D.C. implements ASAP

Streamlined alarm processing to cut workload on 911 call takers
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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WASHINGTON—The District of Columbia has implemented the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol, becoming the sixth U.S. municipality to take the step toward faster and more efficient alarm call management.

ASAP works to eliminate errors in communication between central stations and public safety answering points, or PSAPs, by sending 911 information directly via computer instead of being transmitted verbally by phone. The program was founded through a partnership between the Central Station Alarm Association, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (Nlets).

In early December, the Office of Unified Communications in Washington, D.C., announced that it had implemented ASAP. The agency follows five other PSAPs nationwide that have joined the program: York County, Va.; Richmond, Va.; James City County, Va.; Houston; and Tempe, Ariz.

"[ASAP] will help reduce the workload of the 911 call takers, allowing them to focus more on handling emergency 911 calls from our citizens," Stephen Williams, the OUC's chief operations officer, said in a prepared statement.

The OUC consolidates emergency 911 calls and non-emergency 311 calls from the Metropolitan Police Department, Fire and Emergency Medical Services and customer service operations. It handles about 1.4 million 911 calls a year and oversees all land and mobile radio systems linked to the district's response network.

In late October, the OUC's computer-aided dispatch system began receiving alarm notifications directly from Pittsburgh-based Vector Security, one of three alarm companies in the ASAP pilot program. The other two companies in the pilot program, UCC and Monitronics, were expected to be participating with the district during the first quarter of 2013, with more companies joining throughout the year, according to an APCO statement.

"Collectively, these alarm companies account for more than 55,000 alarm notifications annually to the OUC," the statement said.

Alarm companies that participate in the ASAP program connect to a secure message broker at the Nlets facility in Phoenix. The server acts as a scrubber for information being forwarded from central stations. It checks for errors and ensures that the information is properly formatted before sending it to the appropriate state control point and PSAP.

Ed Bonifas, co-chairman of the CSAA's ASAP Program Committee, said the speed at which Washington, D.C., implemented the program was surprising.

"I had heard from them six or eight months ago when we provided some data as to how many potential accounts we could have in their area just among our [ASAP] charter members," Bonifas told Security Systems News in late December. "The next thing I hear, they were within weeks of deployment. Until their press release went out, we weren't really at liberty to talk about it. Nobody wants to put this up, brag about it and then have a problem. So everybody kind of waits a month to make sure it's everything it was cracked up to be."

The District of Columbia is the second-largest PSAP to become part of the program. Houston, the fourth-largest PSAP in the country with more than 3.2 million emergency calls handled annually, is the largest ASAP participant.