Natural disasters test concept for ASAP-to-the-PSAP program

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

PITTSBURGH—Vector Security CEO Pam Petrow said recent natural disasters on the East Coast have provided a proof of concept for CSAA's ASAP-to-the-PSAP program.

"[CSAA president] Ed [Bonifas] got the educational road show going and we've got more people participating. We've got all these PSAPs in the queue. We've got legs, but the hard part is going to be walking before we run because everyone wants to move yesterday," Petrow told Security Systems News. "In the earthquake last week, we were the only alarm company able to reach the city of Richmond [Virginia], because all the phone lines were down or busy because everyone was using the phone lines. But we were able to still transmit data. Given the number of natural disasters we've been experiencing lately it's nice to have this technology to help."

CSAA president Bonifas agreed the ASAP-to-the-PSAP program functioned well in the face of the recent Eastern Seaboard natural disasters.

"This is a whole dynamic that we didn't anticipate when we started marching down this path. We thought about saving time in the PSAP because the PSAP is really stuck answering phones. An earthquake happens and they get 10,000 phone calls from people telling them there's an earthquake," Bonifas told SSN. "Until they clear those 10,000 phone calls they're stuck. During that time when they're answering those 10,000 calls, we can still get real emergencies in to them so they can dispatch. It's more than a proof of concept, it's an absolute enhancement."

Bill Hobgood is Public Safety Team project manager for the city of Richmond, Virginia’s IT department. He was personally affected by the natural disasters that pounded the Eastern Seaboard last week. He feels the ASAP-to-the-PSAP program did exactly what it was supposed to do.

"The city of Richmond experienced two major events over the past week.  The first was the 5.9 [magnitude] earthquake centered in Mineral, Va., only 47 miles from the city of Richmond. The second major event was Hurricane Irene which caused severe damage to Central and eastern Virginia," Hobgood told SSN. "During both events … the Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP) worked effectively and flawlessly for the city of Richmond and the alarm monitoring companies [Vector and Monitronics. UCC uses ASAP to pass alarms to Houston but has no Richmond accounts] that use ASAP to pass alarm notifications to Richmond according the 9-1-1 supervisors that I spoke with as a group at noon today [Aug. 31]. Most alarm companies still call the city of Richmond on a seven-digit non-emergency line. For them, it was very long wait before staff in the 9-1-1 center were able to answer telephone calls from alarm companies."

CSAA's Bonifas, at the association's general meeting at ESX in Charlotte, N.C. this past June announced an ambitious plan to fund the creation of the necessary infrastructure to take the ASAP-to-the-PSAP program beyond beta and make it an industry-wide reality.

Hobgood said the automated protocol was on track to see significant growth moving forward.

"Alarm companies using ASAP were able to deliver their alarm notifications to the city of Richmond in five seconds. As inundated as the city was with trees down across streets and into house, traffic lights out from power outages, flooded roads, etc., at no time did the city ever stop responding to alarm calls. The ASAP to PSAP program has proven its worth," Hobgood said. "I have a list of roughly 100 9-1-1 PSAPs throughout the country that have expressed interest in the ASAP program. Many of these of these have made commitments to participate. Following the success of the Virginia pilot and the Houston implementation of ASAP, we expect the list to grow by leaps and bounds."