Automated Secure Alarm Protocol (ASAP)

FAQs

Are PSAPs required to adhere to the proposed Alarm Data Exchange standard and how much control will the PSAP have in how alarms are received at the PSAP-level should the PSAP decide to utilize the standard from an operational standpoint?

PSAPs are not required to utilize the ASAP American National Standard (ANS).  However, the standard is highly recommended for all agencies interested in implementing an automated exchange of alarm-related data in order to promote more efficient and effective public safety and data interoperability nationwide.

The PSAP will be in total control and have the final say in exactly how the standard will be implemented. This is a local PSAP policy decision that should be coordinated with the PSAP’s CAD provider and the Alarm Monitoring Companies. The following are some, but not an inclusive list of operational implementation possibilities:

Option 1: Auto into Dispatch Queue, No Phone Follow-up {Recommended}

Upon receipt of a new alarm event sent using ASAP automation from the Alarm Monitoring Company to the PSAP’s CAD system, the call-for-service can appear immediately in the radio operator’s pending call queue for dispatch and no follow-up telephone call by the Alarm Monitoring Company is necessary. (This method has been demonstrated by the successful implementations in Virginia and Texas PSAPs).

Option 2: Auto into Dispatch Queue, Phone Follow-up

Upon receipt of a new alarm event sent using ASAP automation from the Alarm Monitoring Company to the PSAP’s CAD system, the call-for-service can appear immediately in the radio operator’s pending call queue for dispatch and a follow-up telephone call by the Alarm Monitoring Company is performed.

Option 3: Auto into Calltaker’s Queue, No Phone Follow-up

Upon receipt of a new alarm event sent using ASAP automation from the Alarm Monitoring Company to the PSAP’s CAD system, the call-for-service can appear immediately on a calltaker’s screen waiting for final acceptance. No follow-up telephone call by the Alarm Monitoring Company is necessary.

Option 4: Auto into Calltaker’s Queue, Phone Follow-up

Upon receipt of a new alarm event sent using ASAP automation from the Alarm Monitoring Company to the PSAP’s CAD system, the call-for-service can appear immediately on a calltaker’s screen waiting for final acceptance. A follow-up telephone call by the Alarm Monitoring Company is performed.

Option 5: Other

An implementation of your own design not falling into one of the options mentioned above. The design must conform to the published payload.

 

What is the purpose of the proposed Alarm Data Exchange standard?

To provide an automated standard data exchange for transmitting information between an Alarm Monitoring Company and a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP), also known as a 9-1-1 Center.

 

What are the goals of the proposed Alarm Data Exchange standard and what is the benefit for my agency?

There are three primary benefit goals:

  • A decrease in the alarm processing time by the PSAP which will improve the dispatch and response time for police, fire and EMS calls for service.  A faster response to the scene of an alarm will likely increase law enforcement apprehensions, fires will be more quickly extinguished, and more lives saved.
  • Elimination of miscommunication and mistakes between the Alarm Monitoring Company operator and the PSAP’s call-taker.
  • Elimination of the telephone call between the Alarm Monitoring Company and the PSAP resulting in significant telephone call volume reductions.

 

How are responses times reduced through the use of this proposed standard?

Once an Alarm Monitoring Company receives an alarm signal, depending on the alarm type (burglar, hold-up, water flow, etc), the company’s policy and procedures, and local/state ordinances, the alarm company operator may first attempt to contact someone on at the premise.  Once the alarm company operator verifies that the PSAP must be notified so that public safety resources can be dispatched, the operator initiates an automated transmission of the alarm event details directly to the CAD system in the affected PSAP. The CAD System receives the data and processes the data as a new alarm call-for-service. The PSAP CAD system can be configured to have the alarm appear in the radio operator’s pending call queue without any call-taker involvement whatsoever.  This automated transmission occurs without the alarm company operator having to place a telephone call to the PSAP. Traditional processing times to receive alarm call information via telephone, once the PSAP call-taker has answered the line, can range anywhere from one minute to more than three minutes.  The processing time for an automated transmission typically is only a few seconds.

 

How can the proposed standard method possibly be better than the traditional method of the alarm company operator speaking with the PSAP call-taker via telephone?  Call-takers have been trained to ask the right questions when an alarm company calls the PSAP.

