [an operator] making a phone call. We are hoping to certainly have the traffic cost down to a level that is a fraction of what it costs to make a phone call with a person," Bonifas says.
CSAA approached UL to undertake a technical review of the protocol to assure code compliance and to head off any future concerns that may be presented by an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). In November, UL announced it found the ASAP-to-PSAP program consistent with the language and intent of NFPA 72.
"The analysis of the results of how emergency calls were handled during the recent Mid-Atlantic earthquake and how notifications are handled day to day by the [PSAP in Houston] are compelling," says Chris Hasbrook, UL vice president for Buildings, Fire, Life Safety & Security.
Alarm companies unsure about joining the program can consider several positive factors, says UCC Sr. Vice President Mark Matlock, who is a contributor to SSI's "Monitoring Matters" column. Not only does ASAP allow for immediate transmission of account data without human intervention and faster response times, it provides key savings for PSAPs that are pushed to the limits with budget cuts.
"It also provides a nice little marketing advantage for alarm dealers who have accounts in the program," he says. "I would encourage central stations to look past the initial investments and consider the long-term vision and mission of the industry and how we interact with PSAPs."