Several factors support the ASAP automated exchange:

  • Each address for every alarm subscriber in the alarm company’s database is validated in advance of receiving an actual alarm by using the ASAP standard. When a new alarm is installed, the alarm company will send an address validation request to the PSAP’s CAD System at the same time that the alarm account information is entered into the alarm monitoring company’s database. The validation request is totally automated from beginning to end and free of human intervention. One of the most common problems in receiving an alarm is the proper pronunciation and spelling of the street address which is eliminated when using the ASAP exchange.
  • All of the information that the alarm monitoring company has on file about the alarm site is sent to the PSAP’s CAD System as part of the initial alarm event notification. No piece of information is left behind. The amount of information transmitted to the PSAP’s CAD system is more than sufficient to assemble a call-for-service and addresses the questions that a calltaker would ask of the alarm company’s operator. The call-for-service is processed within a matter of seconds.
  • Diversity is a fact of life. In the United States, many calls transpire between two parties who have very different accents. Furthermore, many alarm companies use call centers in foreign countries. Callers to the PSAPs from these foreign call centers are often difficult to understand. Every day, in every PSAP across the country, there is some form of misunderstanding during the telephone conversation between the alarm company operator and the PSAP calltaker. Most of these misunderstandings are easily correctable by one party asking the other to repeat the last piece of information such as “how to spell the street name”. Every request by a PSAP calltaker asking the alarm company operator to repeat some information adds time to the call processing time and increases response times. Unfortunately, not all misunderstandings are corrected and an error in the dispatch will occur. Examples include a dispatch to the wrong address because street numbers were transposed, the wrong event type was entered resulting in dispatch of the wrong emergency services, the wrong street was selected from a list, etc. It happens every day across the country. The ASAP automated exchange eliminates all misunderstandings and locks on accurate data to assemble the call-for-service.
  • Because most alarm monitoring companies’ call centers do not co-exist locally with the affected PSAP, the alarm company operator traditionally uses a 10-digit telephone number to reach the appropriate PSAP when the need arises to relay information about a new alarm event. The typical PSAP places the highest priority on incoming 9-1-1 calls before other lines are answered. While the telephone continues to ring in the PSAP during peak periods, this adds to the response time before first responders are even dispatched. The automated exchange does not depend on any telephone call and does not need to wait for a PSAP member to take action in order for the incoming alarm event to become a call-for-service.

 

If one goal of the proposed standard is to reduce the number of telephone calls to the PSAP, will this result in reduction of call-taker positions?

Not at all.  PSAPs nationwide are struggling to keep up with an ever increasing volume of telephone calls with existing resources.  PSAP Managers are looking for methods and procedures to reduce the number of calls to PSAP simply to allow 9-1-1 call-takers to dedicate more attention to 9-1-1 calls and true emergencies.  The de-facto nationwide standard of answering 90 % of 9-1-1 calls within 10 seconds is not being met by many PSAPs because they are at times overwhelmed.  The proposed automated standard has the potential to reduce the number of telephone calls received by each participating PSAP by the number of alarm calls traditionally taken via telephone from alarm monitoring companies in the past.  Using the case model as an example, the two Virginia PSAPs received 5,000 less telephone calls over a two year period from just one alarm company that participated in the pilot project.  The City of Houston has reported a 10 – 13% drop in their 7-digit line call volume based on the participation of only two alarm companies. As more alarm companies participate, the City of Richmond, Virginia could realize a reduction in their telephone call volumes of nearly 20,000 calls annually.  Nationwide, the potential exists to reduce the number of calls to PSAPs collectively by 32,000,000. The numbers represent the delivery of initial alarm notifications using the ASAP exchange instead of using the telephone. Factoring in the number of follow-up telephone calls between the alarm company and the PSAP that can be eliminated through the use of

 

What is the Central Station Alarm Association’s (CSAA) view on this proposed standard?

At the CSAA annual conference in October, 2008 the Executive Board voted unanimously to endorse this standard. The CSAA has been very supportive of this initiative since day one and was one of the founding partners of the concept. The CSAA has become an Nlets strategic partner and is funding the development of a Message Broker that will support connectivity to the ASAP exchange by as many as 600 alarm companies.

 

Will the verification procedures used by the alarm monitoring companies before notifying the PSAP change?

The proposed standard has no affect on the procedures, policies and local/state regulations that govern verification procedures.  It is business as usual on the part of the alarm monitoring company operator until the operator concludes that the PSAP must be notified to generate a first responder dispatch.  The difference at that point is the delivery of the new alarm event to the PSAP using ASAP automation instead of via a telephone call.

 

How will the alarm monitoring company operator know that the PSAP’s CAD System received the new event and generated the appropriate call-for-service?

The ASAP standard mandates an immediate automated acknowledgement by the CAD System back to the alarm monitoring company’s software application server.

  • If the CAD System rejects the call for some reason, the CAD will send a Rejection Response Transaction back to the alarm company that clearly states the reason for the rejection.  The alarm monitoring company operator will then take appropriate action according to the company’s policies and procedures.
  • If the CAD System accepts the new event, the CAD will send an Accept Response Transaction back to the alarm company that contains the PSAP’s event number(s) associated with the newly created call-for-service.

 

What about updates from the alarm company such as information about the key-holder arriving in 30 minutes or someone on the premise who does not know the pass code?  Wouldn’t these updates and supplemental information still need to be provided via telephone from the alarm monitoring company operator?

No.  The ASAP standard includes an Update Transaction that can be used bi-directionally by either the alarm monitoring company or the PSAP.

  • The ASAP standard recommends that all updates from the alarm company appear as a new Comment to the PSAP’s radio operator(s) who is(are) in control of the call.  The radio operator will see the new Comment on their CAD screen and relay the information accordingly to the field responders. In many CAD systems where MDCs are used by field responders, the updates are sent to the resources assigned to the alarm event.
  • The CAD System can be programmed to send Updates to the alarm monitoring company operator as the call progresses.  This is optional and a decision to be made by each PSAP at the time that the CAD System is configured for the automated exchange implementation.  Examples of typical updates that the CAD could send back to the alarm company include notification when the primary agency has been dispatched, arrived on scene, and cleared from the scene along with disposition or situation found.  Other notes added to the call by the radio operator and/or the field responders could be configured to be sent to the alarm company if desired.

 

My PSAP is located in an area where hurricanes and tropical storms are common 3 or 4 times a year. The PSAP’s policy is to reject all incoming calls from alarm monitoring companies during the height of the storm. If the calls originate using automation via the ASAP standard, how do we control this flow? If we can’t control the flow, this will place an extra burden on the radio operator to cancel each alarm call.

The CAD System can be configured by your CAD provider or your local system administrator to automatically reject all incoming new alarm event requests. This trigger would be under the control of the PSAP’s Manager or Supervisor and can be activated or deactivated as necessary.

 

My PSAP does not have a CAD System. How do we participate?

Sorry. The ASAP standard requires that a CAD system be a necessary component of the infrastructure. As a suggestion, since the proposed standard is conformant to the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) and promotes interoperability, you may want to explore possible Homeland Security and Department of Justice grant funding. All grant funding from these organizations require the end result to be NIEM conformant. Several State 9-1-1 Wireless Boards also offer grants for GIS-based projects. Since most CAD Systems today are GIS-based, the acquisition of a CAD System may qualify. Have your PSAP Manager check with your State’s 9-1-1 Wireless Board.

 

What resources does the PSAP need to provide in order to implement and support an automated alarm exchange?

An agency liaison would need to be identified to work with the participating alarm companies to identify addressing issues up front and before the implementation of the automated exchange. Depending on agency size, this may be one or more persons and typically would be the E9-1-1 Coordinator who works with the MSAG and the telecoms. The PSAPs CAD Administrator typically would be selected to work with the CAD provider to work out details about which fields of data received from the alarm company will be used to assemble the call-for-service.

 

I’m sold on the automated exchange. How soon can my agency come on board and actively participate?

Now that the ASAP exchange is an approved American National Standard (ANS), there are aggressive outreach campaigns to make all CAD providers, PSAPs, Alarm Monitoring Companies, and Alarm Monitoring Software Application Providers aware of the adopted standard. Some CAD providers have an interface product available to their customers whereas other CAD providers are waiting to hear from their customers concerning the level of interest. Contact your CAD provider to make your interest in the ASAP exchange known. You may also contact CSAA at asap@csaaintl.org for more information.

 

Will my CAD provider charge my agency to come on board with the automated exchange?

This is really a matter between the CAD provider and the PSAP’s administration. Obviously CAD providers are looking for ways to generate revenue. However, most CAD providers are strapped for resources and do not want to write a separate custom interface for 100 different PSAPs who want to take advantage of the automated exchange. Nor are most of those PSAPs able to afford a custom interface that could cost, depending on the size of the PSAP, hundreds of thousands of dollars to create. The sponsors of the ASAP standard see the ANS as the one and only approved method that all software providers should follow. In this manner, each CAD provider and each alarm monitoring software provider writes a standardized interface only once and that standard interface can be delivered to any of their customers wishing to participate in the automated alarm exchange. This method should reduce overhead costs and each software provider should be able to discount their product and spread the development costs across its customer base. Since most of the software providers are good community service partners, it is expected that they will pass along their savings to their customers.

 

My PSAP currently tracks high life hazard locations and other information that is important for field responders to know before they arrive. Does the automated alarm exchange shift this responsibility to the alarm monitoring company?

No. This responsibility will remain with the PSAP and their CAD System.

 

What happens when the CAD System is unable to validate the street address perhaps because of multiple matches and is unable to lock onto an exact address?

The proposed ANS recommends that alarm monitoring companies store geo-coordinates (latitude/longitude) in separate fields along with each address. Today’s GIS-based CAD Systems are able to lock exactly onto an event address if geo-coordinates are present. Specific fields are set up in the ASAP data payload to pass geo-coordinates in degrees, minutes, seconds, and also decimal degrees.

 

What happens if our CAD System is down and the alarm monitoring company does not receive an acknowledgement?

The ANS recommends that each alarm company develop a policy to call the PSAP if no automated response is received within “X” number of seconds. The time period can be negotiated locally. The alarm companies and PSAPs who have been using ASAP have used 30 seconds typically.

 

I see Nlets referenced in the IEPD materials … is the Nlets network path proposed as part of the standard?

No. there is no transport path written as part of the ASAP standard, because it is recognized that multiple exchange delivery options are possible. The standard defines the data that is passed, not how that data gets from point A to point B. During the pilots in Virginia, Nlets was the selected transport mechanism for the pilot between Vector Security (the CSAA participant) and the two Virginia PSAPs, and for them, offered the best solution. Originally the pilot started with direct interchanges between Vector Security and each of the two Virginia PSAPs via the Internet. The development team realized that there were many security issues that would need to be addressed as the pilot expanded to include additional alarm companies and PSAPs. The pilot did not have the luxury of a centralized registration server to validate senders and receivers. Nlets was contacted by the development team and offered their network as a viable alternative which provides that central security focal point to achieve proof of concept. Effectively, each alarm company has a single VPN tunnel established to Nlets or to a Message Broker that co-exists with the Nlets message switch without the need for hundreds or even thousands of alternate connections. The Originating Agency ID (ORI) address contained in each message allows Nlets to route the traffic to the appropriate PSAP via a dedicate link to each state that is characteristic of the Nlets network. Readers should not confuse these alarm exchanges sent via Nlets with the routine Nlets traffic received on Teletype/State terminals. While the path is similar, all transmissions from the alarm companies are routed to either a middleware server ahead of the CAD system or the CAD system itself. The CSAA has become a Nlets Strategic Partner Organization and Nlets is currently the preferred transport method. Alternative transport methods will be evaluated as they become available.

 

If Nlets is the preferred transport method today, doesn’t this mean that each state will need to buy-in with the ASAP program?

Yes. The ASAP standard has been presented to all Nlets state, regional, and tribunal representatives. The Nlets Board of Directors approved the project and the CSAA becoming an Nlets Strategic Partner Organization. Roughly one half of the state message switches have been opened to accommodate ASAP transmissions. The remaining state switches will open up over time. Contact from political jurisdiction executive leadership to their state control point representative will help with this process in making the state control point representative aware of the importance to the localities.

My PSAP is really small. Are there different versions of the ASAP exchange depending on the size of the agency?

No. This is a one-size fits all solution and will work for a one position PSAP or New York City as long as there is a CAD system present and it able to accommodate a connection to the state control point.

 

There was mention of a method for the alarm company to send updates to the PSAP and the CAD system could send automated updates concerning the primary agency’s response. Is there some method for the radio operator to initiate a message to the alarm company operator to ask a question such as to determine an eta for the key-holder without using the telephone?

Absolutely. The radio operator can direct an event comment to be sent to the alarm company to ask any type of question or to make the alarm company aware of a new development. Field responders can also initiate these updates to the alarm company from their MDCs.

 

What about video confirmations and how are these handled?

Designated fields are contained in the ASAP payload to enable the alarm company to specify how the alarm event was confirmed. If available, the alarm company can provide a link where the PSAP and field responders can see the same video that the alarm company can see. Some localities have agreed to a “priority response” when a crime-in-progress has been confirmed via video.

 

When we will see more alarm companies participate with the ASAP program? Is ADT one of them?

The CSAA is implementing a Message Broker that will accommodate up to 600 alarm companies. ADT along withg other alarm companies are currently active in the ASAP program.  For current activity, visit http://csaaintl.org/asap-status/.